Lessons, Demos, Attire, and More
This page was last updated on March 1, 2020.
Square and Round Dance Lessons. Whatever your introduction was, it was the start of an incredible journey. The thought may stir fun memories of dancing with the same sex in elementary school, doing a swing your partner, do-si-do, etc. You may recall the first night of class, when a friend invited you to learn square or round dancing. You might have been at a ''one night stand demonstration'', put on by a church or other group. Or maybe you are curious as to what the wonderful world of square and round dancing is about.
From a personal standpoint, I remember the first night of class in 1985, as it was VERY DIFFERENT than what I did back in Elementary School!! All of these women that I didn't even know were giving me hugs (yellowrocks), and I thought to myself ''What have I gotten myself into??''. But, after graduation, it was like waiting in line for hugs, and saying ''Next, please!!'' (grin!).
Square And Round Dance Lessons
If you've never experienced the wonderful world of square dancing, and its related fields...it's a worldwide hobby, done by dancers as young as 3 years old, to dancers over 80 years of age. One lady in central Arkansas was still involved in the hobby at 100 years of age!!
All of the calls in square dancing, worldwide, are in ENGLISH. The term square dancing refers to the fractional, geometric formations done...and it has nothing to do with lifestyle.
Alcoholic beverages, before or during a dance, are STRICTLY PROHIBITED, and that's a hard and fast rule. Square Dancing, Round Dancing, etc. are holsum, family activities... and it's the DUTY of all dancers to see that it REMAINS that way. Many clubs have the authority to order ''a drunken dancer'' to leave the premises.
In class, ''angels'' (''experienced dancers'') help you, while you grasp the moves and concepts...probably wondering if you'd ever understand the Square Dancers Bill Of Rights, or even make it to graduation, and the special dance there. When the big day came, your class may have been over, but your journey was just beginning. The truth is, you're NEVER through learning...whether a dancer, a caller, a cuer, an instructor, or a leader.
To keep the hobby going, clubs have Lessons at various times of the year...where it's now YOUR TURN to recruit new dancers into this hobby, the fun and fascinating, worldwide, holsum, family activity, known as square and round dancing. The first one or two lessons are usually FREE, so you can try it, and see if you like it. Classes may be twice a week for 10 weeks, once a week for 20 weeks, or some other schedule, and cost varies per club. This is to pay for the hall rent, and the caller/cuer for his/her teaching...although I can assure you that callers and cuers for square and round dancing, respectively, are NOT getting rich from the hobby.
The information needed is the name of the host club(s)...the type of lessons (Square, Round, etc.)...if square dancing, the level taught (Basic, Mainstream, Plus, Advanced, or Challenge)...if round dancing, the Round Dance Phase (1 through 6)...the day and time the class will meet...with the first night of class, last night to join, etc....the location (address, city, and state) of the lessons...the name of the caller/cuer/instructor...how long the class will last (10 weeks, 20 weeks, etc.)...the cost for the lessons (to cover the hall rental fee, and to pay the caller/cuer for their time)...and a Contact Person (name, address, and phone) for more information.
Note that space in the class may be limited...but you're encouraged to sign up with the contact person as soon as possible, if you know that you'd like to take lessons.
Unfortunately, there has usually been many more women than men wanting to learn to square or round dance...and some women will learn to dance the men's part (which, in my opinion, is easier...I've danced both), just so they can dance. In getting a partner for lessons, husbands and wives will usually dance together (some clubs REQUIRE that both spouses take lessons at the same time), and singles usually will match up with a total stranger, who also wants to square or round dance. For some classes, it's best if you have someone else (a partner) with you, to take the class together.
Note that this ''partnership'' is for lessons ONLY...although I've known couples who met in class or at a dance in years past, when they were single...and they ended up getting married. However, there is NO GUARANTEE that you'll meet ''your future spouse'' at a dance, or at lessons...so, don't get the idea that just because you meet someone at a dance or at class, that you're going to end up becoming their spouse. I've danced with both married women, and single women...as long as they can dance, I don't care what their marital status is, or what their private life off of the dance floor, consists of.
Lastly, if it all possible, please bring a partner with you to class...as a dancer partner can NOT be guaranteed.
The following clubs have lessons scheduled, planned, or ongoing. Please check with the Contact Person(s) listed for any changes or updates. If you are an ''experienced dancer'', having already graduated from class, and would like to help as an Angel Dancer, I'm sure the club would welcome the help. Please contact the contact person listed for any last minute changes, corrections, or other information.
If lessons have already been in progress for awhile (when no new dancers will be accepted), you can inquire when the next set of new classes will start.
Again, note that there is usually a fee for the classes...either per lesson, or for the entire class, and it varies by club. The fee is to pay the caller/cuer (although they're NOT getting rich), and to pay the rent for the dance hall. The workshops are usually held on the clubs regular dance nights, just prior to when the regular dancing begins. These workshops are to review moves dancers are having trouble with, or to work various ''dance figures''.
While Square Dance Attire is NOT REQUIRED during lessons, it may be REQUIRED during actual club dances or workshops. Check with the club contact for details.
NOTE: Due to COVID-19, most clubs in the state/region are DARK (not dancing). Please CALL BEFORE YOU TRAVEL.
At times, there are several groups who like to have dancers come to do a ''demonstration''. These include church or social groups...especially just before a club is to start lessons. These also include nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, who have the dancers come to dance for a short time to ''help take the loneliness out of the day'' of many of the residents. With my elderly Mom in a nursing home prior to her death, I can understand the loneliness.
Unfortunately, the one bad thing about ''demos'' is that many dancers, callers, and cuers work a full time job during the day, and have other commitments (family, etc.) outside of dancing...let alone being a good distance away from the place where the group is wanting the demonstration is to be held. Plus, the caller or cuer who is putting on the demonstration is likely to require a fee for his or her services...unless there is a high potential of individuals ''taking part in the demonstration'' to sign up for lessons. If the demonstration is being held during the day, the dancers may want a lunch provided, even if for a nominal fee.
The best advice I could give for those groups interested in a ''demo'' is to check the clubs listing, to see if there is a club in, or near your area. If so, please contact the club contact listed for more information. Unfortunately, the amount of square and round dance clubs in Arkansas is much smaller than it was over 30 years ago...with some parts of Arkansas having few...if any...clubs in existence any more. I know this sounds disappointing and negative...but after all...square and round dancing is a HOBBY...and sometimes, other things outside of square and round dancing (job, health, family, etc.) have to take priority.
Proper Dance Attire
Please understand that the REQUIRING of certain proper dance attire is to make all aspects of our event conducive to the atmosphere of ''The World's Greatest Square Dance Event''. If you choose to dress outside of the guidelines as they have been set down, you will only be putting your fellow cloggers, square and round dancers in the position of having to enforce them. Please, let us all use courtesy, and enjoy the convention.
All participants entering the halls at the National Square Dance Convention...and most other festivals as well...whether dancing or not, MUST be in proper square dance attire. Those who are not may be asked to leave the premises.
If you are not dancing, please wear proper square dance attire, anyway. You can always kindly tell the dancer asking you for a dance that you're sitting out for that tip, or resting for awhile...especially if you're not feeling well.
''Casual Attire'' may be permitted during the summer months at some clubs, and some special dances. Also, some festivals may also allow ''casual attire'' during the daytime workshops or dance sessions. However, PROPER SQUARE DANCE ATTIRE IS REQUIRED at ALL of the Evening Dances, no matter the scope of the dance, festival, etc. Please call/contact the festival or club contact person, for further information...especially for last minute changes.
Square, Round, or Contra Dance Halls
MALES: LONG SLEEVE Western Style shirts, long pants or jeans, bolo or scarf tie, and proper dance shoes. Do NOT wear short sleeves, short pants, T-shirts, or have tap shoes in non-clogging halls.
FEMALES: Square Dance dress or skirt/blouse ensemble of reasonable length, petticoat, pettipants, and proper dance shoes.
Do NOT wear shorts, pants, T-shirts, or have tap shoes in non-clogging halls. Prarie Skirts are ACCEPTABLE attire.
MALES: Western Style Shirts, long or short sleeve, long pants or nice jeans, bolo tie or scarf tie (optional), proper dance shoes with taps. Do NOT wear short pants of any sort, or T-shirts.
FEMALES: Clogging/Square Dance Dress of reasonable length, or blouse/skirt ensemble of reasonable length, petticoat (optional in clogging halls), pettipants, proper dance shoes with taps. Do NOT wear pants, jeans, shorts, or T-shirts. Prarie skirts are acceptable attire in the square dance halls, but they might make clogging difficult.
Square Dance Rules And More
1875 Square Dance Rules
From the Penn-Jersey News, May-June, 1995...Square Dance Rules, 1875
1. Admittance 50 cents, refreshments included.
2. The music is to consist of a fiddle, a pipe or tabor, and a hurdy gurdy. No chorus is to be sung until the dance is over.
3. No lady is to dance in black stockings, or have her elbows bare.
4. Every lady is to come with a handkerchief, with name marked.
5. To prevent spitting, no gentleman will chew tobacco or smoke.
6. No gentleman will dance in great coat unless his under one be torn.
7. No lady will dress her hair in tallow candle, nor must she have a bunch of hair sticking up top of her head.
8. Leather small clothes except newly washed are forbidden, as they might soil the ladies' gowns.
9. To prevent tearing of the planking, no gentleman will dance in nailed shoes or boots.
10. No whispering to be allowed. If anyone shall be found to make insidious remarks about anyone's dancing, they shall be put out of the room.
11. No gentleman will appear with a cravat that has been worn more than a week or fortnight.
12. No scissors or gimlets are to be brought either by ladies or gentlemen, unless their pockets are whole.
13. Long beards are forbidden, as they would be very disagreeable if a gentleman should put his cheek beside a lady's.
14. Those ladies who have not had white stocking and white Morocco shoes will not be admitted under any pretense whatsoever. Two old ladies to examine all who enter.
15. No lady must appear in a veil on even if it be turned aside, as a gentleman will not have the opportunity of looking at her distinct.
16. No gentleman must squeeze his partner's hand, not look earnestly upon her, and furthermore he must not pick up her handkerchief, provided it were to fall. The first denotes he loves her, the second he wishes to kiss her, and the last that he makes a sign for both.
17. For distinction sake, the master of ceremonies is to wear a read coat, buff small clothes, black stockings or green shoes.
So wipe your chin, pull down your vest, and dance with the girl you love the best.
Square Dance Commandments
The following text is from Appendix B of ''Basic Calls for Advanced And Challenge Square Dancing'' by Milt Strong, edited by Caller Ed Foote. These commandments apply to ALL levels of square dancing. Next, from ''Club Leadership Journal'', Oct. 1994; and National Squares, Nov. 1994, more ''square dance commandments.
1. You shall square dance only for the fun which you will find in it.
2. You shall not be a snob, by considering yourself too good to dance with any and all, by sitting out mixers, or by leaving a square, lest you be required to dance with those you deem unworthy of your talents. For the gods of retribution are jealous gods, and will visit their mischief upon you, and YOU will be the one to goof the square.
3. You shall be exuberant, but act your age. Do not offend others by your high flung legs, outflared skirts, or by overzealous endeavors to help others who may hesitate by pulling, grabbing, pushing upon, or speaking loudly to them.
4. You shall go abroad and dance to other callers, so that your opinions expressed as to the merit of this one and that one are based on fact.
5. You shall be conscious of the feelings of those around you, and shall not let the stranger in your midst sit on the sidelines and cool his heels, nor fail to speak to him.
6. You shall bathe diligently, that the sweet aroma of soap and shaving lotion may assail the nostrils of your associates. You shall similarly take care that words of your mouth are not scented with strong smelling herbs such as beer. Men shall wear long-sleeved shirts that their arms may be more pleasant to grasp.
7. You shall guard carefully to utterances from your lips while dancing, lest you add confusion to your square, and cause others to be unable to hear the next call...for there is but one designated caller.
8. You shall honor your club and give your loyalty, for if you cannot do this, it would be better to separate yourself from it, and join yourself to another whose methods, members, and caller are more to your liking.
9. You shall not kill your club with bickering and fault-finding, or by pointing fingers of blame for errors in dancing or club operation, at any fellow members or dancer; for in so doing, such a finger may thus be deservedly due in your own direction.
10. You shall never forget that you were once a beginner, and that you shall always remember that if you are able to continue square dancing for a long time, there must always be beginners, and new dancers joining your hobby, and they will need your patience and assistance.
11. Be a good listener. Think of the caller as the quarterback in this game of square dancing. He or she calls the plays by giving you the signals for the movements he or she wants you to make. Two beats later, you do what he or she called. You can't be talking or thinking of something else and count on reacting correctly. Not only is talking during the course of a square dance distracting to you, but also it makes it difficult for others in the square to ''catch'' the instructions, and to hear the music. Remember, too, that there is room for only one teacher at a time. You can help others best by being in the correct place at the correct time.
12. Get into the square quickly. When the caller announces ''it's square dance time'', join the square nearest to you that needs dancers to fill the square. If you're looking for a square, let the caller know where you are by raising your hand as you move across the floor. If you need dancers to fill out a square, raise a hand, so the caller can notice your need.
13. Be a courteous dancer. Good standard rules of courtesy are always appreciated. Asking a partner for a dance, and then saying ''thank you'' to all those in the set with you is a natural reaction. In square dancing, there are a few specials to look out for. It's considered bad manners to pass a square needing dancers in order to fill another. And even more important, beware of the unpardonable sin; NEVER leave a square once you have joined it -- until the tip is over. If you must leave in an EMERGENCY SITUATION (illness, etc.), try to fill your spot with a substitute, if at all possible. This is the ONLY reason that you should leave the square...even if you consider the dancers in your square ''not worthy to dance with you''. Everyone at one time was a beginner.
14. Be on time for club, and new dancer dances. Tardiness may be stylish in some activities, but in square dancing, one late dancer may mean that seven other dancers must sit out a tip. In planning an evening's dance program, the caller leans heavily on the first and last tips to pace his or her dance. If you are late, or if you leave early, you are not taking full advantage of the evening the caller has prepared. In other words, you can NOT be ''fashionably late'' to square dancing.
15. Be a thoughtful dancer. Personal hygiene and cleanliness is important in any activity where folks exercise vigorously in close contact with each other. For that reason, bathing or showering, and using a good soap, as well as deodorant before a dance; plus brushing your teeth, and using an effective mouthwash before a dance are among the best things a square dancer can do. Because the enjoyment of the folks in each square depends upon you and your coordination, be at your absolute dancing best by NOT consuming alcoholic beverages before or during a square dance. No one likes to dance in a square with another dancer who has body odor, alcoholic beverages, or something else on their breath...it can be very nauseating, as well as distracting. Some clubs have the authority to order violaters to leave the premises. The reason men wear long sleeved shirts, is so that the ladies don't have to touch their hairy, sweaty arms during dancing. Besides, this is a holsum, family activity...and it's the duty of all dancers to see that it remains that way.
16. Be a cooperative dancer. It might be said that square dancing is an activity where everyone is responsible for everyone else's happiness. A square is not made up of eight individuals working independently, but rather it is one unit, with no individual person attempting to show off or be ''the star''. The pleasure comes when each person does his or her share in making the square run smoothly. Also, if your square does break down, don't criticize another dancer...whether or not they were at fault. Form lines of four, and the caller will get you back into dancing as soon as possible. No matter how long you've been dancing, both dancers...and on occasion, callers...will make a mistake. Just grin and go on. As an aside, I've been in the hobby for over 30 years; and at a recent dance...I could not remember where HOME was!! And, at another dance, where the caller noted that ''he would win if we kept score'', we decided not to bother him the rest of the dance!! (grin!!).
17. Take it easy...don't overdo it. Square dancing can be strenuous excercise, especially when you're getting started. If you get tired, sit out a tip, or more if needed. Don't let anyone talk you into dancing if you're tired, feeling light headed, overheated, etc. Sometimes, you can learn a great deal just by watching and listening. Pace yourself; as your dancing time grows, you'll be able to dance for longer periods of time. Square dancing is NOT A MARATHON event, where you have to dance every single tip that is called. Just because the dancing at big festivals can go from 9am to 11pm, no one has the physical strength to dance for that long a time without a break for eating, the restroom, etc. I've seen folks that overdid it end up being rushed to a hospital.
18. Be a friendly dancer. ''Friendship is square dancing's greatest reward''. You are the host in square dancing. As a matter of fact, everyone is. Take the opportunity to get acquainted with others in the square, and make it a point to dance with as many different dancers as possible, each evening. It has been widely said that ''Square Dancing is Friendship set to Music''. All the calls in Square Dancing are in ENGLISH, no matter where in the world you may dance...so, it's universal.
19. You're NEVER through learning. You'll find that there is always something new that you can learn, or some part of your dancing which you can improve upon. Mistakes are not an abnormal part of dancing. Don't hesitate to ask your caller questions if there is something you don't understand, or you are having difficulty with during the dance. You may be the only one to ask. Chances are a number of others, too shy to raise their hands, will be grateful to you for bringing up the subject. If you think you've ''reached the limit'', and learned all you need to know...whether you're a dancer or a caller...then maybe you need to consider getting out of the hobby...as you're not doing yourself, or anyone else a favor.
20. Enjoy yourself...have fun!! Pleasure and enthusiasm are contagious. You will be surprised how much your smile will pep up the entire square. Expect a good time, and you will experience a good time. Happy dancing, and enjoy ''Friendship Set To Music''.
Ten Commandments For Callers
The following is from a dancer, John E. Cutler, from Arkadelphia, Arkansas...with ''Ten Commandments For Callers'', from the June, 1994 issue of The Modern Square, and reprinted in the September, 2012 issue.
1) Thou shalt not call too fast for thy poor laboring dancers to keep pace. If the squares are breaking down, the pace of the patter may be what's the matter.
2) However great may be thine experience, creativity, and verbosity, keep in mind that thine minions do not share in totality of thine excellence. Therefore, remember the rule of the KISS...keep it simple, stupid...or keep it short and simple.
3) Stack not thy calls, for the poor dancer is having a hard time with the present call, and cannot possibly remember three other calls to come.
4) To keep thy dancers from becoming lost sheep, the good shepherd will commence his calls from standard positions.
5) As thee learned in the fifth grade, fractions are the works of the devil. Permit not these abominations to be inserted in thy calls. Know ye not that only three eights of thy dancers can compute a three quarter tag the line??
6) Look upon the squares as thee calls. If thy dancers are wandering asunder, repent, and lead them among the paths of orderly promenades.
7) If thy dancers should appeal to thee to UP THE LEVEL, do so gradually, not in one fell swoop.
8) Some of thy sacred calls gather dust and cobwebs from thine own neglect. Prepare thy followers for the resurrection of these calls, and thy dancers will sing thy praises.
9) Yield not to temptation to ridicule or humiliate thy dancers. Their egos are fragile, and easily bruised. Woe be unto the caller who yields to this temptation, for his days will be spent in loneliness.
10) The Golden Rule of Square Dancing is to call unto others, as you would have them call unto you.
Guidelines For New Dancers
The following text is from Tel-Star, October, 1995, Guidelines for New Dancers.
1. Dance at other clubs. Your home club needs your support, and there should be a special place for the club where you learned to dance...but you are missing one of the great things about square dancing if you only dance with your home club. VISIT WITH OTHER CLUBS in the area from time to time, and when on trips. But, remember that YOU ARE A VISITOR. It is suggested that you call or write before visiting, as dancing schedules and locations are subject to change...sometimes at the last minute. This is important if you are traveling...or if adverse weather is expected, such as during the winter months, or during ''tornado or hurricane season''.
2. Belong to a club. Clubs are needed to organize and establish a means of enjoying the fellowship of square dancing. To survive, they need an active membership where everyone helps. Volunteer...don't wait to be asked. In other words, be a giver, and not just a taker.
3. Dance to other callers. During lessons, you tuned into the caller who taught you, and you will always have a special place for him or her. Every caller has a different style...that is part of the fun.
4. Dance in the front of the hall. The tendency for the new dancer is to hide in the back of the hall, where he thinks the caller can't see his square break down. A good caller watches the whole floor...including the back squares. Don't be afraid to dance in the front square.
5. Dance with experienced dancers. Sometimes an outreached hand from a more experienced dancer is all your square needs to keep going. Everyone dancing today was a new dancer at one time, and can remember how it felt.
6. Touch hands after every move. Establish your position by touching hands after every move. If you're lost, at least you'll have company. As one caller I heard years ago say...''AT&T -- reach out and touch someone''.
7. Keep Dancing. To use all the information you have learned, and to make it become second nature, it is important to practice, practice, practice.
8. Be aware of your level. Look for dances advertised at the level you know. If you are out of a level for awhile, you may need to go back through lessons...and being an angel during classes will help you regain that knowledge...if not going back through as a student yourself.
9. Stay at your level for awhile. The level you dance has nothing to do with how good a dancer you are. It has to do with how much time you are willing to devote to your hobby. You may never choose to move to another level, and that is fine. Don't make a choice until you have danced Mainstream for at least one full year, and don't let anyone rush you to go to a higher dance level!! Square dancing is like any other hobby...it should NEVER take priority over things like church, family, health, job, or ''honey-do's''.
10. Square dance for fun. The odds are pretty good that someone is going to make a mistake (even a caller makes one sometimes!). Don't worry about whose fault it was...it doesn't matter. Regroup, and keep smiling.
11. Finally...Jump right up when the music starts. Get in the first open square, don't pass one up! Introduce yourself, smile, and have fun! Thank everyone when the tip is over.
Square Dancers Bill Of Rights
All New Square Dancers have the right:
1) To a class experience that is both educationally and socially enjoyable.
2) To patient and dignified treatment by the class instructors and sponsors.
3) To gain experience dancing to other callers and/or cuers, and if possible, with dancers from other classes prior to graduation.
4) To receive advice and assistance in acquiring appropriate clothing for square and/or round dancing.
5) To instruction and practice using the approved definitions, timing, and styling for each listed call (Basic, Mainstream, Plus, Advanced, and Challenge) for Square Dancing, and/or the appropriate phases for Round Dancing.
6) To information about the heritage and history of our present square and/or round dance program.
Square Dance Graduation Ceremony
At the end of a series of lessons, there is usually a graduation ceremony, where the new dancers go through a ceremony, learning the Four Candles Of Square Dancing, and reciting The Square Dancers Pledge.
Sometimes before the ceremony is a set of "initiation stunts", which are done at the clubs discretion. These aren't meant to be embarrassing, but all done in good fun.
After reciting The Square Dancers Pledge, the ceremony is turned over to the caller or cuer who taught the lessons, to present the new graduates with their diplomas and badges.
A PDF file with The Square Dance Graduation Ceremony can be downloaded here.