The article is a long one, so I divided it into a three article series. It is ideal for use in club newsletters, especially with new dancers starting to dance with clubs now. Feel free to use the articles in anyway you wish. I divided them for your convenience.
Three basic things contribute more toward good style than all others. They are balance, posture, and small steps. Stand tall, head up, chest up, tummy in, and "sitting room" tucked under. Think tall....move gracefully...maintain good posture at all times. Looking at your feet will destroy your posture and balance; it causes you to bend at the hips, protrude your rear end, bend the knees, bounce, and it interferes with your thinking and the musical mood. Concentrate on the music and be motivated by it.
Small steps contribute to good style. Balance and good posture are easier to maintain when steps are small. Mistakes will be smaller and fewer when steps are small, and you'll find yourself not rushing through your steps. Learn the basic figures well...use them naturally & properly. Good styling requires smooth well timed position and direction changes, and that figures be executed with a high degree of confidence. Confidence comes from knowing how to step or transfer weight, where to put your foot on each step, and which way to turn.
Strive to dance in a comfortable manner using relaxed body movements. When a movement or figures seem awkward, it probably looks awkward! Develop your own individual style and enjoy it. Avoid drastic deviations. One method of acquiring good style is to copy it, such as watching good dancers and teachers. Until you develop an understanding and appreciation for good style, don't be over impressed by "showy kid stuff." It also pays to watch the less stylish or qualified dancers to identify those things you would like to eliminate from your style. Style should suit YOU...with your own individual characteristics such as size, shape, and agility.
Each dancer should know - independently- the move they are to execute. There should NEVER be any pushing or pulling in any dance. It's okay to be wrong, but never okay to be vague. You must know what you are going to do. You should strive to be dancing with your partner, not just holding on!!
In the Ocean Wave, we are all aware that arms should have elbows bent, fingers up toward the sky and palm together. We remind you not to take hold of the other's thumb; rather, your thumb goes lightly around the back of the other's hand. Now!!...since we have the position right, on the "Swing Thru" or "Fan the Top," use a little pressure in the handhold to aid with the turn. This will help you and your fellow dancer. A limp hand or arm, i.e., "dead fish" handhold, during any maneuver like this is a real handicap-and certainly no joy-for the other dancers.
In Promenades, you are not walking but, rather, taking smooth, effortless gliding steps in which the ball of the foot touches and the slices across the surface of the floor before the heel is gently dropped to the floor. The length of stride should be fairly short with the movement coming mostly from the knees down. Each dance step must be coordinated with the beat of the music. If you find yourself getting behind, close up the square when promenading so that you get home on time. It's surprising just how BIG some squares get on a promenade!!
With the "Half Sashay," and not "Rollaway with a Half Sashay," the one in the lady's position or the right-hand person slides left while the left-hand person steps back, then to the right, and forward to complete the call. The "Rollaway with a Half Sashay" is most widely used today, where the lady rolls across to the left as the gent side-steps to take her former position. Men, a slight firm assist with the right hand helps start the move; then quickly let go and take her right handed with your left hand. Never, ever, is there any pulling or "slinging" the lady across!!
Hands, in all cases, should never be used to jerk or yank!! They serve as guides, and support. Hands are important in square dancing , and the smooth dancer is one who has discovered how his or her hands may be helpful in making the motions of the dance more comfortable for the others with whom he or she dances.
Arm Turns. With any arm turn using a forearm hold, don't make it a grip; the pressure of the palm on the inside of your partner's forearm is all that is required. Men, you have the advantage in strength...don't man-handle the ladies!!
At the completion of any movement, immediately extend your hands and take the hand(s) if those standing next to you. This will help you to see the formation you are in (line, wave, etc.) For correct square orientation. If you become completely lost, do not turn around; this will make it difficult for someone behind you to help you recover. Do not wander around. Stay in place until someone helps you-and be ready to respond quickly. Pointing to a place someone should be in is far better than talking (or shoving!!), as you and others in the square may miss the next call. If you have executed a call correctly, do not let someone who is unsure of their position make you change yours! Remember!...'Tis better to have goofed and recovered than never to have danced at all!!
QUICKEES: Keep Stars & Promenades even and STRAIGHT!...Keep hands up in promenade...SMILE!!...Don't rock back, or balance, on the Grand Right or Left...Don't jerk, push, or over-exaggerate any of the movements...Try(!) completing a Grand Square in 64 beats, taking one step for each beat!! Be Unique!!...TRY(!) Dancing proper back-to-back Do-SA-Dos!!
Ladies, there is no strict "rule" for skirt work, as it's really an individual feeling for the music and use of your skirt. A few guidelines, however, may help. When your hand is free and there is time, you may flip the skirt forward or back, as it feels comfortable for you. On "Weave the Ring", grasp a hand full of petticoat through your skirt and flare it (slooowly) as you weave past the men; as you pass right shoulders, bring your right shoulder forward a bit and, with your right hand, flare the skirt; as you pass left shoulders, rotate the left shoulder slightly forward and with your left hand, flare the skirt again.
If you like the "Skaters" promenade position with left hand joined and the gent's right hand at the small of the ladies's back, this leaves the ladies' right hand free to do skirt work-with the music-on the promenade.
There are a few other places where the ladies can exercise good skirt-work. Such is the case with "couples Circulate" where the lady should hold the skirt and petticoat with the free hand when the ladies are on the end of a line formation.
Most new dancers are taught the "walk-around" Swing because it is easier for new dancers to learn. If you use the "Buzz-Step" Swing where right feet are forward, side by side, and the left foot pushes, much as pushing a scooter, keep in mind that the action is to be smooth with no bouncing up and down. If you gents think a twirl follows every Swing, we must tell you, the twirl is strictly the ladies's choice and is best left off unless you are moving into a promenade when the twirl is done as you progress forward. Never twirl the lady when the next call is "Circle Left" or "Allemande left". IF there is a twirl, remember, men, your left hand merely assists the woman, it does not wind her up!! Ladies, if you do not wish to twirl, do not put your hand up for the gent to take hold of it. And, men, every time you Swing a lady, she becomes your new partner. Finally, on this point, a lady will enjoy a Swing much more if her feet stay on the floor!!
Be a Square Dancer...not a Square "Stander". When not active, do not stand motionless in place like some bit of statuary but, rather, move slightly to the rhythm of the music. This constant being in motion keeps you alert and ready for whatever is to happen next. The importance of motion in time with the music's tempo cannot be overemphasized, for it is the element of which we "dance". Don't "fall asleep at the switch"....you're really never an inactive dancer at any time!
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Square Dance Article Co-Op Index