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(This page last updated 13-Oct-2010)

WHAT IS SQUARE DANCING?

                 In Words                &             In Pictures

It's a party

Square Dancing is party time every time you do it. Square Dancing brings people together for fun and friendship. The fun starts on the very first night.

It's modern

The music we use for square dancing is everything from present-day pop to all-time standards, with some Country and Western for good measure.

It's suitable
for all

Square dancers are aged from 8 to 80. It is a great activity for all the family.

It helps to
keep you fit
and healthy

Square dancing is the perfect exercise. It combines all the positive aspects of intense physical exercise with none of the negative elements. Square dancing is a low impact activity requiring constant movement and quick directional changes that keep the body in shape. As with all regular exercise square dancing can lead to a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol profile.

It burns off calories

During an hour of square dancing you can burn between 400 and 800 calories.

It's a mental challenge

Modern square dancing is a mental challenge. Reacting quickly to the square dance caller keeps you mentally on your toes. Whilst concentrating on the moves you escape from your worries and pressures.

It's team work

Your team of eight dancers depend on each other to keep the dance moving.

It's sociable

Square dancing contains a social component that solitary fitness endeavours do not. You are given the opportunity to develop strong social ties which contribute to self esteem and a positive outlook.

 

 



 
Square Dancing In Depth

Modern Western square dance, like traditional square dance, is directed by a square dance caller who strings together a sequence of individual square dance calls to make a figure or sequence. These calls are the building blocks of the choreography that is danced by the individuals, 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 dances independently of each other, with the exception of specialty or "gimmick" dances, where there might 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. A square dance tip is usually composed of a combination of patter calls and singing calls, the two types of square dance calls.

The individual square dance calls are categorized as belonging to a particular dance program, or level of difficulty. Each dance program has a list of defined dance steps associated with it. These lists of dance steps are managed by an organisation called Callerlab, and universally recognized. Dancers learn the individual square dance calls required to square dance at classes, which are usually taught by square dance callers, and 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).

When one learns modern Western square dance one learns all the steps in a specific dance program over a period of time. There are many opinions as to how long it should take to teach and learn a dance program, and as to what is the best teaching style. 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 one meets, it can take a six months or longer to learn the full program. Some clubs, especially those with younger or more motivated dancers teach at accelerated rates. Regardless of how long it takes to learn a dance program, there is, generally speaking, universal agreement that the result should be confident dancers that can handle themselves on a public dance floor with a variety of callers, unfamiliar choreography, and the challenge of dancing with strangers at the learned level.

It is generally recommended that after one learns all the steps in a specific dance program, one dances at that level for a year before advancing to another dance program, if one desires to advance at all. It is important that the dancer is thoroughly comfortable with all the steps in a specific dance program, and that the dancer can apply these steps in many different positions and situations, before advancing, because advanced dance programs are built on the foundation of previously learned programs. There is no requirement to progress to more advanced levels. One is encouraged to dance the program in which one is comfortable, and only to progress to another program if one has a real desire to do so.

At the non-challenge square dance programs (Basic, Mainstream, Plus, A1 & A2) the dancer is introduced to many square dance calls. A few of the most fundamental and well-known calls are Dosado, Promenade and Right and Left Grand. Among other things, the dancer is additionally trained to move smoothly and rhythmically, to appreciate timing, to execute the steps from many different positions and in many different formations, and to cooperate effectively with the others in their square so that they get the most out of their dance experience. Starting at the Advanced program (i.e A1 & A2)  the square dancer is introduced to square dance concepts, an addition to a call which modifies it in some way. Concepts take on increased importance in the Challenge programs.

Dancing well requires more than attendance at class, it requires practice. The more often the dancer can train the better their skills become. Clubs generally provide their students the opportunity to dance outside of the class situation. They commonly hold "club nights", which are informal dance evenings for club members. These often allow those learning a new level to dance at their class level, and often with more experienced dancers. Clubs also commonly hold special dances, which are often open to members of other clubs.

At the non-challenge levels of modern Western square dancing participants are often expected to wear western-style square dance outfits, or "traditional square dance attire", especially at large dances. Over the years, there has been much discussion within square dancing circles about relaxing the dress code, and this has led to the adoption of alternative less restrictive attire designations— "proper" attire and "casual" attire. Clubs that sponsor dances are free to select a less restrictive dress code and are encouraged to advertise the dress code that is appropriate for their dance. Some clubs drop the "traditional" dress code requirement for classes and dances based on particular themes (where fancy dress may be encouraged) whilst the Challenge clubs have never had a dress code. 

Traditional square dance attire for men includes long-sleeved western and western-style shirts, dress slacks, scarf or string ties (bolos) or kerchiefs and metal tips on shirt collars. Ladies wear specially-made square dance outfits with multiple layers of crinolines, petticoats and pettipants and low-heeled dancing shoes. Partners often have colour and pattern coordinated dance outfits.

The description above has (in part) been reproduced under the GNU licence from the Wikipedia encyclopaedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Western_square_dance

Square Dancing is Fun & Friendship Set To Music