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
In Modern Western Square Dancing, dancers learn individual movements known
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, dancers are unable to
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, then taking a break.
A tip usually consists of a Patter portion (5 to 7 minutes) 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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
|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!|
|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...
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;
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.
Turn 180° in place (to face the opposite wall). If possible, turn
toward the adjacent dancer.
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.
Weave The Ring
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
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
Ends in facing couples, with the Girls having swapped positions.
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 will often be described in terms of
Beaus and Belles.
|From a couple...|
| ||the Beau is the left-side dancer (where the
Boy usually is);|
| ||the Belle is the right-side dancer (where the
Girl usually is).|
In practice, Courtesy Turn is almost always called from
positions where the Boy turns the Girl.
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
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.
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 starting
position, while turning 1/4 (Boy right, Girl left)
such that the Girl goes under the Boy's raised arm. At completion
of the call, lower joined hands to waist level and form
a normal handhold.
Ends in a couple, facing 90° from starting direction.