Frontier Squares Club Etiquette, Guidelines & Styling
Like all other forms of dancing, Square Dancing is a team-building activity. It cannot be successful or fun unless a code of manners is applied. These rules help make the dances go smoothly. Taking a moment to familiarize yourself with these rules is a surefire way to ensure you and your fellow dancers have a great experience. Frontier Squares teaches, encourages, and uses these etiquette rules in our classes and dances.
"Square Dancing is Friendship Set to Music"
CLEANLINESS IS KEY - Everyone, including square dancers, values good personal hygiene. Stinky breath, clothes, and body odor will turn folks away. If you are unsure, go ahead and do a quick refresh! It's a great way to win friends and influence people.
NON-SMOKING / NON-ALCOHOL - Many clubs, including Frontier Squares, host " family-friendly " events and dances. We do not have smoking or alcohol at our events. It is advisable not to indulge in anything hindering reaction times and coordination before dancing.
ARRIVE ON TIME - There's a lot to do and a short time to do it. Give yourself enough time to park, get situated with personal items, and check in at the treasurer's table. On the nights we use computer squares, please also check in with the caller. The goal is to be in square formation promptly at the scheduled start time. Remember that one late couple may mean that three other couples must sit out.
BE A GOOD HOST FROM ARRIVAL TO DEPARTURE - We encourage you to socialize, introduce yourself to new folks, and initiate conversations. Make sure to notice if every dancer is being welcomed in squares. Go out of your way to ensure each guest and member is included in the activities (sometimes, all it takes is a kind word and a smile). “Friendship is square dancing’s greatest reward.”
GET INTO SQUARES QUICKLY - When the caller starts the music for the next tip, quickly join the square nearest you that needs a couple. Never cut through another square on your way to your place to dance. Immediately raise your fingers on how many couples are needed to complete the square. This way, dancers looking for space will know to come to you, or the caller or MC may ask those sitting out to step in. It is rude to force callers to "beg" people to fill the square. Introduce yourself, have fun, and thank everyone when the tip is over.
FILL IN THE SQUARE NEAREST YOU - It is bad manners to pass by a square in need of another dancer unless you have prior arrangements to dance in another square. It is sometimes permissible to arrange a square in advance, though to do so too often is considered impolite. Frontier Squares discourages "Set Squares," "Stacking the Square," aka cliques. We want our dancers to promote the fun and fellowship of square dancing."
OTHER SQUARE FORMATION MANNERS - Only cut in on a square if you know that the other dancers and the caller approve. Do your best to avoid always dancing with the same group. Make it a point to move around the room and dance with LOTS of different people. Remember that "a stranger is a friend you have not yet met.” Experienced dancers, think back on your newbie days - and be willing to dance with our new dancers.
KNOW YOUR CAPABILITIES AND STICK TO THEM - Do not try to dance above your level in knowledge or speed of motion. Your lack of ability could ruin the dance for the rest of the dancers in the square. Be courteous to everyone and sit out if the tip is above the level that you can dance. However, you may join a dance above your level if the square explicitly invites you to do so.
BE ALIVE! - The zeal with which you approach dancing can set the tone for everyone. No one likes the "dead-fish" handhold. When you "Swing-that-girl" (or are the girl being swung), embrace it with fun and enjoyment. *Guys, there is a balance between a lack of excitement and too vigorous. If you notice that a lady does not enjoy your level of excitement, then tone it down a little bit. And, guys, don't be afraid to lead the lady at the start of the figures. Ladies, please respond -- it's not fun to dance with someone who acts as if they are not interested.
COURTESY IS MANDATORY - Treating others how you want to be treated is a good rule of thumb. Be aware of keeping your tone of voice, facial expression, and body language with the same politeness as your chosen spoken words. Be mindful of the other dancers' comfort zones and respect them. Every person who attends a Frontier Squares event should be able to leave saying they were treated with courtesy, friendliness, and helpfulness, especially our inexperienced dancers and guests! If you do not have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. (Another excellent childhood lesson!) Reserve critical feedback on a "need to know, right to know" basis. If something needs to be addressed, we welcome a one-on-one conversation with our club's leadership.
DECLINING A DANCE OFFER - Suppose you are asked to dance with someone other than your partner. You have not committed to dancing this tip, but do not wish to dance with this specific person. You are under no obligation, but please be kind in your decline. However, it would be best not to accept a different person's offer to dance the same tip. Wait until this tip is over, then join back in. The only exception would be if you are the only person left and you are needed to fill a square.
SITTING THIS ONE OUT - You are not required to dance every tip. "No, thank you" is a perfectly acceptable answer. Don’t let anyone talk you into dancing if you need to sit one out. Sometimes you can learn a great deal by watching and listening. However, we ask that dancers who are physically able to dance be willing to step in and fill a square to keep three other couples from not dancing.
“HELPFUL HANNAHS” ARE NOT VALUED - Refrain from giving unsolicited help to other dancers. We have knowledgeable callers and instructors, and it is their job to teach the students. There is room for only one teacher at a time. At class, our club will have Angels teamed with new dancers in the squares to support the instruction of the caller or instructor. They can help the dancers in that specific tip execute the calls. If new students would like more instruction with something specific, please wait until the caller, a club leader representative, or the student directly asks for your intervention. You can help others best by being in the correct place at the correct time.
LISTEN - LISTEN - LISTEN! - It is worth repeating. We must be mindful of not talking nor disrupting the caller or MC when (s)he is speaking to the group. The same expectation goes for announcements and other speakers who have the floor. Even if you already know or are not interested in what the caller or master of ceremonies is saying, others are. Save your conversation for breaks.
BE A GENTLE DANCER –Handholds are very important – but please be gentle. Dancers need to establish contact with adjacent dancers in their formation. It is how dancers guide each other since no one can be alert every second. It also enables one person to exercise control if the other person is unsure of how to do a call. However, you should hold on loosely so the other dancers can move when they are supposed to. Touch lightly and offer some resistance with your turning arm when doing “arm turn” calls (left allemande, turn thru, etc.). In waves, gently touch fingers and think “palm to palm” instead of clasping hands. DON’T GRAB, CLAMP DOWN OR HOOK YOUR THUMBS. Never push, shove, or hold on too long to another dancer. We all need to analyze whether we are being too strong in arm turns and hand holds. Note - Be aware if a fellow dancer in your square has a "Do Not Spin" sign attached near their name badge.
MISTAKES ARE INEVITABLE - The goal of square dancing is to have fun, but we all make mistakes. If mistakes are made or a square breaks down, it wastes time and energy getting angry with yourself or anyone else. Please remain calm so others are encouraged to keep trying and practicing. If errors are made, gently guide your neighbor back into place, if possible, but don't push or pull another dancer. If the entire square breaks down (no one knows where to go), it is best to form lines or square your set and start all over again.
FOLLOW THE DRESS CODE - It is important to note that you should wear long sleeves if you perspire profusely - grabbing a sweaty arm during a dance is unappealing. Refrain from wearing excessive amounts of jewelry, especially pieces that have the potential to injure other dancers. Themed dances will specify the expected dress attire. Name tags are a must so we can learn names.
DON’T LEAVE YOUR PARTNER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DANCE FLOOR - After the “thank-yous” have been said, the gentleman should accompany the lady back to her original partner or her seat.
DO NOT ABANDON A SQUARE EARLY – It is bad manners to leave a tip before it is over. Square dancing depends on having eight people to dance correctly. If you leave the square early, you leave your partner and the other couples unable to dance. Your skill level or the level of other dancers in the square is not an excuse to leave early. If you must leave a square to tend to an emergency, it is common courtesy to find a replacement.
AVOID LEAVING EVENTS EARLY - It shows excellent manners when dancers stay to complete the last tip. Early departure from a dance puts unnecessary stress on the caller who has worked so hard for you all evening. You may also disappoint couples who may not have enough dancers to fill a square for the last dance.
EMERGENCY CALL FOR MEDICAL AID - If a dancer goes down, a second dancer attends to him/her. The remaining couples join hands and take a step backward (this will allow the injured person and attendant air and room). Raise joined hands as high as possible in the form of an arch. On seeing this signal, the caller or hall monitor will immediately place an emergency call for aid. If you send for medical help or an ambulance, be sure to put a “spotter” outside the building to help the EMT team find the location where they are needed.
APPLAUD THE CALLER AND THANK FELLOW DANCERS - Calling is hard work, so the caller deserves a round of applause at the end of each tip and a personal “thank you” at the end of the dance. Also, thank your fellow dancers for participating in the set before leaving the square. Remember this..When you clap at the end of a set, you’re applauding the caller, you’re saying “thank you” to the others in the square – but you’re also applauding YOU!
THE DANCE ISN’T OVER UNTIL THE CLEAN-UP IS DONE - It takes a village, and that village appreciates your help. Chairs need to be stacked and items put away. Please join in, for many hands make light the work.
YOU ARE NEVER FINISHED LEARNING - You'll always find something new that can be learned or some part of your dancing that can be improved upon. Don’t hesitate to ask your caller/instructor questions if there’s something you need help with. You may be the only one to ask - but chances are others who were too shy to ask will be grateful.
ENJOY YOURSELF AND HAVE FUN!
Happiness is contagious! Come to Frontier Squares ready to catch the bug!
GUIDELINES FOR NEW DANCERS
DANCE AT OTHER CLUBS. Frontier Squares is our home club, and we value our members’ support. However, you are missing one of the great things about square dancing if you only socialize with your home club. The local square dance clubs are also part of our square dance community, and we encourage our dancers to build networks and friendships with other clubs. *Remember – a new square dancer is just a friend you haven’t met yet!
DANCE TO OTHER CALLERS. During lessons, you became used to the caller who taught you. You will always have a special place for him/her in your heart. At first you may have difficulty understanding a new caller. You need to listen closely, and after a tip or two, you will be able to dance more comfortably. Remember that all square dance calls and formations are the same as you learned. The way they are pronounced or grouped together may be different, and you will adjust. Every caller has a different style -- that’s part of the fun.
DANCE IN THE FRONT OF THE HALL. The tendency for new dancers is to hide in the back of the hall (where they think the caller can’t see a square break down). Do not shy away from getting in the first row of squares, the ones closest to the caller, at the front of the hall. A good caller watches the whole floor – including the back row.
DANCE WITH EXPERIENCED DANCERS. Sometimes an outreached hand from a more experienced dancer is all your square needs to keep going. Everyone you dance with was a new dancer at one time and should remember how it feels to be where you are.
SHOUTING DURING CALLS. Many of the calls have echo shouts or sound effects done by the dancers. This part is fun. Join in the fun, but do so in a way that avoids interfering with the caller.
EXTRA TWIRLS, SPINS, & MOVES. Keep your dancing “standard” unless you are confident that the other dancers in your square approve of the extra twirls, leg kicks, hip bumps, etc. *This is especially important during classes where the extra movements can cause confusion for new dancers.
DANCE, DANCE, DANCE! To use all the information you have learned and to make it second nature, it’s important to practice, practice, practice. The more you do it, the faster it becomes muscle memory.
BE AWARE OF YOUR LEVEL. Look for advertised dances at the level you know – Basic, Mainstream or Plus. The level at which you dance has nothing to do with how good a dancer you are. It has to do with how much time you are willing to devote to the activity. You may never choose to move to another level, and that’s perfectly fine. It is recommended that you dance at your current level for at least one year before moving to another level. Don’t let anyone rush you.
SQUARE DANCE FOR FUN! The odds are pretty good that someone is going to make a mistake. (Even a caller makes mistakes, sometimes. ????) Don’t worry about whose fault it was – it doesn’t matter. Regroup, laugh it off and dance (either make a line or go home)….and KEEP SMILING!
“Friendship is square dancing’s biggest reward”
SUGGESTIONS FOR STYLING
- Touch hands immediately after every call. If your hands are touching, elbows must also be bent - otherwise, the square will be too big. Touching hands is more important to your success and the success of the square than knowing the definition of any specific call. It is how dancers guide each other and how you establish your position. Touching hands helps maintain the formation (line, wave, column, etc.) and helps prepare you for the next call. Besides, if someone is touching your hand and you are lost, at least you’ll have company.
- Keep your set small. New dancers tend to form large sets, and then they can’t understand why they seem slow in executing the calls. When the square is spread out, it takes more steps to cover the ground they need to, so it takes more time. Experienced dancers have learned to keep their sets small and have ample time to do the calls. The best way to keep the set small is to join hands with all adjacent dancers immediately after each call.
- Be a dancer, not a walker! Some people walk the calls instead of dancing to them. This not only looks bad, but it also throws a person’s timing off. The result could be an uncomfortable dance feeling, and the square is more likely to break down repeatedly. Remember that you are dancing - not merely moving mechanically through various figures. Step to the rhythmic beat of the music while you glide along the floor.
- Stand Erect. There is a tendency for new dancers to lean forward excessively when executing calls. This looks bad and will tire a dancer out quickly. Try to stand erect (stand tall), or even lean back a little while dancing - it makes the entire square look better.
- Be bold in executing calls. Many new dancers hold back on calls, even ones they know, for fear of making a mistake. Timid dancing hides mistakes that dancers are making, and these mistakes could go on and on before being detected. Bad habits can be formed and are more difficult to break later on.
- Compromise. If you miss part of a call, don’t try to catch up by racing through all the missed parts. The odds are you won’t make it, and the square will break down. Instead, forget the part you missed and try to pick up where the action is. If you can’t resolve the formation, form a line, wait for the caller to call for a line, and try to keep the set dancing. Most importantly – KEEP SMILING.
- Accept or admit you “goofed.” When you goof (and we all do) – goof gracefully and try to recover the best you can to save the set from breaking down entirely.
- Concentrate. Because new dancers have not been dancing for a long time, they probably will not react automatically to the calls for a while. This means you must concentrate on thinking of the definition of each call. Unfortunately, every call can seem to come as a surprise. If you concentrate and think, you should do very well. It takes time for the calls and movements that are learned to become part of a person's mental and physical muscle memory. BE PATIENT!
IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE, YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST PERSON TO DO SO!