National Square Dance Convention®

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SQUARE DANCE CALLER

 

A square dance caller, a person who performs as a director of square dance activity.

 

  • A "call" refers to the name of a specific dance movement.
  • A "caller" is a person who usually directs the dance movements to dancers by issuing a series of calls which the dancers follow.
  • The caller usually sings the calls in time and tune to the music the dancers are dancing.
  • A call may alternatively refer to the phrase used by a caller to cue the dancers so they dance the specified movement, or to the dance movement itself. It mirrors the ambiguity of the word "dance", which may mean a dance event, the dancing of an individual to the playing of one piece of music, or dancing in general.
  • A square dance call may take a very short time or a very long time to execute.
  • Most calls require between 4 and 32 "counts" (where a count is roughly one step).
  • In traditional square dancing the timing of a call is dictated by tradition; in some regional styles, particularly that of New England, the dance movements are closely fitted to the phrases of the music. In modern Western square dancing many calls have been given formally specified durations, based partly on direct observation of how long it takes an average dancer to execute them.
  • Traditional and modern Western square dancing have a number of calls in common, but there are usually small differences in the way they are performed. For example, the "Allemande Left" is traditionally performed by grasping left hands with the other dancer, pulling away from each other slightly, and walking halfway around a central axis then stepping through. In modern Western dance the grip is modified so that each dancer grips the forearm of the other, and there is no pulling (that is, each dancer supports his or her own weight). These modifications make it easier to enter and exit the movement, and thus easier to incorporate into a long sequence of calls.
  • Traditional square dance uses a comparatively small number of calls—between about ten and thirty, depending on the region and the individual caller. (Many traditional square dance calls are similar or identical to contra dance calls, which are described at Contra Dance Choreography.
  • Every dance is explained before the participants dance it, unless everyone present is familiar with it. Participants are made to feel welcome to make mistakes (within limits), and the mistakes can sometimes make the dance a lot more fun.
  • In modern Western square dance the participants are expected to have learned and become proficient in a particular program, a defined set of calls.
  • Dancing modern Western square dance is constantly challenging and surprising due to the unknown or unexpected choreography of the caller (that is, the way the caller ties together the "calls" and the formations which result)—unlike traditional square dance, very rarely are two modern Western dances ever alike.
  • Like traditional square dancing, recovering from occasional mistakes is often part of the fun, but dancers are usually encouraged to dance only those programs at which they are reasonably proficient.