The Caller’s Partner
by Judy Obee

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When I attended Caller School in 1992, I did not have a partner with me. But I did receive a bunch of information intended for the partner of a caller. Much of this information pointed out just how much the partner contributes to the success of the caller; but it also pointed out how difficult it is for the partner, who can be made to feel like a "fifth wheel" at a dance.

I have learned to appreciate what a good partner can do for a caller. I count on my partner’s active participation in the dance so that he can give me the appropriate signals for sound adjustments and dancer fatigue. Additionally, because he is right there with beginner dancers, he can advise me of trouble spots and potential solutions. His feedback on the drive home after the dance is so valuable to me, too. If he is unable to dance (say, due to other commitments), I really miss his contributions to the success of the dance.

However, as indicated above, with many clubs, the partner is just an "extra" dancer, without someone to dance with. The partner’s satisfaction usually depends on how the club members treat the partner.

Out of curiosity, I recently decided to do a survey of callers and partners. I requested responses from callers on the Internet-based caller’s discussion group, as well as local callers. At the time of this writing, I have received responses from 35 callers from around the world, and 11 local callers, for a total of 46 callers. Here are the survey questions and the results:

Number of Callers Surveyed: 46

                (Note: the numbers indicate how many callers/partners said "yes")
At your club(s), does the caller’s partner have to pay admission? 2** 4%
What is the attitude of your club(s) toward your partner:
A. Partner is encouraged to dance – dancers actively seek partner out 34 74%
B. Partner can dance if s/he finds a partner 11 24%
C. Partner can dance only to fill a square (if no one is sitting out) – (helps if partner is “bi-dansual”) 20 43%
D. Partner not permitted to dance unless paid admission 2** 4%

(** - see the starred comments below for details)
(Total is more than 100% because different clubs or people treat the partner differently at different times.)

Many of the survey responses also included comments. In many cases, it was the partner’s choice to dance only when necessary: the partner would work to encourage the "paying guests" to dance before the partner would. In some cases, the partner was reluctant to come to the dances because they would seldom dance. But most reports were much more positive.

The friendliest club that I have heard of has instituted an interesting procedure. At the beginning of the dance, one of the men (assuming the caller’s partner is a lady) is selected to wear a special button. The button means that for the next tip, the wearer of the button will dance with the caller’s partner. At the end of the tip, the man passes the button on to another man. The net result: the partner dances all night, and the wife of the "buttoned" man will only have to sit out for one tip - and if the club is big enough, an individual man will only be "buttoned" once every few dances. (If the partner is ready for a break, then the "buttoned" man can dance with someone else for this tip, but his next tip is then committed.)


(Note: comments with ** are from where the partner must pay to dance.)

**In Czech Republic, callers are usually members of clubs they call for. They don't pay the membership fee (nor they are paid for their calling), but their partners do.

**In Germany usually a yearly fee is paid - not a door fee.

During class my partner is very helpful dancing either part. But she is not forced or expected to. Only if she desires.

There is no policy, but the club members make sure she does not sit out the whole dance. Most of the time she dances regularly, but there are sometimes when she may dance only a couple of tips. My wife can dance both parts, therefore, she does not lack for a dance partner.

Treated just like one of the members. Of course our club is a seniors club and has a lot of singles, especially women (all the husbands seem to die before the wives - guess I better start worrying). We even have women dancing with women and we promote it - for both squares AND rounds.

We are in SC and my husband calls for two "executive" clubs and one "caller" run club. One of the exec. clubs is the singles club in the area and I don't go to all of the dances. I usually go to every other one now that I am cueing for that club at every other dance. I have always only gone to that club just enough to "remind them that there is a "MRS" at home". My thoughts have always been that many of the ladies at that club don't go anywhere else to dance and if I am there dancing then one of those ladies is not dancing. The members of both clubs treat me very well and I could dance every tip if I chose to.

They don't seek her out, but she does manage to dance almost every tip. Hey, if your club is a bunch of snots, then find another club to call for! There IS a perfect club out there ... you just gotta find it!

Dancers seeking partner out is normal in Australia. (At least on the west coast)

AFAIK none of the Plus clubs here in the greater Los Angeles area have the caller's partner pay admission; I know none of the A/C clubs do. At the A2 dance I went to last Saturday, the caller came with his wife; she did not pay admission. Early in the dance when there was an even number of solo dancers, she danced. When the number became uneven, she sat out. When my partner and I noticed this, we each sat out a tip so the callers' wife could dance. The last tip of the dance was floor level C1. We made sure the caller's wife had a partner.

Often other dancers will seek out my partner to dance. Generally, she does not offer to dance until all others are in a set - occasionally will suggest that the dancer might involve another person who is still sitting out. She is "bi-dansual" Basic thru advanced. Option (d) sounds really ugly. ( and unfriendly ). Her active participation is always encouraged. Both she and I are "guests" at club dinners, and many other activities. We do pay our way at the "apres danse" coffee shops, though ;=)

Most of the time the callers partner is asked to dance nearly every tip unless she elects not to dance. Some clubs don't do this but a few years ago, every club did it. Even if we go to a dance at another club the caller (at least us) are not charged either. Most of us will do the split the pot with a few extra bucks to balance it off.

No one in the club pays admission. Nor do visiting dancers. All square dancers come in and dance.

Many of the callers partners have quit attending the dances with their "caller" spouses because of 2 reasons in my opinion. 1) They are not asked to dance and wind up sitting all night 2) They are asked to dance or expected to fill in squares as the "bi dancual" partner - i.e. doing the opposite dancing role of their gender. This gets tiring after multiple times. That is my evaluation in MN - the second explanation is especially true for the female partners of male round dance cuers !

She doesn't pay admission, but I personally think that she should - after all, if she tells me what I should have done differently, then she should pay to do so! She dances when she wants to. This club is around 15 squares of members and they ask her to dance pretty often. I really don't think she would pay to hear me call!

Nobody pays admission in club for club dance.  Normally, no dancer can say no if another dancers asks for a dance. All club members are bi-dansual.

The club doesn't really have a policy, but it has become customary that it would be mostly A during regular club dances. I suppose C would be descriptive of a SD class situation, where the objective is to get the new dancers squared up first, and then fill gaps with angels. Option D, in my exalted opinion, is totally absurd.

A mixture of the survey choices. We feel that since she is not required to pay, those that paid should have the first opportunity to dance. The club thinks of us as members and they often choose to sit out so there is room in a square for my wife. However there was resentment over a previous caller's wife who sometimes danced while paying guests sat out. However, they did not contribute much to the club (unless they were paid).

My wife (who is bi-dansual) and I discussed your survey at length. We both agree that the spouse in question was wronged. Not only should they not have to pay, the other dancers should almost have to fight to dance with them. They should be, after all, one of the better dancers in the club. I would love to see my wife on the dance floor every tip, that's just common curtsey. I guess it's our job as leaders to teach these simple principles.

I don't know of any clubs in the mid Atlantic area that would charge a callers partner. And, the partner is asked to dance at least a few times.

Here in Germany there is no admission for club night dances. At special dances, the callers partner is not charged admission, and is allowed to participate in all of the activities of the night.

A, about 25% of the time. The others don't really apply.

She's also the paid club round and line dance cuer. She dances in all the lines as well as fills in squares. On the other hand, I nearly always ask one of the single women (mostly widows) to round dance while my wife is cueing. If I called for a club that wanted my wife to pay, I'd tell them to change the rules or get a new caller.

Depends on clubs.

My wife has never paid to get into a regular dance. She sometimes has to dance either position in class. In two of the clubs she always gets to dance two or more tips. The other maybe one, sometimes not at all. If any club in this vicinity has a special dance - Callers and partners  do not have to pay.

At dances in the St.Louis, MO. area, caller's wives do not pay when they accompany their spouses. They dance at the dance if they can find a partner, but most clubs do not go out of their way to ask them to dance.

He acts as treasurer, attendance/membership recorder and all around helpmate.  At our recent Christmas party, he cleaned up the cafeteria after our dinner while the rest of us went on to dance off our supper!  Since this is a teaching club, my husband fills in whichever position is needed, but does not dance otherwise.  We do have an executive for this club, but over the years it has reduced its actual participation, rely mostly on our decisions.  The group has shrunk through age of present members.  The area I call in has undertaken a cultural change of residents, and as the new folks are mostly Chinese who haven't had the background in square dancing ( no servicemen allowed in Communist China!), we have had trouble adding to our numbers.  Since we live about an hour's drive away from Toronto, the executive are mostly responsible for aquiring the facility permits and advising dancers (and us) if the weather conditions require a dance to be cancelled.  So far that has only happened twice.

Club has a "Caller's Partner's Partner" Badge to ensure partner dances. I can't say if the caller's partner pays at our club, I can just say that I don't think they do, but they do dance, if they want to.  I believe that any caller, and partner, are admitted free--calling or just dancing. Club Presidents are also admitted free.

They should consider that a Square Dance is a "Happening".  Part of the feedback from the floor is your partner's acceptance by the group.  You are in control of what happens at the dance, as a whole, and might call an even better dance if your partner is dancing and having fun also.  You might feel guilty if your partner isn't having fun and that could change your mood enough for you not to call your best dance.

I too have had to leave a club because of the way they treated my partner.

The caller's spouse is one of the most important tools the caller has. The spouse helps haul, set up, adjust the sound. Is used to demo moves during classes. Fills in when another dancer is needed (regardless of the needed gender).

A club in the past wanted to charge for the partner, but was corrected by the caller. Different clubs treat the partner differently.

Of course they don't charge my partner at my dances....if they did they'd be looking for a new caller, on the spot. She dances when asked, which is a fair bit. She's friendly and outgoing and there is generally someone's wife that wants to sit one. Or occasionally she dances the man's part if/when needed.

Many times, clubs have been disappointing, because they won't ask the partner to dance, so the partner chooses to stay home.

Sometimes partner (male) is called prior to the dance to arrange a "date".

Partner's choice not to dance if there are others sitting out. We have never encountered the issue of her dancing or not dancing at any dance and payment has never been requested.

Partner's choice not to dance if there are others sitting out.

Partner's choice not to dance if there are others sitting out. Dance all the rounds, though!

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Page last updated: Oct 14, 2001.