[Posted to Shared Weight callers' list and trad-dance-callers list, simultaneously but separately so replies won't go to both lists]
This message is for those of you who call squares, or have thought you might like to call squares. The rest of you may allow your attention to wander.
I'm writing a book on calling squares in what I think of as neo-traditional style (the style, borrowing from many regional traditions but compatible with contra handholds and timing, that callers tend to use on the contra circuit). It will be at least as long as my contra calling text (300 pages), but will include more repertoire than the contra book, as it seems to me that squares in general, and good squares in particular, are harder to find these days than contras and good contras.
I've reached a stage where I know pretty well what I want to cover, but I want to make sure I haven't overlooked anything. So...
What would you like to see in such a book (assuming you'd buy and/or read it)? What aspects of calling squares are you particularly interested / excited / terrified about?
Public and private replies are welcome. Thanks for your interest and your feedback.
Jim Saxe wrote:
*** My question is, have any of you ever seen something like this happen?
The caller (whether you or someone else, and using whatever
words) instructs, say, the head dancers to swing their
opposites, face the nearest side couple, and circle with
that side couple. In some square, one of the following
1. Instead of swinging in a spot directly in front
of one of the side couples, a pair of head dancers
swing either very near the gent's home place or
very near the lady's home place. (And you believe
that they aren't intentionally dancing offset from
their theoretical position to avoid crowding but
that they actually don't understand where they are
supposed to be.)
2. Head dancers swing opposites, then fall back to
home places. Then they go together with their
*partners* to circle with whichever side couple
they consider "nearest".
3. Somehow (whether or not you see exactly how it
happens) dancers end up in a circle of five and
a circle of three.
I have seen #3 happen several times when I was calling Ted's "Do-si-do and Face the Sides." I now teach it more carefully. Granted, it has a do-si-do rather than a swing, but I think I could now teach a similar dance with a swing and still keep the circles of four where they belong.
<< My point is that even bits of choreography that aren't really difficult can take more care to teach efficiently and effectively when they are unfamiliar to many of the dancers present than when they are familiar to almost all. >>
Yes. This is why squares are such a challenge to present effectively at a mostly-contra evening. The caller needs to think about what contra dancers know in terms of basic movements and transitions between them. Then s/he can focus on the potential trouble spots in a square and think about various ways of teaching them.
I just finished vetting the square "Head for Home" for a new caller who was thinking of using it. It has two stars, each of which leads the dancers to someone they haven't just been working with. I suggested freezing the action just before each star and having the dancers locate the person they'll be going to from the star.
I find that freezing the action is important in walking through a lot of the squares in my repertoire. Sometimes it helps to say "When you're done with the next move, you'll have switched places with [person or couple]" or "you'll be right back where you are now, facing the same way" or to have them take a shortcut to the next place they'll be, to get their bodies familiar with it, then back up and get them there the real way. (It could be argued that this last device is like showing how a magic trick is done, but in traditional calling we're not giving the dancers puzzles to solve, we're letting them take the scenic route even if there may be a more direct path to where they're going. Sandy Bradley used to say "When we're all done you'll be right back where you started, so the only thing that matters is that you had fun along the way.")
Sylvia Miskoe, in rec.folk-dancing on March 4, 1999 said:
Wrist grip stars became popular after the appearance at New England Folk
Festival (NEFFA) of the Lithuanian Dance Group doing their dances and they all
used wrist grips. The square dancers thought it was a neat idea and adopted
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH
I recently collected a dance from Mary Wesley, who collected it from Susan
Petrick. Susan wrote it down from memory, filling in the gaps for the
parts she didn't remember, and decided to call it "Missing You."
Do recognize the choreography? Susan and I are curious who might have
wrote this under what title. She's pretty sure she remembered B2 right,
but she might have inadvertently changed parts of the rest of the dance
when remembering it.
A1 Neighbor balance and swing (16)
A2 Gents left hand allemande 1.5 (8); Partner swing (8)
B1 Long lines forward and back (8); Ladies chain across to neighbor (8)
B2 Balance the ring (4); Gents roll partner away with a half sashay
(4); Balance the ring (4); Gents roll neighbor away with a half sashay (4)
Thanks, hive mind!
Does this dance exist already? If no, please give it a whirl and let me
know what you think.
Twilight Deliverance DI
A-1 N - S
L L F & B
A-2 Star L 3/4 (to Ladies side)
P - S (Men turn back to S P)
B-1 1/2 Hey (Men lead, L in ctr)
Men's Chain (pull by L, offer R to N)
B-2 Ring Bal, & Pet Spin to R (2X)
On 2nd, spin a little extra into arms of new N.
Dedicated to all the people who dance, play, call, live, love, & laugh in
Hi! I have found Ruth Ungar's Wizard Walk on the WWW, but can't find Wizard's Way... and I feel bad but can't remember who wrote it...I keep thinking Cis or Linda Leslie. Can someone help me by sending the dance and the name of its illustrious choreographer? Thanks!
Sent from my iPhone
When I get an inquiry about calling for a gig that I can't do, I often
refer them to the same handful of local callers that I know. But it's not
always the most useful if the inquiry came from far away.
I've been thinking about trying to create a caller database; with
geographic home-base of caller and contact information.
I know there are lists of callers out there, such as Charlie's excellent
contra dance links and Dance Gypsy. I was thinking it would be useful to
have it in database format where it could be sorted and filtered.
I'd also like for folks to be able to submit themselves, as opposed to
having to compile them.
I've taken a first pass at creating a google form that allows people to
submit information; with a linked spreadsheet that would allow people to
filter based on what they're looking for (both geographically and dance
style). My hope is to eventually develop a front end to help filter that
information, but for now I'm just sharing it in a database.
As a caller, would you fill it out? As an organizer, would you use it? Is
there any information I've missed that you'd want, or something I've
included you'd rather not have?
The survey is at:
The spreadsheet of (currently sparse) results:
I'd appreciate feedback on the survey; as well as a folks filling it out to
see how useful filtering the database is (and eventually test the front
I haven't yet called Beneficial Tradition, but think it might be a good
fit for an upcoming dance. Does it get weird at the ends or does it
flow reasonably well? I danced it years ago and don't remember. If you
pull by RH to go out on the right diagonal, do you cross solo to the
other side to make space for the next person to come out on the right