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  All About Square Dancing
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Square and Round Dancing
in Metro Washington DC

  All About Square Dancing

What is Square Dancing?
There are at least 3 kinds of square dancing going on in the United States today: traditional dancing; “traditional style dancing”, in which a limited number of basic movements are exploited in challenging ways to suit recreational purposes; and modern Western style square dancing, in which the repertory of basic movements is constantly evaluated and expanded, also for purposes of recreation. A square dance is done in a square set of 4 couples. Despite variations in stylistic details, certain basic principles are almost universal – the square formation itself, the participation of the caller, and the distinction between the main figure of the dance and the “break”.

More about Traditional Style Square Dancing: Live bands customarily play at traditional style dances, which adds an exciting dimension to the experience. People just come, dance, and learn as they go along. Lessons are unnecessary as the dances rely on a small number of basic movements, and in many areas it is the custom to walk through each dance before doing it. Even a beginner has a fair chance of catching on and, if a new dancer gets confused, the more experienced dancers can help. Traditional style dancing is open to people who come alone or only dance sporadically, singles dancers are welcome and people are encouraged to dance with many different partners. There is more swinging and longer swings, more “connectedness” between the dancers due to the handholds used and the greater frequency of certain movements that involve an element of centrifugal force. Attire is casual and the dancers are uninterested in special clothing, diplomas, levels, badges and the like.

More about Modern Western Style or Club style Square Dancing: A typical dance evening consists of several dance "tips," lasting about 10 minutes each, with breaks in between. At the beginning of a tip, the dancers line up to form "squares." A "caller" stands at one end of the hall and begins giving a sequence of instructions for the dancers to follow. Each of these instructions, or "calls," requires that some or all of the dancers in the square perform a pre-determined maneuver. The caller doesn't literally tell you where to move, he/she just gives the name of the call, such as "linear cycle" or "ends fold," and the dancers respond. Some of the maneuvers are simple, others are more complex. After several calls, the dancers are usually thoroughly "shuffled." Eventually everyone "magically" ends up with their partner again, back at their home position where they started the tip. The calls (instructions) that the caller gives are set to music. The music can be anything from bluegrass to ballads to rock'n'roll. There are actually two parts to a tip, lasting about 5 minutes each. The first part, although set to music, concentrates more on calls and formations, as the caller maneuvers the dancers into myriad formations and positions. The second part concentrates more on the music, and the dancers movements are choreographed to a particular popular song. Of course, the dancers must know how to perform the maneuvers for each of the calls, and there are lots of calls to learn. Part of the challenge and fun of square dancing is trying to remember and immediately perform the maneuvers required for each call. New dancers must attend classes for a period of time before you can "officially" dance with the regulars. The normal level of dancing actually encompasses three dance levels known as Basic, Mainstream, and Plus. When you graduate from classes, you are considered a Plus dancer. After you graduate, you'll be able to dance at your club's dances or at other dances and festivals throughout the state, country, and world. Most dancers remain at the normal (Plus) level. But if you're adventurous, after a couple of years you might want to move up and learn one of the higher levels of square dancing, known as Advanced and Challenge. Here you'll learn more calls, and you'll learn new concepts like phantom dancers, mirror images, etc., to make things even more interesting (and fun).

  All About Round Dancing

Round Dancing is fun.
Round dancers spend time with their partners and friends, enjoying and moving rhythmically to great music. Round dancers participate purely for the fun of it --- there are no competitions, no judges, no dance awards. Round dancers are rewarded with lifelong friendships.

Round Dancing is an exciting social activity.
Round dancers form clubs and gather together to dance at places like schools, community centers, church recreation halls, YMCAs, and fraternal organization halls. Most clubs only charge $4 or $5 dollars per dancer for the entire evening, and most allow spectators to watch for free. Often clubs combine to put on even larger and longer events. There are clubs and round dance events all over the world. Round dancers can even spend an entire week round dancing at special mountain resorts or romantic ocean cruises.

Round Dancing is choreographed, cued couples dancing.
Round dancing is like ballroom dancing and uses ballroom figures, but there are two major differences --- it is choreographed ahead of time and then cued to the dancers in a manner similar to the way square dance callers direct square dancers.

Choreographers choose wonderful music and then choose the different movements and figures to fit the music exactly. If the music swells and pauses briefly, then a dance step that rises and stretches is put into that place. If there is a little syncopation in another part of the song, then a quick little step is inserted. The creation of a piece of choreography is like designing the interior of a home, with every piece of furniture and artwork in just the right place to give the best feel and enjoyment. Dances have been choreographed to a myriad of rhythms --- waltz, two-step, cha-cha,rumba, jive/swing, foxtrot, tango, bolero, mambo, samba, merengue, salsa, west coast swing, paso doble, quickstep, and others.

The “Cuer” or Round Dance Leader, stands with a microphone and the sound equipment at one side of a dance hall. As the music plays, and just ahead of when the dancers must respond, the cuer names each dance figure of the choreography to be done in proper order. Since dances are cued, dancers need not memorize choreography and can thus dance hundreds of different routines. In a two hour club night, the dancers could typically dance over thirty choreographed dances.

Since all the dancers are doing the same figures in the same direction at the same time (or at least are supposed to), the choreography can become quite elaborate. The dancers can move great distances with many changes of direction without fear of running into other couples. ROUNDALAB, the International Association of Round Dance Teachers Inc., has defined six phases of dance figures with phase one (I) generally being the easiest in difficulty and phase six (VI) comprising the most difficult figures. Most round dance clubs do not try to do all phase levels and thus as a dancer you can choose clubs that cater to the level that you are most comfortable at.

Couples form up and generally progress counterclockwise in a circle around the dance floor – thus the name “Round Dancing”.

Round Dancing is part of the Modern Square Dance Movement.
Modern Round Dancing grew along with Modern Square Dancing through the second half of the twentienth century. Although pure round dance clubs exist as do pure square dance clubs, there are many clubs that offer both in what is called a two by two program. A caller will call square dance patter for about 6 minutes and then sing a singing call for about 4 minutes. Then a cuer will cue two round dance routines, taking about 8 minutes. Then the caller comes up again. Then the cuer and so on until the evening has been fulfilled. There are State and National Square and Round Dance Conventions where both activities are conducted. Many local caller associations and round dance teacher associations are combined as one organization. There continues to be mutual symbiosis between square and round dancing. A great many square dancers first learn of round dancing from the two by two clubs and conventions and thus many round dancers were at first square dancers. Since round dance music is of all types (big bands, rock & roll, easy listening, and many others) it complements what is predominately the country western square dance sound at square dance events. Square dancers tend to retain the “whoop and holler” spirit of dancing, while round dancers tend to dance with greater precision and thus help to improve the overall smoothness experienced by all in the intertwining square dance movements. Round dancing really does “ROUND” out the square dance experience.

Round Dancing is healthy exercise.
Round Dancing is an active activity. Most of the time, you will be on the floor dancing. There are short breaks and most leaders allow you to rest whenever you want – but the norm is to dance. The more you do it, the more you can do it. Not only does your heart pump, but your mind is also exercised in trying to remember how to do all the figures that the cuer cues.

Succinctly combining all of the above:

Round Dancing is a fun, social activity, where couples dance synchronously to cued choreographed routines that exercise body, mind and soul.

Taken from the Round Dance Teachers Association of Greater Washington D.C. web site.

  Area Traditional Style Square Dances

  Area Modern Western Square and Round Dances

  Modern Western Square Dance Classes

  • Boomerangs Square Dance Teaching Council
    The Boomerangs are dedicated to teaching Modern Western Square Dancing.
    Call 703 533-8786 for details. Wednesdays, 7:30-9:30 pm., Alexandria, VA
  • Square Dance Classes taught by Walt Peterman
    Call 703 494-2556 for details. Saturdays, 7:00 pm., Woodbridge, MD
  • Square Dance Classes taught by Charlie Stockman
    Call 703 435-7075 for details or email rdrt4kl@cox.net. Mondays, 7:30-9:30 pm. Leesburg, VA
  • Square Dance Classes taught by Jim and Ann Wass
    Call 301 699-1477 for details. Thursdays, 7:30 pm. New Carrollton, MD
  • Square Dance Classes taught by Virgil Forbes
    Call 410 586-3587 for details. Tuesdays, 7:30 pm. Lusby, MD
  • Square Dance Classes
    Call 540 667-1609 for details. Mondays. Winchester, MD

  Round Dance Classes

  • Round Dance Classes with Tim and Nana Eum
    Call 703 670-3063 for details. Mondays, 7:00-8:00 pm., Fredericksburg, VA
  • Round Dance Classes with George and Jeannine Springer
    Call 703 941-4223 for details. Mondays, 7:30-9:30 pm., Annandale, VA
  • Round Dance Classes with Peg and John Kincaid
    Email kincaidcpa@aol.com for more details. Sundays, 2:00-4:00 pm., Greenbelt, MD

  Regional Square and Round Dance Events

  • WASCA 2006 Festival
    March 16, 17, 18 2006
    47th Square and Round dance festival
    Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel, Alexandria, VA

  National Square and Round Dance Events

  Dance Organizations

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