Pointers

  1. Join hands automatically whenever possible after each call. This establishes the formation you are in and prepares you for whatever call may come next. When there isn’t time to join hands, touch hands in passing to establish the formation between calls (waves, lines, etc.). Failure to join or touch hands between calls is the #1 cause of sets breaking down.
  2. Believe the caller! Try to execute the call or direction as well as you can, even if you don’t understand why or if it seems strange.
  3. If you become completely lost, do not turn around. If you are lost, look around by turning your head. If someone says to turn around or you see that you should turn around, then do it. Otherwise, maintain your facing direction and let someone guide you into place. When lost, don’t wander around aimlessly. Move slowly in a generally forward direction with your hands slightly up so you can be pulled easily into place. Look for the gap in the formation where you should be if the other dancers finish the call without you.
  4. If you fall behind on a call, or part of one, don’t run around frantically trying to catch up. Try to pick up where everyone else is from the position you should be in if you had done the call. For example, a do-sa-do leaves you where you started, or a left allemande puts you about where you started by facing the other way. Look where everyone else is to see where you have to be.
  5. In trying to help someone in your square who is lost, try to minimize talking and use hand signals or a gentle touch. A very effective method is to point to the spot he or she should be in.
  6. If you have executed a call and are sure you did it correctly, don’t let someone who is unsure of the call make you change your position. Stand your ground and let them take the proper position. This will keep the square going.
  7. If the caller calls a call you haven’t heard before, don’t give up and quit. In the majority of cases, the caller will immediately tell you how to do it (cue you), especially if it is a new call for the club.
  8. If a square has two strong couples and two less strong couples, the stronger couples should be across from each other. That way each less strong dancer has a stronger corner, and this provides each side of the square with stronger dancers during dance figures.
  9. If your square breaks down when dancing hash, square up and then have the head couples slide to the right and form normal facing lines of four. Then watch the other squares. Often the caller gets the squares to facing lines before a left allemande. When he or she does, you can pick up with the next call.
  10. If your square breaks down when dancing a singing call, square back up with the gents at home with any lady, and wait until the next squared-up position occurs to pick up with the next call.
  11. In learning a call, try to understand its definition, rather than just memorizing it from a particular position. Then you will be able to do the call from any position. When a call is taught, it is often taught by telling the gents to do something and the ladies to do something else. But the definition rarely involves the gender-role a person is dancing. Rather, it is usually defined as the outsides do this and the insides do that, or the beaus (left-side dancers) do this and the belles (right-side dancers) do that, etc. The definition is what you need to remember, not the particular positions in which the call was taught. If, after a call is taught, you aren’t sure of the definition, ask the caller to explain it without using the gender terms.
  12. Identify your opposite same-gender role dancer. If that person is a strong dancer, you can use him or her to help if you get lost. You should be in a mirror-image position and facing direction to him or her throughout the entire square dance (mirror image symmetry across the center of the set). This concept is often a difficult one for beginning dancers to see, but if it makes sense to you, it can be the most powerful way to find your place when lost. Some people even dance completely above their level (that is, dance without knowing the calls at all) by mirror-imaging off the same-gender role opposite dancer).

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