What is Square Dancing?

square dance

(skwer ˌdans)


a country dance that starts with four couples facing one another in a square, with the steps and movements shouted out by a caller.

— From Google Dictionary


At a typical square dance, there are usually between six to eight square dance “tips” during a two-hour period, which can alternate with round dance tips or short breaks. There are two parts to a square dance tip, lasting about 5 minutes each. The first part (called “patter”), concentrates more on calls and formations as the caller directs the dancers into different positions. The second part (called a “singing call”) concentrates more on music. The caller sings a popular song which can be any genre from Blue Grass, Fiddle, or Country to Pop, Rock or any other modern music which has the right danceable beat. Some of the original song lyrics are replaced with names of calls for the dancers to dance.

A “caller” is a person that stands at one end of the dance hall and gives a sequence of instructions for the dancers to follow. Each of these instructions, or “calls,” requires that some or all of the dancers perform a pre-learned move. Some of the moves are simple, others are more complex.

At the beginning of a tip, the caller starts music and the dancers form “squares.” Each square has four couples, with each couple making a side of the square.  When the dancers “square up”, each couple stands with their partner in their “home” position.  Each square of four couples works together as a team, independent of the other squares.

After each call, the formation of the dancers changes, or the dancers’ positions within the formation changes. After several calls, the dancers have been “shuffled”. For example, your original partner may be at the other end of the formation from you. The caller selects moves that cause the dancers to end up with their original partner again, at their home position where they started the sequence.

There are four main square dance levels, some of which are divided into sublevels:  Mainstream, Plus, Advanced (2 sublevels) and Challenge (5 sublevels). There are a total of 68 (70 as of 8/2018?) Mainstream square dance moves.  Each club varies on how many weeks of lessons are required before the dancers are considered “graduated” from the level they just learned, but the average lesson time for the Mainstream program is between 18-24 weeks.

The goal of square dancing is to have fun while dancing. Many people today have an antiquated view of square dancing which is often inaccurate.  Many callers are calling with modern music and with that, ushering in a new age where square dancing isn’t just fun, it’s also “cool”.


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