Controlling Choreography With Relationships

Article Type Author Publication Date Links Description
Document Barry Johnson ( 2014 Controlling Choreography With Relationships (PDF File)

This 78 page document is a detailed description of how callers can use dancer relationships as a tool for resolving squares. See the document abstract below for additional details.

From a choreographic point of view,callers describe the position of the dancers in a square by using four descriptive attributes: Formation, Arrangement, Sequence and Relationships.

  • Formation describes the spots on the floor in which dancers are standing,
  • Arrangement describes the way dancing genders are standing relative to one another,
  • Sequence describes whether or not dancers are in the original squared set order, and
  • Relationship describes which men and which women are near one another.

Together, these four attributes can be used to precisely define the choreographic state of a square, and a specific combination of these four values is called a “FASR” (pronounced “fah-zer”).

For decades, many callers have focused on Formation, Arrangement and Sequence while tracking dancers as they move through a sequence. Although formation and arrangement are fairly easy to see, sequence is not — especially “on the fly” since many calls will change the sequence of some or all dancers. There are specific techniques that can be used to resolve a square using just formation, arrangement and sequence, but these techniques may require several steps to reach the final desired result. The complexity of those techniques leads many callers to “hunt for corners”, trying one call after another until the dancers fall into a recognizable FASR.

With this focus on Formation, Arrangement and Sequence the fourth leg of the nomenclature system, Relationship, has generally been ignored.

But it turns out that the relationships of the dancers can actually be easier for many callers to understand and see while a square is in motion, and the principles of using relationships while calling can be learned in just a few minutes. Once relationships are recognizable, the state of the square is easily identified in almost any FASR at all. A few simple “cookbook” rules allow a caller to consciously change the relationships at will, giving the caller a great deal of control over the state of the square.

There are three main ways that callers can use relationships:

  • Finding their way out when they’re lost: being able to recognize the state of the square, then regaining control by consciously changing stations;
  • As a framework within which modules and desired choreographic sequences can be used. Put the dancers into a known station, dance them around as desired while preserving the station (or consciously changing it to a different one), and finally resolve without question because you know exactly where the dancers are.
  • As a launching pad for using memorized get-outs from many different starting positions.

We’ll discuss each of these areas in the pages that follow.

Relationships and CRaMS
For the last several years, some callers have been advocating a larger calling system named CRaMS, the “Controlled Relationship and Manipulation System.” Readers that are familiar with CRaMS will recognize much of the material in this book. CRaMS uses relationship choreographic control as just one of several tools and techniques to achieve the broader goal of helping callers to improve upon their craft. We’ll talk more about the larger system of CRaMS in Chapters 7 and 17.

Relationships and Mental Image
Astute readers may also notice several similarities to Don Beck’s Mental Image system, particularly in the way that calls are classified based on the way they affect the setup of the square. Both systems (Relationships and Mental Image) rely on the symmetries of the square as calls are executed — and therefore are likely to resemble one another, even while coming at the problem from very different directions and using completely different vocabularies.