Introduction to Square Dancing
|Western Square Dancing has a heritage in the old West, but it has evolved to be relevant to today's pace and music.|
An evening of square dancing is composed of a number of dance tips. Each tip is two dances totaling 10-15 minutes of dancing, following the instructions and choreography of a caller. These instructions may be free-flow or substituted into the words of well-known songs. Although four couples make up each dancing square, it is not strictly a couples dance. Each dancer interacts with all the dancers in the square, performing square dance movements beginning as simply as dosado, promenade and swing your partner, and advancing to more complex calls that involve a sequence of movements.
While some square dance tips are quite lively and invigorating, the main idea is not competition but the enjoyment of the dancers. The challenge of mastering the movements is great physical and mental exercise as well.
Many thousands of people square dance to the very same calls throughout the US and internationally.
There are several hundred dancers and approximately 12 clubs in the Triangle, including several in
Raleigh. Clubs usually dance weekly or twice monthly. If you want to dance often, you will find groups
dancing almost every evening of the week. The clubs vary in size, probably averaging 30 to 40 dancers.
Most employ a professional caller to lead the dances, keeping the dances entertaining, and often including high
quality singing and patter.
Modern western square dance is standardized and structured into at least eight levels, from the gentle Basic level to several Challenge levels. Dancers who dance at the Basic level learn 50 movements. At the Mainstream level there are 17 more, and an additional 35 moderately complex calls at the Plus level. Beyond those levels are two Advanced and three Challenge levels. Most square dance groups in the Triangle dance at the Mainstream or Plus level. There are at least two groups in the Triangle that dance at the Advanced level and one at a Challenge level.
In the Triangle, square dancing is an inexpensive activity, usually costing between $18 to $20 per person per month, mainly to cover the cost of renting the facility and paying the caller. During the week, the dress at most dance classes is casual, with square dance attire optional.
Periodically a club or caller organizes a Saturday evening dance party and invites all dancers in the area. These dances often draw 100 to 150 or more dancers and cost about $7 per person. Usually Western wear for the guys and dress or full skirts, perhaps with crinolines, for the gals, are worn to these dances. Also, in and around NC, there are larger dances and full weekend events that often attract 500 to 1,000 dancers and feature nationally known callers. Participation in these larger dances is optional and many dancers attend only the informal weekly dances.
Each year there is a NC State Square Dance Convention in August held at the North Raleigh
Hilton. There are dances both Friday and Saturday nights, featuring NC callers. Saturday morning and afternoon
include dance workshops, seminars and fashion shows. It is a fun time to see many of the NC clubs.
Classes are provided for new dancers over a 3 month period. This provides instruction and practice to enable dancing at the Mainstream level. Student dancers normally pay the same per month as regular club members, but are not considered members until after graduating from a mainstream class. Commitment to regular attendance of classes is very important as new steps are taught each session. Frequently these new steps build on what has been learned previously.