Timing is Everything

by Calvin Campbell

Timing is the number of steps or beats of music that the dancer should be allowed to complete a movement before the next direction is given. If the caller waits the full number of steps then the dancers must stop and wait until the next call is recognized. The caller should place his delivery of the following command while the dancers are moving. If he delivers the command too early then the dancers tend to feel they are falling behind and hurry. It's a delicate balance and requires skill.

Timing recommendations for all the mainstream and plus calls were established by a CALLERLAB committee. The committee made a careful examination of each movement the dancers should make in relationship to the music. The goal was to enable the movement to be completed smoothly and comfortably when danced to music of a average speed of about 126-128 steps per minute.

When you increase the speed of the music, the dancers must either take smaller steps or drop out of the rhythm of the music. If the dancers are forced to drop out of the rhythm of music then it becomes square walking and not square dancing. Some choreography lends itself to shorter steps. Square Thru is a good example. Just shorten your steps and turn tighter corners. If the caller chooses to increase the speed of the music then he/she should also choose calls that work well with shorter steps.

If a caller does not use timing skillfully the dancing seems to be "choppy". To accomplish "smooth" dancing requires precise timing and skill of the a caller to keep the dancers flowing in a smooth pattern. The dancers also have a responsibility. They need to listen to the music and walk in time to the beat. Don't be pushed by the patter chatter. Just relax and enjoy the music.

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