This is a timely contribution by Tom Gray. With the Fall classes well along now, this will be of interest to many. Tom Gray is a caller from Alberta Canada.


compiled by Tom Gray

Agreements that help prevent confusion. At least, they do if everyone follows them.

  1. CIRCLE RULE: If Circle is called without a direction ("Heads lead right and circle to a line" or "Face your corner, circle up two" or "Join hands and circle"), the circle is always to the LEFT.
  2. PASSING RULE: whenever two dancers are walking towards each other and are about to collide, they shift slightly left, pass RIGHT shoulders, and continue. Sometimes called the Right Shoulder Rule
  3. SAME POSITION RULE: Whenever two dancers are walking towards each other and are required to stop in the same position, they join right hands in a mini-wave, sharing the position.
  4. ACTIVE DANCER(S) RULE: Sometimes called Working Dancer(s). If couples or positions are designated active, they remain active for the following calls until another couple or position is named. Dancers not designated are 'not working' or are 'inactive' Thus, 'Heads pass thru, u-turn back, square thru two' all refer to heads; the sides are inactive during this sequence.. Another example: '#1 man lead right, circle up three, go once around, u-turn back, circle up three' The 'u-turn back' call refers only to the active dancer, the #1 gent.
  5. FACING COUPLES RULE: Some calls done from facing couples require the dancers to first step into a momentary right ocean wave (unless it is a left-hand call, eg. "Left swing thru", in which case the dancers step into a momentary left ocean wave) before completing the call. Examples of such calls are Swing Thru; Fan the top; Spin the top; Spin Chain Thru. For beginners and new dancers, the caller may cue the parts, for example, "Heads lead right, step to a wave, swing thru" or "Pass thru, make a wave, fan the top"; but for Mainstream or more experienced beginner dancers the call will be, "Heads lead right, swing thru" or "Pass thru, fan the top".
  6. OCEAN WAVE RULE: Some calls normally done from facing couples (R & L Grand, R & L Thru, Box the Gnat, Square Thru, Slide Thru, Pass to the Center, etc.) can be called from waves; or calls normally done from facing dancers (eg. Turn Thru) can be done from miniwaves. Some callers will preface one of these calls with a cue to warn the dancers of the unusual position. ("Rear back, Right and Left Grand" or "Single Hinge, Listen, now! Box the gnat")
  7. ARM TURN RULE: if an arm turn (or any other move involving an arm turn, such as Shoot the Star) is called with no qualification, it is turned half-way around. Thus, "Turn your partner right" is a half turn to face in the opposite direction to where you started; but "Turn your partner right, three quarters" is a turn almost back to the starting position (tip: count walls!)
  8. CIRCULATE RULE: Directed (active) dancers move forward along the circulate path to the next position. This may involve "flipping" or reversing your direction in order to follow the path and continue moving forward. Some teachers use a hula hoop or chalkline to emphasize this.
  9. PALMS RULE: Normally, the man holds palms up, ladies palms down. This applies to circle, promenade, etc. However, in a same-sex couple, the right-hand dancer (belle) holds palms down, the left-hand dancer (beau) holds palms up. In a BBGG ring, the person with a man on the left and a lady on the right will find that RULD (Rule #11) works.
  10. STAR RULE: Both men and wome are to use a palm star when moving forward. Men are to use a packsaddle or box star when moving backwards, but women use the palm star forward and backwards. There is no reason for this but tradition, and there is a growing trend for men to use the packsaddle in any star. One gent said, "Give me ONE way to do it and do it that way ALL the time!" K.I.S.S. 11. RULD RULE - This is not official or accepted by any square dance or caller organization. Many dancers are pushing for a "Right Up Left Down" handhold. That is, all dancers hold right hand palm up, left hand palm down, regardless of sex or position. This "KISS" handhold would simplify everything from "circle left" to all-position and "arky" dancing.
  11. RIGHT IN FRONT RULE: When two couples are moving into the same space, the couple on the right goes in front. Although it is usually taught as a part of specific calls, this is a general rule. In Wheel and Deal from facing-out lines, the right-hand couple goes first and is in the center of the resulting DPT formation. Wheel and Deal from facing in-lines results in a CDPT formation, with the right-hand couple outside. When Lead Right is called from facing-in lines, the result is a Trade By formation with the right-hand couple in front facing out and the left hand couples inside facing each other.
  12. FIRST FOOT RULE: In ballroom dancing, the man always starts a move (or "break") with the LEFT foot and the woman always starts with the RIGHT foot. This is the case in Rounds too. You don't really have to worry about footwork in Square Dancing (thank God!) because it's basically just walking. However, I have found that this rule works just fine from the man's point of view. I can't tell you about the ladies' steps!

    T. Gray
    Publisher of The Shepherd's Guide for Central Alberta
    Local agent for Monument Shop
    1-800-829-6906 (Alberta, Canada)

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