Square Dance Terms and Concepts
Square dancing is commonly called at levels, with each level comprising many calls and concepts that must be learned and practiced to be able to dance it. The first three levels are Basic, Mainstream, and Plus. Redwood Rainbows is a Plus-level club, and Plus dancers can dance at most dances. But wait, there’s more! After Plus there is Advanced, and after Advanced there are four additional Challenge levels (Challenge refers to the difficulty of the calls and concepts, not to a competition).
A square dance tip usually consists of two parts: a period of freeform calling known as patter or hash, where the caller uses sequences of calls to develop choreography that is unexpected to the dancer; and singing calls, where the calls are choreographed to a popular song and the girls rotate to each boy around the square, ending up with their original partner at the end.
Square dance clubs often used to have a strict dress code for dancers, requiring proper square dance attire. These days, such requirements are found less and less. Redwood Rainbows dances are always casual dress, meaning all comfortable clothing is acceptable, including traditional square dance attire.
At Redwood Rainbows dances and classes, you can choose to dance the “boy” or “girl” part, regardless of your gender identification. At the beginning, it’s usually best to pick a role and stick with it. As you gain experience, you can challenge yourself by learning the other role. Many good dancers can switch easily between roles, a desirable skill that can facilitate forming a square.
Experienced dancers who dance with the beginner’s classes are called angels. Beginners are encouraged to ask angels, who are often wearing club badges, to be their partner for a tip.
Like many CA clubs, we dance “hands down,” most often holding hands with another dancer at waist level. The best dancers don’t grip other dancers’ hands, they keep their hand flat and touch palms. At the end of every call dancers should look for a formation and take hands to form it, such as a line or wave.
You will notice that experienced dancers will add styling or flourishes (dancing movements) and callbacks (phrases called out by the dancers after certain calls) to their dancing. These vary from region to region, and LGBT-friendly clubs often have different styling than others.
Classes are where you go to learn a particular square dance level. Workshops are where you go when you know a level, and want to practice and get better at it (the caller will teach new ways of doing calls you already know). Dances are where you go to really dance the level.
A gathering of square dancers for a weekend dance at a destination city. Fly-ins often begin with a trail-in dance on the night before the weekend starts, and dancing starts in earnest on a Friday night, ending some time on Sunday. Fly-ins happen usually for Plus-level dancing and higher.