Western square dance

de:Western Square Dance

Western square dance (also called "modern western square dance", "contemporary western square dance", or "modern American square dance") is one of two types of square dancing, along with traditional square dance.

Western square dance is directed by a square dance caller. The caller strings together a sequence of individual square dance calls (choreography) that are danced by the individuals (square dancers) in the squares. There are eight people (four couples) in each square; at a dance there may be many squares. Generally speaking, each of these squares dance independently of each other, with the exception of specialty dances where there may be some crossover of dancers from one square to another. The square functions as a "dance team" for the duration of a "square dance tip", a group of dances usually separated from the next "tip" by a pause during which the dancers regroup into new squares.

Dancers learn the steps required to square dance at classes, which are usually sponsored or organized by square dance clubs. In addition to sponsoring classes, clubs also sponsor special social and dance evenings, as well as larger dances which are usually open to the general square dance community (i.e. non-club dancers).


Dance programs

Dances are categorized as belonging to a particular dance program, or level of difficulty. This allows the caller to form his/her choreography from an agreed-upon and widely known list of calls that the dancers are understood to be able to carry out. Dancers can be assured that others who dance the same program know identical calls.

When a dance is advertised as being a multi-program dance then there are either "tips" or special rooms available for the dancer at the various different programs.

There are nine different dance programs from which the dancer may choose. There is no requirement to progress to more advanced levels. One is encouraged to dance the program in which one is comfortable, and to only progress to another program if one has such a desire. One is also encouraged to dance a program at least one year after having learned it before progressing to a new one. This allows the dancer to get sufficiently confident in their dancing abilities, so they can attempt learning new steps that are built on a foundation of skills already learned and assimilated.

Seven of these nine programs are managed by Callerlab, the International Association of Square Dance Callers. In addition there are several high level unmanaged programs. Having managed programs allows modern western square dance to be an international activity. The seven managed lists are as follows. After the name of the program is an indication of the number of included steps at the moment (Aug. 2002). There is occasional adjustment of the programs. The tendency is to reduce the number of steps at the lowest level (Mainstream) so that there is less required learning time to achieve a controlled common level of dancing proficiency.

  • Mainstream - 68 calls
  • Plus - 32 calls - 100 calls total
  • Advanced 1 (A1) - 48 calls (and concepts) - 148 calls (and concepts) total
  • Advanced 2 (A2) - 37 calls (and concepts) - 185 calls (and concepts) total
  • Challenge 1 (C1) - 73 calls (and concepts) - 258 calls (and concepts) total
  • Challenge 2 (C2) - 72 calls (and concepts) - 330 calls (and concepts) total
  • Challenge 3A (C3A) - 81 calls (and concepts) - 411 calls (and concepts) total

There is an alternative dance program managed by the American Callers Association (http://www.americancallers.com/), called the "1" floor dance program, which consists of 66 steps at the moment. Its intention is to create a dance program that is more accessible.

Learning square dance

Callerlab recommends that the Mainstream program be taught in no less than 56 hours. Depending on the length of the individual class and how often you meet, it can take a half year or longer to learn the full program. In Europe, most notably in Denmark, there have been recognized a series of partial dance levels with corresponding dances available at those partway points (Mainstream 23, 45, 53, 68). This allows dancers to begin attending dances quicker in the learning cycle.

Calls and concepts

Besides the call of the step to be performed, a "concept" is an additional layer of complexity which can be put on top of the step to make it more challenging. Not surprisingly "concepts" are first introduced when learning the higher dance programs. To show how concepts work we could take a hypothetical call entitled "Walk" which is defined as walking forward, and apply a hypothetical concept entitled the "Backwards" concept or even the "Sideways" concept, and the results of the walk call is entirely different.

Dress code

Modern western square dance developed a dress code when its popularity in the United States increased after World War II, and began soaring during the '50s and early '60s. This may have been due to the visibility of square dance performers such as Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw's traveling troupe of "teenage cowboy square dancers", as well as how square dancing and the west were portrayed in western movies and early television. The popular clothing styles of those times (poodle skirts) also helped influence the look that has become known as "traditional square dance" dress.

Men wear long-sleeved western and western-style shirts, dress slacks, string ties (bolos) or kerchiefs and sometimes cowboy hats and boots. Women wear specially made square dance outfits with petticoats. Partners will oftentimes have color- and pattern-coordinated outfits.

A misnomer, perhaps, and possibly confusing, but nevertheless this "look" that has nothing at all to do with "traditional square dance", has become the "look" of "modern western square dance".

At the lower levels of modern western square dancing (Mainstream through Advanced), participants are often required to wear western-style square dance outfits, especially at large dances which advertise a required "traditional dress code". Clubs that sponsor dances are however free to advertise less restrictive dress codes, and are encouraged to advertise the desired "dress code".

This has come as the result of criticism and long discussion about relaxing the dress code, and has led to the adoption of alternative attire designations— "proper" attire and "casual" attire. Some clubs drop the dress code for classes and in the summer, and some, like challenge groups and gay square dance clubs, have never had a dress code.

See also

External links

  • Callerlab (http://callerlab.org)- International Association of Square Dance Callers
  • Dosado.com (http://www.dosado.com/)- A good homepage for modern western square dance

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