Learning To Dance Without a Caller

Article Type Author Last Update Description
Summary Julian Pritchard (julian.pritchard@orange.fr) 2017-06-11

We dance in two clubs which have no caller (actually, most of the clubs in France have no caller). We study the calls and then teach them; then we use pre-recorded training material to compensate for the lack of a “real” caller. All the material referenced below comes with texts files enabling you to walk-thru the material when your square crashes. In some cases we have transcribed tracks where text was not provided and people can always contact me for a copy.

(Open the tab below to read the full article.)

We dance in two clubs which have no caller (actually, most of the clubs in France have no caller). We study the calls and then teach them; then we use pre-recorded training material to compensate for the lack of a “real” caller. All the material referenced below comes with texts files enabling you to walk-thru the material when your square crashes. In some cases we have transcribed tracks where text was not provided and people can always contact me for a copy. The best programmes we have found so far are:

BASIC intro – Traveling Hoedowners (USA):

We start our BASIC class using the Travelling Hoedowners Instant Hoedown DVD/CD set. This starts from zero dancer knowledge and works thru the first part of the BASIC programme in 10 lessons with alternate Patters (11) and Singing Calls (12). Cost is 30 USD. We find it works very well. See: http://travelinghoedowners.com….. We only use the CD part but it comes with a DVD showing all the patters/dances so you can look to see how it should be performed if you have any doubts. The Traveling Hoedowners also do an excellent set of BASIC/MS/PLUS reference DVDs explaining and showing each call performed by a Square filmed from above. This was a tremendous aid to us when we started-out.

BASIC – Tomas Hedberg (Sweden):

… after that we swap to the Tomas Hedberg BASIC teaching CDs set which covers the entire Basic programme in 29 sessions of patter+singing calls. The actual callers on the latest version are Bronc Wise (USA) and Thomas Hedberg (Sweden). The cost is 2000 SEK (approx. 230 USD). More information is available from Tomas Hedberg email: caller@caloham.se. (He doesn’t have a website).

MAINSTREAM – Tomas Hedberg (Sweden):

We use the Tomas Hedberg MAINSTREAM teaching CDs set which covers the entire MS programme in 16 sessions of patter+singing calls. The actual caller on the latest version is Thomas Hedberg (Sweden). The cost is 1250 SEK (approx. 140 USD). More information is available from Tomas Hedberg email: caller@caloham.se. (He doesn’t have a website).

PLUS/A1/A2 – Stefan Sidholm (Sweden):

We use the Stefan Sidholm teaching CDs sets:

PLUS: –
71 tracks of patter+singing calls covering the whole programme. The actual caller on the latest version is Stefan Sidholm (Sweden).
A1: –
71 tracks of patter+singing calls covering the whole programme. The actual caller on the latest version is Stefan Sidholm (Sweden).
A2: –
69 tracks of patter+singing calls covering the whole programme. The actual caller on the latest version is Stefan Sidholm (Sweden).

You can get more info from: stefan@sidholm.com. (He doesn’t have a website). The cost is 155 euros (approx.. 170 USD) per level plus postage (discount available if provided on one DVD in mp3 format) (further discount available if you buy more than one level at a time.

C1/C2 – Tony Collingwood (UK):

Tony has C1 and CD teaching material which you can download from his website for free (https://sites.google.com/site/pacesettersuk/home). Contact: tcpace@gmail.com. He also does Two-Couple teaching/practice material from MS thru C3B.

(See also the full KnowledgeBase article on Tony’s recordings here. )



Two-Couple Teaching and Dancing Recordings

Article Type Owner Links Description
Resource Tony Collingwood (pace@collingwoods.org) Webpage

In the Challenge dancing world it has often been the case that dancers wishing to learn a new level did not have a live caller near them who could teach it. The remedy for this was “tape groups” that used recorded materials to learn and dance the new level. Unfortunately, a result of our declining numbers is that it is increasingly common for a group wishing to learn a new level to be unable to muster a full square of dancers, let alone a caller. One answer to this problem is recorded material that requires only two couples. A surprising number of calls and concepts can be exercised without a full square.

Tony Collingwood is a caller in the UK who has created an impressive repertoire of 2-couple teaching and dancing material ranging from Mainstream through C3B. These recordings are available free of charge as MP3 downloads. Click on the link in the column to the left to go to a list of the available recordings.


Teaching Styling

Article Type Event Date Presenter Links Description
Presentation CALLERLAB Convention 2014 Jon Jones and Tim Marriner Video File (part 1)

Video File (part 2)

Handout Files (zipped)

Presentation on the how’s and why’s of teaching styling to new dancers. How styling can help you and your dancers to succeed. Functional styling that helps dancers succeed and feel comfortable dancing (as opposed to regulated styling that implies “do it this way because I told you to” and “this is the way we always do it”).


Using The 12 Session Twice Per Week Program in Red Deer, Alberta

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Ron & Connie Morgan, RED DEER May 2015

For the 2014-15 square dance season, the Red Deer Square Dance Club decided to try something new and untested for introducing New Dancers to square dancing. Instead of the usual 6-7 month lessons once a week, we wanted to do a 12 week, twice a week approach. Red Deer has always had lessons on a separate night than the regular dances, so our new dancers get more floor time right from the start than most other clubs who teach on their regular dance night.

Thanks to Claudia Littlefair for her permission to republish this story first published in her Alberta Chatter newsletter.

Read More …


Experience Using the Nest System in Calgary, Alberta

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Claudia Littlefair, Calgary May 2015

May 2017

The Banff Trailers Club dance every second Saturday, and have New Dancer lessons every Monday night. Each September several New Dancers would join, but due to factors such as illness, time constraints, vacations, only some were able to complete the year. The club was looking for a new way to increase their numbers, and when ‘The Nest’ idea was presented they agreed to give it a try during the 2014-15 dance year.

Thanks to Claudia Littlefair for her permission to republish these stories first published in her Alberta Chatter newsletter.

Read the original story from 2015 …

Read an update about their experience in 2017


Success Using Fast Track in Edmonton, Alberta

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Pat & Ray Duffy, EDMONTON May 2015

In 2011/2012, the Country Sunshiners promoted and started New Dancer lessons under the watchful eye of Gary Winters. However, our turnout was low and to our dismay, by Christmas most of our new dancers had disappeared. During a meeting to discuss the results it was suggested a new format might be in order as the current one had not worked and maybe a compressed time frame would be better received. At the 2012 A.G.M. the Club discussed our future and the need for new members. It was decided to initiate the FAST TRACK Program with the hope of increasing the interest in Square Dancing.

Thanks to Claudia Littlefair for her permission to republish this story first published in her Alberta Chatter newsletter.

Read more …


Multi-Cycle Program X Plan from Gardner Patton

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document

Idea

Gardner Patton (gcp6@optonline.net) 2012 Webpage

If you read any of the square dance publications today you will note that many articles suggest the way to attract more people into the square dance activity is to provide a square dance Program which: 1) takes a short time to learn; 2) provides dances where a person can dance that Program frequently. The thought is, that if you can teach dancers enough quickly to where they can dance frequently knowing a few calls, they will spread their enthusiasm for the activity to their friends who can start dancing almost immediately without waiting a year for the next cycle to start.

In the past there have been plans that provide for a Program with less calls (ABC, Community Dance Program, Basic 1, etc.) with little thought to moving those folks who dance that Program forward. There have also been multi-cycle plans which have short periods between new class starts but they have not included a way for people who want to, to dance frequently to a Program lower than Mainstream.

The plan described here is a combination of the best parts of those two plans, and shows that if it is implemented in a region where there are multiple clubs, who all follow the plan, a new dance Program can be introduced into the region which has fewer calls thus creating a pool of dancers from which new Mainstream dancers will eventually emerge.


Alternate Lessons Systems Brochure

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document Arnold Gladson (agladson@austin.rr.com) 2001 Brochure

This brochure was produced by a CALLERLAB Ad Hoc committee. It explains and contrasts traditional lesson structures with multi-cycle and accelerated programs.


Condensed Teaching Order

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document Ad Hoc Committee
(prepared by Tim Marriner and Bill Harrison)
2013-04-01 (Press Release)
2014-12-01 (Full Document)

Press Release

Full Document

In 2012 CALLERLAB commissioned an Ad Hoc committee to work with ACA to document a condensed teaching system that some callers had been using successfully for some time. The Press Release document describes the project and presents the initial output of the Ad Hoc in April of 2013. Additional materials and documentation were developed by the CALLERLAB members and a detailed booklet was released in December of 2014. That booklet (access via the Full Document link) includes the suggested calls to teach along with abbreviated definitions, teaching tips and other useful information.

See document abstract for the Full Document below.

Several different approaches to teaching square dancing have surfaced over the years; Blast Classes, Fast Track, and ABC, to name a few. Most of these methods involve shorter teach times. All offer an alternative approach to teaching outside the norm. One problem not usually addressed is the staggering amount of material that still must be taught for the average new dancer to participate in a club program. Many groups start new dancer sessions once a year in Sept. and move them through for almost a full year before they can join in with the existing club. The window of opportunity to join Square Dancing is usually open and shut in just three weeks. Very difficult to get many new dancers involved this way at today’s current pace of life.

It is for this reason other teaching approaches have been introduced. Still, only a handful have had limited success with these unique teaching methods. One pitfall is not having a suitable destination for new dancers to continue after the session is over. The transition between class and club is still devastating with soaring dropout rates. It is unrealistic to assume a reversal of this trend can be obtained by teaching new recruits at a quicker pace with as much material currently being danced at average clubs.

Focus groups surveys concluded the average age of our activity is growing older. The same surveys polled ex-dancers and obtained staggering results that most felt were not statistically accurate. Yet several other focus groups netted the same results. Apparently, close to a million people have had an introduction to Modern Western Square Dancing but dropped out mostly because it took too long to learn. Shortening the lessons seems a logical repair, however; it is only one part of the equation. Less material needs to be offered while still providing variety and fun.

It has been suggested that a limited dance language can be obtained if a group committed itself to the current Basic Programs. It is debatable however why such a group is not sustainable in most regions. One possible answer is that there are several redundant dance moves and others that are not widely used on an average Mainstream floor. Also, dancer satisfaction can be better achieved with a wider variety of calls from a wider variety of formations better sustained with some Mainstream actions.

The ad hoc committee working on this project designed a teach order that includes these most popular dance actions, integrating some of the more difficult dance actions with the easier ones, and defers less used dance actions and redundancies to shorten the normal teach time. The following will provide greater explanation and details of this Condensed Teach Order.



Success Story Growing Classes

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Don Wood 2015-03-02

Report from Don Wood describing how they revised their beginner offerings to increase their recruiting success.

Read More …


Village Swingers Club New Recruiting

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Eva Murray 2015-07-28

Report from Eva Murray about how over a period of years the Village Swingers is rebuilding their club through effective advertising and improved teaching programs.

Read More …


Fast Track To Mainstream In Iowa

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Doug & Don Sprosty, “The Calling Twins” 2008-02-16

The purpose of this article is to relate our very positive experience in early 2007 with teaching the CALLERLAB Mainstream program using the “Fast Track” (or accelerated) approach. We are writing this as we prepare our lesson plan to begin teaching in this format again in early 2008.

Read More …


Accelerated Learning Program for Squares (ALPS)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Virgil Forbes 2008-03-11

The ALPS program that I have been using for the last several years is not original to me. It is an adaptation of a number of different concepts such as “Blast”, “Blitz” and “Crash Course” that have been talked about at Callerlab and other caller gatherings, in recent years. The concept: Quick equip new dancers with enough square dance vocabulary and dance skill so that they can quickly join regular club dances.

Read More …


Saturday Classes (Martinez, CA)

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story BSwerer@aol.com 2009-09-11

What?…a Saturday morning square dance class? Why not! People take walks, run, ride a bike, walk the dog, or go to a gym for exercise on Saturdays. Why not learn to square dance and get the same benefits and meet some great people at the same time. The Martinez Swingers of Martinez, California has joined with the Martinez Adult Education (MAE) to offer such a class. Each Saturday morning from 10:30AM to 12:30PM dancers from the Martinez Swingers, acting as “Angels”, join with the class members for the two-hour sessions.

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Class In 3 Days – Four Corners Area

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Four Corners Dancers
(Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona)
2004-02-01

The Four Corners Dancers is a small square dance club. Until this year we had been holding 20 week instruction sessions, (basic-mainstream). We tried starting in September which was good. Everyone was gung-ho but then along come the 2 months of hunting seasons. And hunting being a big recreation in our area we would have several couples not attend lessons because they were hunting, or they would attend just intermittently. Through this we would usually lose some of the new dancers altogether. Then along would come the Holidays and again conflict, so we would lose a few more. By the time we finished the 20 week cycle of lessons we were lucky if we had retained 2 or 3 new dancers. Retention has always been a problem for us. A large percent of those finishing lessons were no longer dancing at the end of a year. Then we tried starting in January, with about the same results. People just got tired before the 20 week commitment was up.

Read More …


Winning Ways (2003/01/02) Sage Swingers

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Brunswick, ME
FoundationFL@aol.com for more information.
2003-02-01

In the various square dance magazines and web sites you can read how square dance clubs and national organizations have plans for advertising square dancing, for “improving” our public image, for altering the dance program and for growing memberships. For the SAGE Swingers in the process began with a change in philosophy. What are the club’s goals for its dancers? The Club thinks this can determine how you go about gaining and keeping new members.

The Clubs goals today are different from what they might have been five and ten years ago. For example, at SAGE Swingers some of our goals are:

  1. To help the club grow by getting more new members
  2. To make sure people are having a good time learning to dance.
  3. Insure that new members return.


Here are some of the “old” goals the club no longer strives for.

  1. The Club does not feel people need to graduate from a Mainstream program by a certain date.
  2. Classes do not have to start in September only.
  3. Learning to dance is not a race to see how quickly you can get to Plus or A-1
  4. The Club tends to downplay classic square dance clothes and make sure people know it’s optional
Read More …


Multi-Cycle Teaching Method

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Brooklyn, NY
Vincent Nunziato, Club President
2003-03-23

The AL e MO Squares, 150 members strong, will celebrate their 25 Anniversary in May 2003. They are holding an Anniversary Dance and through personal contact, by club members, they have invited several of the local politicians to be their guests. They run a 10 + 10 program with 27 new dancers this year. They alternate tips during the evening with those in the first group serving as angels for the newest dancers. They graduate their new dancers at Mainstream. Their new dancer sessions run from 7 to 9 PM, September through April, with a plus workshop from 9 – 10 PM. There is no set time for the plus graduation. AL e MO’s have good member participation with the new dancer sessions normally exceeding 8 squares. They charge $4.00 per session and the angels pay. A good hospitality table is an attractive addition on workshop nights

Read More …


Experimental Lesson Systems

Article Type Author Last Update Description

Summary

Barry Clasper 2017-03-19

This article summarizes several experimental approaches to teaching new dancers known to be in use at the time of writing. (Full text below)

All of these systems are aimed at the recruiting of new people into a system of progressive lessons from which they graduate as Modern Western Square Dancers capable of dancing some CALLERLAB square dance program (for example, Mainstream or Plus). This is in contrast to approaches aimed at entertaining non-dancers with no previous training for a single evening (for example, ABC, Community Dance, etc.) Material on those types of systems may be found here.

Some of these systems are simply revised teaching orders or innovative approaches to teaching a current program. Others are predicated on a revision of one or more current CALLERLAB program lists. Clearly, for those requiring changes to CALLERLAB programs universal adoption would require the appropriate committee approvals. Inclusion in this article does not imply such approvals are imminent or even likely.

Some of these initiatives are the result of CALLERLAB committee activity, others were created by CALLERLAB members independently of CALLERLAB, and still others were created by people with no CALLERLAB connection at all. Inclusion in this summary in no way implies that CALLERLAB officially endorses, recommends, or supports the system. This information is provided solely to acquaint you with known experimental systems.

In recent years a great deal of effort has been put into devising more effective teaching systems. These are primarily aimed at training new dancers more rapidly, and enabling multiple intakes of new dancers each year.

Following are some of the more prominent efforts:

Multi-Cycle

The term “multi-cycle” has been around for many years and has been applied to a variety of lesson systems. In general, the term implies that the teaching system in use permits new dancer intakes more than once a year. The term first evolved when adding a second intake in January was considered real progress. More recently, such systems aim to allow much more frequent intakes.

Click on the following link to see further knowledgebase articles on initiatives that could be considered “multi-cycle”: Multi-Cycle Articles

Condensed Teaching Order

This system was devised by a CALLERLAB Ad Hoc Committee to include a condensed teach system of calls. The documentation includes the suggested calls to teach along with abbreviated definitions, teaching tips and other useful information. The strategy is to teach the most frequently used subset of Basic and MS calls first so that students can more quickly be integrated into an existing group already dancing MS.

Sustainable Square Dance

Sustainable Square Dancing is the rubric Jerry Story has applied to a comprehensive effort he is leading to change the current most prevalent approach to recruiting, teaching, and retaining new dancers. It is based on Jerry’s experience in Iowa showing that teaching fewer calls more thoroughly, retaining new dancers in the entry level for a longer period, and exposing them to a broader range of call applications provides greater success.

Jerry’s design contains a number of parts, including a modified entry list that he calls Club Level 50 and a document that contains a detailed lesson plan containing sample choreography that illustrates both standard and extended applications. CALLERLAB has created an Ad Hoc charged with the task of creating this document. Once written and passed by the Sustainable Square Dance Ad Hoc Committee, it will be presented to the Board of Governors and the Mainstream Committee to seek approval for publishing as a CALLERLAB document. Regardless of how well accepted the overall Sustainable Square Dance initiative turns out to be, the SSD lesson plan document promises to be a valuable contribution to the activity.

At this point, the overall system, including the modified entry list, has not been discussed or approved by either the Board of Governors or the Mainstream Committee. That discussion is expected to take place in conjunction with the approval and publishing of the lesson plan document. Even after such approvals, SSD will still have the status of an Experimental Lesson System. Becoming a full CALLERLAB program such as Mainstream or Plus requires a vote of the full CALLERLAB membership, which, by design, is a lengthy process.

The NEST

The primary reason THE NEST system was developed was so prospective square dance students would no longer have to wait to take lessons. In other words, it was designed to encourage and facilitate the perpetual integration of new students into the classroom. Our goal has always been to create a learning environment so students could enroll anytime – thereby allowing us to recruit anytime – thus, enabling us to promote anytime. Never again having to tell folks they have to “wait ‘til September” or ????.

General Dance Program

This program was created by the Santa Clara Valley Square Dance Association (SCVSDA) as a means to integrate new dancers more quickly into their Plus community.

What is the General Dance Program?

GDP is three things:

  1. An easy and fun way to get more people square dancing
  2. A list of calls, about half the calls in the full program of Basic, Mainstream, and Plus
  3. A series of dances sponsored by SCVSDA using the GDP call list
Why should I come to GDP dances?

Because you want more square dancers. Learning the full Plus program takes a long time (particularly because most Plus clubs do at least some APD/DBD), and it’s clear from the declining size of the square dance community that this discourages many people from square dancing. It takes less than half the time to learn GDP, which gives us a chance to grow the community again.

Because you’ll have fun. The intent of GDP is “half the calls, ninety percent of the fun”. If you’re a Plus dancer who sometimes feels that Plus hoedowns are a bit too hard, you definitely want to come to a GDP dance.

What is missing from GDP?

For the most part, the missing calls are similar in function to other calls (e.g., Dive Thru), rarely used (e.g., Do Paso), or more complicated (e.g., Linear Cycle). GDP dances also use simpler choreography, avoiding APD/DBD and concentrating on “standard applications”.