In a square dance, four couples are arranged in a square, with one couple on each side, facing the middle of the square. Within a couple, the man is usually on the left and the lady on the right. The couples are numbered counter-clockwise around the square, with couple number one being the couple with their back to the caller. Couples one and three are called the “head” couples and couples two and four are called the “side” couples.
Square dancing is just walking to music. As you move, you are prompted by a caller as to what the next move will be, so listening carefully is important. So, the only requirements for square dancing are the ability to walk and the ability to listen.
In Modern Western Square Dance lessons, the dancers learn a series of moves, starting with simple steps, such as “Circle Left” or “Forward and Back”. As dancers gain experience, they learn more moves. During an actual dance, the dancers will know the individual moves, but do not know in what order they will be called.
During a dance, the dancers are prompted through a sequence of moves by a caller. A square dance “Tip” usually consists of a “Patter Call” where the caller uses only square dance commands and a “Singing Call” where the commands are combined with the words of a song.
The moves in Modern Western Square Dance are standardized by Callerlab, the “International Association of Square Dance Callers”, so that they are the same world-wide. Callerlab provides a recommended teaching order, which divides the moves into three groups by increasing level of complexity: Basic One (32 moves), Basic Two (16 moves) and Mainstream (19 moves). Most dancers learn these 67 moves during their first year of lessons. Once dancers have mastered these “Mainstream” moves, there are other levels of square dancing, known as Plus, Advanced and Challenge.
For information about “Traditional” or “Old Time” style, visit our Traditional page.