Teaching an SSD Class

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Joni Micals (c3bdancer@gmail.com) 2018-11-29

Joni Micals is a newer caller who decided to use the Sustainable Square Dance (SSD) framework to teach a new group of seniors. Click on the button below to see her report of how it worked out. The second button shows a report by a dancer from Australia who happened to be visiting one of the lesson nights. It shows a third-party perspective on what was going on.

My First Attempt at Teaching a Class, by Joni Micals

I attended two GCA sponsored caller schools, my first with Betsy Gotta in St. Louis, 2015, and my second with Randy Dougherty in Palm Springs, 2017. The first time my goal was to just do one-night stands at RV parks across the USA as I was living in my RV and each park had empty recreational halls just waiting for someone to do something in them. The second time my goal was to take eight non-square dancers and teach them to square dance while I learned how to use my equipment, acquire stage presence, figure out how to actually use my words to teach the calls, and most importantly, make it fun while trying to get everyone home.

Be careful what you wish for.

I had moved into a 55+ gated community with a very large auditorium and many club rooms. I immediately petitioned to start a new club—square dancing. It took over six months of attending the recreational board meetings, writing requests, and explaining myself during open forum before two board members decided they would join a class if offered. They finally convinced the board to give me the auditorium, starting January 2018. I had six months now to recruit.

This community has a bi-monthly newsletter and a Facebook group of which I took total advantage. I posted blurbs about how square dancing was good as physical and mental exercise, wards off dementia, get to know your fellow community members, have fun, and learn something new. I posted pictures and videos of dancers smiling, memes of square dance sayings and images, and each time I left my name, number, and email, encouraging those that wanted inclusion to contact me. Without knowing the actual day and time (the Rec Board would let me know late in December!), my list of new dancers grew to 48.

Then our local area club, which did not have a class that year, started telling people that I was starting a class in January, and handed them my contact info. Dancers from that club, wanting to be angels, also contacted me. My numbers grew again.

I started to feel panicky. A group of eight to play with was now approaching five squares. I reached out to callers and dancers who all told me I would be fine, I could do this, I was a teacher for 38 years before retirement and this would be a piece of cake.

End of December and I was given a room (auditorium), a day (Tuesdays), and a time (10-12). I called back everyone to give them this info personally. Three squares could do it at that time and day. The rest had other obligations but wanted on my list for the next class if offered any day but Tuesday, in the afternoon, in the early evening, etc.

Class #1
Three squares of dancers age range 70-94. Everyone was given a name badge (Hobby Lobby, 12 plastic pin-on buttons for $4.99). Everyone initialing by their name on a sign-in page. Following the SSD (Sustainable Square Dance) 12 Week Program they learned 20 calls (parsing out the Circle Left and Circle Right as two different calls). In the first tip we learned most of the calls in a big circle. Here they could dosado, allemande left, right arm turn, promenade, and do a really grand Right and Left Grand until they got back to their partner again. In the second tip we reviewed all that we learned and then did a scatter promenade. Two became a circle of four, four became a circle of eight, and bingo! Three squares. Now they learned their new labels, Heads and Sides, and numbers, evens and odds. As they now saw the calls in the context of these squares, with each additional call (2 and 4 Ladies Chain) I realized I could get them back to their partners, and if they got out of order, I told them to grab their original partners and go home.

Class #2 and #3
Since the first three weeks were open to anyone else wanting to join, the first lesson was repeated. Some people came down with the flu, some dropped out because they had obligations (but please put me on your next list) and new people joined, so my number of squares hovered around two. At one point someone had to leave early for a doctor’s appointment, leaving one square with a hole. I put down the mic, took up the boy’s position, and called from the square. I called this “Trial by Fire.”

I should mention here that I have everyone’s email and phone numbers. For the first three classes I called everyone each week to encourage them to come, warning others that if they missed three lessons in a row they would have to discontinue their lessons and reenroll the next class offered.

Class #4
On to Lesson 2 in the SSD Program. The class learned four new calls, but were having problems with the patter that I was using from the SSD manual. Nobody was getting home. There were a few calls incorporated that they hadn’t learned yet. The sequences were too long for some dancers. I was getting frustrated. When class was over I complained on the Facebook site “Newbie Callers” only to find out I had an original copy, not the latest up-to-date version (look for the XX on the bottom of the page). I copied off the latest version (looks like they fixed Lesson 2), and I was a happy camper again.

Class #5
No new lessons. All we did was dance all of the calls we had learned. They were reacting quicker to the calls, dancing smoother, and really looked like square dancers. They were smiling, laughing, and told me how much fun this is. Only one sour puss in the group—an angel. Having been president for many years of the local club, he commented on how slow this class was moving through the calls. I said that I did not have a club over me demanding I reach Plus in 36 weeks, that I could take two years, if I wanted to, to just get them through Mainstream. Even though the SSD Program is a 12 Lesson program, it does not necessarily have to be done in 12 weeks. I wanted to make sure my class could dance, that everyone could execute the calls properly, that nobody felt stressed, and that everyone was having fun. That was my purpose.

The weekend before Class #6 I emailed everyone a copy of all the calls learned and encouraged them to print them out, highlight the ones they could do automatically, and mark the ones they wanted me to review more. Since I was being dropped off very early for the next class, I offered extra help to anyone showing up early.

Class #6
Six class members showed up early. We reviewed Star Thru and Slide Thru. Those women acting as men put their name badges on their left side, and by touching that badge they knew which way to turn on a Slide Thru. I answered questions, such as hand holds, and practiced swinging your partner. They also got a preview of one of the new calls, California Twirl.

A new lesson, four calls. Two squares (and another square’s worth absent with colds, coughs, doctor appointments) dancing everything. Bend the Line was a challenge for some. California Twirl, not so much. But when we learned Dive Thru, I introduced it as a swimming pool. Do you dive into or out of a pool? Who are my outside people? You are going to dive into the pool. You are going to dive under the arch that the people in the pool are now going to make with their inside hands raised. When those on the inside go to the outside of the pool, use that raised hand to do a California Twirl. Oh my! They actually had to remember to do something more on the outside that was different from the inside people! They felt very accomplished.

All too soon I decided to do a singing call that I planned to do at my next caller school (teaching us how to do one-night stands with Rick Hampton). I realized that the song had two calls not yet learned so they were taught Right and Left Thru and Grand Square. Then we attempted the singer several times. It was decided that no matter how slow I played the music, they hesitated too much to execute the moves in the amount of time allotted. I should mention that up to this point in the lessons I have not sung a song, just did patter. I am not a singer, having been told all of my life that I cannot sing (my parents switched me from piano to violin so that I would not sing with the tune!). In any case, I turned off the music and sang the song with the calls and slowed down for them to catch up, left song words out so they could catch up without being confused, and lo and behold! They got through the singer! Even better, I got through the singer feeling pretty good about my singing voice.

This is all I have for now. By the time this goes to publication I will have the rest of February through April under my belt. Who knows, we might have even finished the SSD 12 Week Program!

Doona Young, Australian guest

I attended one 2 hour session of Friendly Valley Twirlers in late Nov., 2018. The caller and teacher was Joni Micals.
The class was a mixture of two experienced angels, two elderly retreads, one lady taking classes both here and elsewhere (totally new a few months ago), one lady who had tried square dancing in the past, but not graduated, and two ladies who were totally new to square dancing this year. On the sign in sheet there were eight more dancers who couldn’t attend this lesson for all the usual reasons.

The class starts again from scratch (Circle Left) every 3-4 months, to allow beginners to join and others to review.
They are all elderly dancers – some with memory or movement problems. Some were quite tired after the two hours. All enjoyed square dancing for its exercise/movement benefits and fun. One mentioned the mental benefits.
The class started with only seven dancers, so Joni called while dancing for half a tip, when the eighth dancer arrived. Dancers tended to stayed paired with the same partner and same position in the square for the class duration. Dancers and caller benefitted from this consistency of home, partner, corner and opposite.

Joni turned the music down and her voice up when she was calling AND dancing. Otherwise, she used a microphone clearly. She had previously tested music and microphone levels before the class started.
There were two men and two ladies who immediately volunteered to be left side dancers. The ladies wore wrist bands for identification. The other four ladies were right side dancers.

We spent about 45 mins reviewing previously learnt calls, which were displayed on a whiteboard prominently. The calls were colour coded:

  • Black for calls already taught and reviewed.
  • Green for calls taught last week.
  • Red for the five calls to be taught in this lesson.

I was impressed with the review tips where many moves were taught and practised from both normal and half sashay positions. These moves included Flutterwheel, all 8 circulates and Grand Square. Joni moved the dancers quickly and easily to new positions.

At no stage were circulates taught as “Follow someone else.” The first circulate for the session was from ends facing out – “Ends Circulate”. – ie a facing circulate!

The most interesting was Grand Square. With a simple command “All join hands, circle left a quarter” “Sides face, grand square” can now be repeated with new sides. “Everybody half sashay” – and a warning to “be careful, this will feel different” – and we were all doing grand square half sashayed.
And this is week 8 of a beginner class.

After the review tips, we spent about 45 minutes teaching the new moves.
All of the tips in this 90 min period were used with hoedown music.
Joni constantly praised the dancers as they achieved new calls, remembered old calls, danced from new positions. She fixed muddles quietly. She asked the square to move close to her and microphone lead, so she could help people.

The last 30 minutes were used practicing and dancing two singing calls.
For one record, Joni knew how and when to leave out or shorten some calls, so we could complete the choreo in the required 64 beats. Joni knew how to add extra words for clarity, if needed. “full turn, all the way around” or “swing your NEW corner”.

The class also had a visitor – a gentleman from a neighbouring retirement village – interested in the suitability of square dance for himself and friends. Joni invited him to try – he declined – but watched with interest – and videoed our dance, and teaching, for his friends. I hope he joins the class when the next class commences in February. Maybe, if invited, he will join the class for the Christmas party in two weeks.

Effect of my presence –

  • “Are the calls the same in Australia?” = discussion about international hobby and use of English.
  • “Where are you staying?” = discussion about friends and travel.
  • “I’m coming to Melbourne next October”= email addresses exchanged; chance for this lady to dance in Australia; square dance hospitality demonstrated.
  • Another experienced dancer in square = group achieved so much.
  • I was the one who chatted to the visitor and prospective new dancer (as well as Joni, of course).

Continuing fitness and health are always continuing problems for elderly groups. Health, family and travel means many absences. Continual intake and frequent new classes mean that new dancers are welcomed and included quickly. Old dancers, who miss too many classes, can re-join in a few months.
This class has no time constraint for completion – no need to meet anyone’s expectation. They meet for fun and exercise. Well done, Joni.


Sustainable Square Dance Teaching Guide

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document

CALLERLAB Sustainable Square Dance Committee (info@callerlab.org)

2018-07-01

SSD Teaching Guide

In 2016 CALLERLAB authorized the formation of the Sustainable Square Dance Committee and charged it with the task of developing materials to support callers interested in exploring the use of the experimental lesson system that has come to be known as Sustainable Square Dance. Earlier versions of this system have been in use in some areas for quite some time under the name Club 50.

This system is designed to create a 50 call entry program that can be taught quickly, roughly 12 weeks, and yet serve as a realistic destination program for long-term square dancers. While the idea of a shortened entry list is certainly not unique to this system, its design differs in providing a mechanism for keeping dancers in the entry program for at least 2 years, and in many cases, forever.

The publication of the SSD Teaching Guide represents the first deliverable to assist callers in using this system. It provides a lesson plan and sample choreography to help callers entertain dancers with a limited number of calls for a long period of time.


Successful Experiences using the 12 Week Condensed Teaching Method

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Lorne and Barb Smith (l.b.smith@shaw.ca) 2018-05-25

For the past 3 years, the Western Squares Square Dance Club in Calgary, Alberta, Canada has been running the 12 week lesson program. This program was introduced by Tim Mariner and Bill Harrison several years ago at the CALLERLAB Convention. I (Lorne Smith) felt there was a lot of merit in this program so I presented this revised teaching program to the Western Squares Square Dance Club and they bought into it. The program was introduced to this primarily solo club to aid in encouraging a second entry point into the square dance club. The Western Squares is a club that conducts a split program on a weekly basis. For the first hour and one half the caller (Lorne Smith) teaches the condensed 12 week method and then for the remainder of the evening the club dances the Mainstream program. This program is very similar to the Sustainable 50 that was presented at the CALLERLAB 2018 Convention.

Read More …


Innovative Program For New Dancers Revives Dying Club

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Claudia Littlefair (claudia.littlefair@gmail.com) 2018-04-01

This is the second year that our Strathmore club, just east of Calgary, used ‘The Nest’ program for new dancers. What this method has meant for us in Strathmore is that our club is not only surviving, but thriving. Four years ago we were close to shutting down because our small group of dancers (one to two squares/night) were quickly aging out. We were fortunate to graduate several new dancers that year and the next, who were willing to take on executive positions. But we were still just hanging in there. When we introduced The Nest program two years ago, six dancers completed the program. Using the old method (one fall entry point and no absences), only two of the six would have completed.

Read More …


Sustainable Square Dance (SSD) Alphabetical Call List

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document

Kurt Gollhardt (kurt@certek.com)

2018-03-23

SSD 50 Alphabetical Call List

Thanks to Kurt Gollhardt for producing this single page that alphabetically lists the calls used in the Sustainable Square Dance experimental lesson system. The sheet highlights the calls from the Mainstream list that are used in SSD 50 and also lists separately the Mainstream calls that are NOT used. For full information and sample choreography for the Sustainable Square Dance experimental lesson system you can view the SSD Teaching Guide


Jeff Priest’s Singing Call Figures for Teaching

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document

Jeff Priest (ask@canadiancallerscollege.com)

2011/2013

Singing Call Books

Jeff Priest has produced an outstanding set of books to assist callers teaching in the Basic through Plus programs. These books contain singing call figures which each feature only one call from the program being taught. This enables callers to teach the programs in whatever order they wish, and still use singing call figures that feature the call currently being taught. Follow the link for more information about these books and how to purchase them.


Restructuring El Camino Reelers Classes

Article Type Submitter Date Story Abstract
Winning Ways Story Allan Hurst (allanhurst@gmail.com) 2018-04-14

El Camino Reelers (“ECR” for short) is a club in the San Francisco area which had been experiencing a constant decline both in terms of class sizes and club membership from year to year. The club was losing money from year to year, especially on classes, but also on club nights. A number of members had died, experienced medical issues preventing them from dancing, or retired and moved out of the area. To arrest this decline the club decided on a new approach to reinvigorate their membership. The new plan involves a three track approach to recruiting and retaining dancers:

  1. Monthly “Drop-In/Fun Nights” with no experience required.
  2. A series of three partitioned blast classes, gradually taking dancers to Plus.
  3. Club nights with both blast-level and full level Plus/Advanced dancing.

This detailed 16-page document describes how they implemented this plan: how they advertised, how they recruited, how they restructured their teaching and club groups, and how they integrated new dancers into the club. It contains a wealth of insightful thinking and planning.

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CALLERLAB Online Teaching Resource

Article Type Owner Links Description
Resource

CALLERLAB Choreographic Applications Committee (dwelch@eastlink.ca)

CALLERLAB Online Teaching Resource

The Choreographic Applications Committee has created this resource site to assist those who are teaching square dancers. Its intent is to collect in one place all the information about each call that teachers might need to teach students successfully.

The site is organized into sections according to the CALLERLAB programs. It is still a work in progress. Basic Part 1 and Basic Part 2 are ready for use. Mainstream and eventually Plus are planned.

For each call there are seven sections of information:

  1. the call definition
  2. standard applications
  3. call analysis information
  4. modules
  5. teaching tips
  6. extended applications
  7. other


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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

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Experimental Lesson Systems

Article Type Author Last Update Description

Summary

Barry Clasper 2018-03-22

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 Sustainable Square Dance Committee charged with the task of creating this document. The committee completed its draft of the document in September of 2017 and it now has approval from the Board of Governors for formal 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”.