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Introduction to Modern Square Dancing

It's The New Generation of Square Dancing

Perhaps you think you know square dancing from your school days. Well, think again, because this is not your father's dance routine. You will hardly recognize modern square dancing. There is new music, from Golden Oldies to current hits. There are new levels of dance calls to learn, exciting new patterns that keep changing, and unique calls to learn. No more rough dancing in the barn.

Modern square dancing happens in school gyms, dance halls, convention centers, resorts and cruise ships. Square dancers travel to new places all over the world. Even people who don't speak English square dance! You will find square dance clubs within most countries of the world including Japan, Sweden and Germany. They dance in English, but they necessarily don't  speak English. Learn to dance, and a whole new world of opportunities for fun and fellowship will open up for you.

Old Faithful Inn 2015

It's American Folk Art, too

Modern square dancing has an American heritage. The ancestors of this dance came to America with the earliest settlers. The "traditional" roots of our heritage dance are well established in the United States as well as Canada and New Zealand to name a few. Over the centuries it has changed into what we know today as modern square dancing. It is as American as 4th of July parades, barbecues and ice cream socials. In recent decades, square dancing mushroomed in popularity as more and more people got in tune with this traditional art form. Square dancing is still on the move. Callers are always putting together new routines so you never have to worry about being bored with what is sure to become your favorite pastime or hobby.

It's About People

Square dancers are all kinds of folks sharing a love of action and teamwork. Square dancing is movement set to music. It is done in couples, with teams of four couples. It is not a spectator sport. It is for the active of heart and mind. Square dance clubs are ready-made groups of friends. When you travel there are dance clubs to find on every continent, in every country, in every state or province. There is no better way for active, contemporary people to meet each other and build a circle of friends.

The Friendliest People

Basic Principles of Modern Square Dancing

Modern square dance, like traditional square dance, is directed by a square dance caller. In modern square dancing, the caller 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 square dancers in the squares. There are eight people (four couples) in each square; one couple makes up each side of the 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 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, which is a group of dances usually separated from the next tip by a break of 5 to 10 minutes during which round dancing might be offered. Then the dancers regroup into new squares for the next tip. A square dance tip is usually composed of one patter call dance and one singing call dance, which are the two types of square dance calls.

Patter Calls

Patter calls, also known as "hash calls", are based on a quick and fluid succession of spoken ("pattered") or sing-song delivered calls, often to the accompaniment of an instrumental piece of music that it is not necessarily recognizable as a song. Choreography may appear "on-the-fly" with calls randomly strung together, but conforming to strict choreographic rules. Most patter calling is improvised by the caller as the dancers are moving; if the tempo of the calling is done at a fast pace allowing the dancers to flow from one move to another without pauses, it may be called "hot hash".

The primary purpose of patter calls is to give dancers a challenge by surprising them with unexpected choreography.

Many callers are very well known for their ability to put calls together to create a unique, smooth-flowing dance. Some callers are also known for the unusual and interesting formations they move the dancers through.

Singing Calls

Singing calls are based on a sung delivery of calls, most often to a recognizable melody, and square dance calls are mixed in with the song's original lyrics. Many widely recognized  songs have been turned into singing calls. The primary purpose of singing calls is to relax, dance well together as a group, and enjoy the song and the caller's performance.

Some callers are very well known for their voices, and for how well they can perform singing calls.

Some callers are very well known for their voices, and for how well they can perform singing calls.

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