Thursday, October 02, 2014

Square Dancing

Club "Caller" Sandwich

In Southern California (SoCal), square dance clubs have been following the same model since the early eighties: teach new dancers the PLUS program, and host periodic dances featuring guest callers. The central focus for clubs differs. Some emphasize socialization more than others. Some enjoy a little more of a challenge in the dancing. Whatever the focus for any particular club, no one will argue that recruitment is not becoming increasingly more difficult.

There is active discussion taking place in other forums about the reasons why attracting and retaining dancers is so tough. For the moment, let us set aside the problem of recruitment and focus on keeping the rare few who make it through a 30+ week class to become so-called PLUS dancers.

Clubs seem to believe that the average dancer can be trained to dance PLUS in the time they allot for their classes. Yet, their new dancers often experience a big shock when they graduate from class and attend the club dance on a Friday or Saturday night. They quickly learn to one degree or another that they have to struggle to keep up, or that they cannot, in fact, do so.

Realizing that the size of the shock might make the difference between keeping or losing those precious new dancers, clubs are beginning to dumb-down the initial dances their new dancers are expected to attend. Some clubs shift between levels at their dance, offering alternating tips of MAINSTREAM and PLUS. Some simply instruct their guest caller to coddle the new dancers with “easy” material. Some do both. This has the potential of being dissatisfying for everyone.

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Arm Turns -- Easy as Pie

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I think the key to success at a club dance is to have a solid foundation with the Basics along with the ability to listen, trust, and react to directions from the caller. Most of the time these “directions” are simply the calls, but it has become increasingly fashionable for guest callers to alter the calls in some manner in order to provide more interest. Is there an unspoken assumption that a program’s calls cannot stand alone?

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Dancer Mind Control

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As much as we like to believe we are free to think and act as we choose, there is evidence to suggest that mind control is running rampant in the square dance activity! How do you avoid becoming a victim, without quitting and walking away?

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Recovery 101

Akk! The caller is still yacking out calls and you’ve just looked at the other side of the square, because part of your side seems to be missing. You realize your “square” is more of a blob, and dancers’ expressions, the looks in their eyes, or the occasional silly grin and chuckle signal a breakdown. Not to worry. What do you do?

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Sunkissed Squares

My first dance of the new year is a done deal, and despite a few heart dropping equipment issues at the start, it was a hoot! The Sunkissed Squares are an energetic and fun loving group. They dance in Redlands, and you never know quite what to expect. President Bill Hunt has really tried to breathe life into the club, and for my money, he's doing a stellar job. They hosted a triva contest, and everyone who wanted to play, got to play. They kept the triva portion moving along nicely, and it seemed that all enjoyed that feature of the night's activities.

The Four Squares Barbershop Quartet performed as well, and we received favorable reviews. In fact, I'm still hearing positive comments from some of the folks who were there. If you don't know already, I was coerced into singing with the guys with about a month or so before they're New Years Eve debut. All things considered, I think we managed not to embarrass ourselves too terribly. I'm still a little shocked they still want me to sing with them. I know the boss man has plans, so we'll see what transpires in the near future.

Here are some videos from the dance at the Sunkissed Squares in January 2012. Thanks, Sunkissed Squares, for putting up with my rust! I've still got a bit of work to do to really polish up, but y'all made me feel very welcome.

Click on the cameras below to start the action. They might take some time to load.

Sunkissed Patter :: Whiskey Before Breakfast

Here are excerpts from a singing call

Sunkissed Singer :: I Wonder

I'm calling with Carrie Masters for the CCHA Hoedown, Friday, January 29th, In Banning.

Hope I might see one or two Sunkissed folks.

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