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Definitions of Square Dance Calls and Concepts
Definitions of Square Dance Calls and Concepts
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Square dance music generally consists of 2/4 (two-step) or 4/4 (march) timing with a range of 120 to 133 beats per minute. My music will be about 127 beats per minute.

When moving, take one step per beat of music. Unlike other dance forms, with Square Dancing it doesn't matter which foot you start with. Use a smooth shuffle/glide step. Don't jump up and down on each step.


In Modern Western Square Dancing, dancers learn individual movements known as calls.

The caller is responsible for putting the calls together into sequences to form the dance. Since each movement (call) is independent and the caller can vary the order of the calls. Hence dancers should not anticipate the next call. This aspect of square dancing makes each dance different, new, and exciting!


Wear comfortable clothes, western-style if desired. Traditionally, Boys wear long-sleeve shirts, and Girls wear dresses.


A Tip consists of everyone squaring up, dancing for ten minutes or so, followed by thanking everyone in your square, clapping for the caller, then taking a break.

A tip usually consists of a Patter portion (5 to 7 minutes) often followed by a Stir the Bucket (a few seconds) followed by a Singing Call (3 to 4 minutes).

  • During the Patter portion of the tip, the caller workshops or calls whatever comes to his mind (extemporaneous calling). The caller calls several sequences, where a sequence is simply a series of calls that start and end from a squared set.
  • Stir The Bucket simply means that each couple moves counter-clockwise one position in the square, usually immediately prior to the Singing Call.
  • A Singing Call is a bit more structured than the Patter portion of the tip. The caller changes from the patter music to perhaps a more familiar tune, and dancers can relax a bit as the caller generally uses easier material. Dancers can enjoy dancing to the music, and singing along if desired. A typical Singing Call consists of 7 sequences (described below) and the caller sings the lyrics of the song while dancers do long calls such as Swing & Promenade Home. The 7 sequences consist of an opener, two progressions, a middle break, two more progressions, and a closer. The opener, middle break, and closer generally consist of a few calls followed by swing your partner and promenade home. For the 4 progressions, however, dancers dance several calls followed by a swing your corner and promenade home. Your corner becomes your new partner, and the Boy takes the Girl to his home position. After a total of four progressions, you are back with your original partner again.

Circle Left | Right
From a Circle (a ring of 2 or more dancers).

Join hands and circle as directed to the left or right. If no direction is given, Circle Left.

The caller may or may not tell you to circle a specific amount. For example, if the caller says Circle Left, then circle left until the next command is given; on the other hand, if the caller says Circle Left 1/2 Way, then circle the given amount and then stop (1/2 way means to circle 1/2 way around the circle, so you have changed facing direction by 180°).

While circling, the caller may tell you to Reverse it, and circle the other direction.

Handholds: For the time being (when all circles consist of alternating Boys and Girls), Boys use a palms-up, and Girls use a palms-down.

Forward And Back
From a Circle, Squared Set, or other applicable formation.

Walk forward 3 short steps, and then tap one foot to the other (or just pause in place);
then walk backward 3 short steps & tap (or pause). This movement takes 8 beats of music.

Styling: On beat 4 (the first 'tap' or pause), you can raise joined hands and "whoop" (make some noise). If you have a free hand (not holding onto anybody), you can raise the free hand in patty-cake style to tap hands with the dancer you're facing.

The caller can have just the Heads, Sides, Girls, or Boys go Forward And Back.

There are other ways of saying this call (e.g., Move up to the Middle and Back).

Square Formation & Identification
A Squared Set (also known as a Static Set) consists of 4 couples, arranged in a square pattern (aligned to the walls of the hall, if possible) such that each couple has their back to a wall and is facing in toward the center of the square. Within each couple, the Boy is on the left, and the Girl is on the right.

Squared Set

Boys are denoted by squares, and Girls by circles.
A black dot indicates facing direction.

The couple with their backs to the caller is Couple #1; the next couple to their right is Couple #2; the next couple to the right is Couple #3; and the remaining couple is Couple #4.

Couple #1 and Couple #3 are known as the Head Couples (or Heads).

Couple #2 and Couple #4 are known as the Side Couples (or Sides).

Your Partner is the one beside you (the one you're paired up with).

Your Corner is the other adjacent dancer (to the Boys' left, or the Girls' right).

Your Opposite is the opposite sex dancer directly across from you.

The remaining dancer of the opposite sex is either your Right-Hand Lady if you're a Boy, or your Left-Hand Man if you're a Girl. These two terms are infrequently used.

Face Your Partner
Turn to face your Partner.

The turn amount is usually either 90° or 180°.
The important thing is that you end up facing your Partner.

Face Your Corner
Turn to face your Corner.

From two facing dancers.

Without changing your facing direction, walk clockwise around the other dancer a full circle to end facing that dancer (back where you started!).

That is, walk forward to your left to pass right-shoulders; then slide back-to-back; continue sliding to the right and backup; then slide left and backup to end in facing dancers.

Dosado is from the French 'dos a dos', meaning back-to-back.

Allemande Left  or  Left Allemande
Face your Corner (if you aren't already facing). Join left forearms (hold the forearm of the other dancer's left arm with your left hand). Holding arms, walk forward around the other dancer about 1/2 way, then drop hands and step forward to face your Partner.

At completion of an Allemande Left you are facing your Partner, and somewhat back-to-back with your Corner.

Right And Left Grand  or  Grand Right And Left
From formations where you can shake right-hands with your Partner, and where Boys are generally facing counter-clockwise and Girls are facing clockwise.

Right And Left Grand is like climbing a ladder. Give a right pull by with your Partner, then a left pull by with the next, then a right pull by with the next (your Opposite), then a left pull by with the next (your Corner). Ends facing your Partner on the other side of the square.

A total of 4 hands (right, left, right, left).

From applicable formations.

Make a (side-by-side) couple with your partner, with your left-shoulders toward the center of the set. The Boy is on the left, and the Girl is on the right. As a couple, walk forward, as desigated (e.g., Promenade Don't Stop (Don't Slow Down) in which case you keep moving until another call is given, or Promenade Home in which case you stop promenading when you reach your home position and face in as a couple to end in a squared set).

The caller can also designate how far to Promenade, as in Heads Promenade 1/2. In this case, the Heads Promenade around the outside 1/2 way to the other Head Position, and face in as a couple to end in a squared set. Inactive Couples (in this case, the Sides) move into the middle while the Active Couples (Heads) Promenade around the outside. Those moving into the middle, see styling notes for Forward And Back.

Styling: There are 3 primary ways of joining hands during a Promenade:

  1. Standard-position: The Boy puts both hands out in front of him, palms-up. The girl places her hands palms-down on top of the Boy's hands.
  2. Skirt-skaters-position: The Boy places left-hand in front, and places right-hand on the Girl's back. The Girl places her left-hand in front into the Boy's left-hand, and uses her right-hand to wave her skirt. The Girl may alternately choose to place her right hand in the small of her back as a target for the Boy's hand.
  3. Varsouvienne-position: Girl places both hands palms-up over and a bit in front of her shoulders. Boy places his hands palms-down over the Girl's shoulder so that his right-hand connects with her right-hand, and his left-hand connects with her left-hand.

More Styling:

  • Boys should keep their left-shoulders close to the center of the set, almost forming a 'star' with their left-shoulders. This keeps the square from getting too wide.



When you do a Promenade Home, the amount to travel depends upon how far you are from your home position. If you are 1/4 of the way from home or less, the convention is to Promenade all the way around to end up home. This is especially true for Singing Calls, as time is allotted for you to do this! However, the #1 Couple 'controls' the Promenade, and all couples should stop when the #1 Couple stops at their home position. It is helpful if the #1 Boy says "short" or "stop" if he decides to promenade short.

Promenade is always in a counter-clockwise direction. That is, your left-shoulder is toward the center of the set. If the caller wants you to promenade the other direction, he/she will say Wrong Way Promenade.

Designated dancers form a star of the given handedness (right or left), and turn it as directed.


  • For Girls or mixed-sex stars, place your hand palm out, patty-cake style, about shoulder height, into the star.
  • For an all-Boys star, hold the wrist of the Boy in front of you. This is called a packsaddle grip.

Reverse It: turn around, make a star of the opposite-handedness, and turn it as directed.

Star Promenade
From a formation with a Star (4 dancers) in the center, and (4) dancers on the outside.

While turning the star, those in the star keep their inside hands in the star and roll out their outside arms to 'scoop up' the specified dancer by placing their arm around the specified dancer's waist. The star continues to turn, with everyone as a couple.

For example:

  • Boys Star Left, pick up your Partner for a Star Promenade
  • Heads Star Left, pick up your Corner for a Star Promenade

As with a normal Promenade, keep moving until told to Promenade Home or another call such as Back Out And Form A Circle.

Four Ladies Chain
From a normal Squared Set (or from a Circle of alternating Boys and Girls).

Four Girls right-hand star 1/2 way across to the opposite Boy, giving the Boy their left-hand. Boys take the Girl's left-hand in their left-hand, then (Boys) turn to the left to place their right-hand on the Girl's lower back. Boys then turn the Girls about 3/4 (270°) to the left to end in a Squared Set. The pivot point is actually between the two dancers -- Boys backup while slightly pushing the Girls with their right-hand.

Ends in a Squared Set.

Four Ladies Chain

before after
Girls right-hand star 1/2
Boys turn the Girls

Ladies Center, Men Sashay
From a moving Circle. Dancers must all be in a Circle moving left or right.

Everyone drop hands with adjacent dancers; Girls do a Forward And Back (3 steps forward; 'whoop'; 3 steps backward; and reform a Circle) as the Boys continue to circle in the same direction around the outside.

Upon completion of the call, continue circling in the same direction.

Boys will have moved one position (clockwise when circling to the left), and everyone will have a new partner and corner.

Similarly, there's a Men Center, Ladies Sashay, which isn't called as often.

Grand Square
From a Squared Set, after some dancers are told to face their partner.

Grand Square is a 32-beat figure that should be danced in time to the music. That is, start on beat 1, and take a full 32 beats to complete the call.

Starting on beat #1 of an 8-beat phrase, proceed as follows:

Sides Face, Grand Square:

  • Heads' part:
    Beats 1-4:Forward 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face your partner;
    Beats 4-8:Backup 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face the dancer beside you;
    Beats 9-12:Backup 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face in;
    Beats 13-16:Forward 3 steps, then pause (do not turn) 'Patty-cake' with your partner if you'd like). We're 1/2 way through. Now reverse it...
    Beats 17-20:Backup 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face in;
    Beats 21-24: Forward 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face in;
    Beats 25-28:Forward 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face in;
    Beats 29-32:  Backup 3 steps and pause. You're done!
  • Side's part:
    Beats 1-4:Backup 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face in;
    Beats 5-8:Forward 3 steps (to meet someone), then turn 1/4 to face in (as a couple);
    Beats 9-12:Forward 3 steps to meet original partner , then turn 1/4 to face in;
    Beats 13-16:Backup 3 steps and pause (do not turn). Now reverse it...
    Beats 17-20:Forward 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face in;
    Beats 21-24:Backup 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face in;
    Beats 25-28:Backup 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face in;
    Beats 29-32:  Forward 3 steps, then turn 1/4 to face in. You're done!


  • Join hands whenever you become a couple (side by side with someone)
  • Each turn 1/4 is always toward the center of the set. You must turn 1/4 even if you think you are already facing the center of the set.
  • Do not turn 1/4 on beat 16.
  • Grand Square ends in a Squared Set. Those who originally faced at the start need to turn 1/4 on beat 32 to end as a couple.
  • Dance to the beat of the music. Take the full 32 beats.
  • Turn precisely 1/4 (90°) in place on beats 4, 8, 12, 20, 24, 28, and, if necessary, 32.
  • Each dancers traces a small square pattern on the floor.

Single File Promenade
Usually initiated from Circle Right.

All drop hands and Promenade in Single File (Indian Style). Continue moving until the caller delivers the next call.

From two dancers of opposite sex.

Much can be said about how to Swing. Here's a starter...

  1. First, get into Swing position. Step right-hip to right-hip; right-feet parallel. Boy's left-hand to Girl's right-hand. Boy places his right-hand on Girl's waist, behind her back. Girl places her left-hand on the Boy's right-shoulder or upper arm;
  2. Using the same shuffle step as with normal square dancing, walk forward around each other. Swing twice around or so, then Boy roll the Girl out to his right to end as a couple facing the center of the set.


  • After you Swing with someone, you become partners.

As you become more experienced, you will find that a better Swing can be acheived by keeping your right-feet together, and keeping your balance on the ball of the right foot. Use your left-foot like a scooter to move around the other person.

U-Turn Back
ID: 8

Turn 180° in place (to face the opposite wall). If possible, turn toward the adjacent dancer.

U-Turn Back

U-Turn Back

Pass Thru
ID: 7

From facing dancers.

Passing right-shoulders, pass by the dancer you're facing to end in their starting spot. Do not change your facing direction.

Ends in back-to-back dancers.

Pass Thru

Pass Thru
 half way done

Weave The Ring
ID: 6

A no-hands Right And Left Grand.

From a Circular formation, everyone facing their 'partner'.

Pass right-shoulders with the first dancer; left-shoulders with the second; right-shoulders with the third; and left-shoulders with the fourth.

Ends 1/2 way across the set, facing the dancer with whom you were originally facing.

(Two) Ladies Chain
ID: 5

From normal facing couples.

Similar to Four Ladies Chain, except that it is done by two couples only.

Two ladies star 1/2 way across to the other Boy, giving that Boy their left-hand. Boy places his left-hand in her left hand, then puts his right-hand on her back to turn her (about 3/4) to end in facing couples.

Ends in facing couples, with the Girls having swapped positions.

(Two) Ladies Chain

before after
Girls right-hand star 1/2
Boys turn the Girls

Courtesy Turn
ID: 4

From a Couple.

Left-hands joined in front, the left-side dancer (the Beau) places his/her right-hand behind the other dancer's back. The right-side dancer (the Belle) places her/his right-hand in the small of his/her back to join the other dancer's right-hand. As a couple turn to the left 1/2 way (Beau 'pushing' the Belle) to face in.

Technically, Courtesy Turn and most other square dance calls are gender-neutral (i.e., not sex-dependent). As such, calls that start from couple formations are often be described in terms of Beaus and Belles.

From a couple...
 the Beau is the left-side dancer (the Boy's usual spot);
 the Belle is the right-side dancer (the Girl's usual spot).

In practice, Courtesy Turn is almost always called from positions where the Boy turns the Girl.

Courtesy Turn

Courtesy Turn
 half way done

Courtesy Turn can also be called from positions other than a Couple. For example, the Girls could be turning a right-hand star, and the caller could say Boys (reach in and) Courtesy Turn Your Original Corner.In this case, the turn itself is more than 180°. Turn whatever amount is necessary to end facing toward the center of the set.

Right And Left Thru
ID: 3

From Facing Couples.

Right-hand pull by (shake right hands with the one you're facing, pull by to end in the other dancer's starting spot); then Courtesy Turn.

Ends in Facing Couples.

Right And Left Thru

Right And Left Thru
Right-Hand Pull By
Courtesy Turn

Star Thru
ID: 2

From Facing Dancers of opposite sex.

Boy raises right-hand palm out, patty-cake style; Girl raises left-hand palm out, patty-cake style. Touch hands, walk forward into the other dancer's startingposition, while turning 1/4 (Boy right, Girl left)such that the Girl goes under the Boy's raised arm. At completionof the call, lower joined hands to waist level and form a normal handhold.

Ends in a couple, facing 90° from starting direction.

Star Thru

Star Thru

Stir The Bucket
ID: 1

From a Squared Set.

Each couple moves counter-clockwise one position in the square.

That is, Couple #1 moves to Couple #2's position, Couple #2 moves to Couple #3's position, and so on.

Stir The Bucket is usually done immediately prior to the Singing Call.

Stir The Bucket

Stir The Bucket
19-June-2024 07:57:22
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