Isn't About Time to Rethink the Structure of Square Dancing?

By Lee Schmidt

I started a new caller class in September and have seven students; some have real potential. This is the 21st year I have conducted these classes, and if all finish, the total of those to graduate will reach 140. About 20 are still active in some form or another - some full time, some part time, and some concentrating on one-nighters and club classes.

A1 and A2 have taken a big toll on the clubs in Southern California. We have callers who do not teach any beginner level classes and reap the harvest of callers who work their butts off trying to hold a club together. We seem to have some callers who work A1, A2 and Challenge three to four nights a week and "milk toast" the people into believing that level climbing at a fast pace is the thing to do. A great number of dancers find the levels too demanding and end up quitting the activity altogether. It seems that most A2 and C level dancers add nothing to square dancing and don't help out with clubs. I think we need to take a serious look at keeping the Advanced Level truly Advanced and attract only those dancers who are really ready to move up.

The Invitational Clubs of 20 or more years ago might serve as a good solutions to explore. Our activity has become too complicated and too competitive and has acquired all the problems that go along with these traits. In the 60's and 70's we had very large beginner classes with enough bodies to go around and we were still simple with only one list for the club level dancers to learn. In the areas around me where there are several callers pushing the higher levels there has been a noticeably high number of Plus clubs that have folded. In the early nineties I made the decision not to teach any classes beyond the Plus level. I now struggle to keep three beginner classes going within an 85 mile radius. I believe the Square Dance Pyramid has become inverted and is in grave danger of toppling.

Today the beginner can't help but be a bit confused. Now that we have about six lists floating around, the complication factor is greatly increased as we try to accommodate all the levels and interests. I recently called a three hour "club dance" and was handed the following dance format. I was to call three "white tips" a.k.a. Basic level; three "blue tips" a.k.a. Mainstream; three "red tips" a.k.a Plus level, and an A1 tip during the break. Of course, these levels alternated throughout the evening. Rounds and line dances were cued between tips. This was not a problem for me but really seemed to confuse the newer dancers. My point is the calls on the list have very little to do with getting folks to start dancing, but have everything to do with keeping them in the activity.

I believe we need to stick to one list. The above method only serves to reinforce the Ladder Climbing Syndrome that has caused many of the problems we have today. To add to the mess, there are callers who teach A1 calls in beginner classes. Isn't it about time we rethink the structure of square dancing? We as callers need to come together for the good of the activity and conform to the same way of thinking. We need to discourage those who are knowingly or unknowingly undermining the basic structure of square dancing.

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16-November-2006 19:22:17