SQUARE DANCE ETIQUETTE
"Square Dancing is Friendship Set to Music"
Square Dancing, like all other forms of dancing, is a team-building activity. It cannot be successful or fun unless a code of manners is applied. Square dancing has rules that make the dances go smoothly. Taking a moment to familiarize yourself with these rules is a surefire way to ensure that you and your fellow dancers have a great evening. Frontier Squares teaches, encourages, and uses these etiquette rules in our classes and dances.
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 events and dances that are "family-friendly". We do not have smoking or alcohol at our events. It is advisable to not indulge in anything that would hinder reaction times and coordination prior to dancing.
Arrive on time.
There's a lot to do and a short time to do it. Please arrive at least ten to fifteen minutes early for classes and dances. Give yourself enough time to park, get situated with personal items, and check in at the payment desk and caller station. The goal is to be in square formation promptly at the scheduled start time.
Be a good host from arrival to departure.
Once you have arrived, checked in, and have your personal items set aside, we encourage you to socialize, introduce yourself to new folks, and strike up 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.)
Get into squares quickly.
In square dancing, one late couple to the square means three (3) other couples will sit out. Please move quickly to a square when the indicator has been given for the next tip to start. 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.
Fill in the square nearest to you--starting with squares in front first.
It is bad manners to pass by a square in need of another dancer in favor of another square unless you have prior arrangements to dance in the other square. Be courteous and fill in the square nearest to you as soon as the music starts. (Please start filling in the squares closest to the caller at the front of the hall.) It is rude to force callers to "beg" people to join the square. At times it is 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 approves. Do your best to avoid always dancing with the same group. 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 beginning dancers. Do not shy away from getting in the first row of squares. (Our club caller & instructors watch the whole floor -- so there you go.)
Courtesy is mandatory.
Treating others the way 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 new students and inexperienced dancers! 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.) 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 when announcers and other speakers have the floor.
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 in the start of the figures. Ladies, respond -- it's not fun for him to dance with someone who acts as if she is not interested.
Dancing posture and styling.
- Stand tall or lean back just a little while you are dancing. This will make the entire square look better and cause you to not wear out as quickly.
- Shuffle or slide your feet. Keep the rhythmic beat of the music with your feet as you glide along the floor.
- Offer some resistance with your turning arm when doing "arm turn" calls. This helps smooth out the move. Be careful not to be too rough.
- Be bold in executing the calls.
- Compromise. This is especially important should the square start to break down.
- Concentrate, and allow others in the square time to process as well. It takes time for the calls and movements that are learned to become part of a person's mental and physical muscle memory.
Suppose you are asked to dance with someone other than your partner. You have not committed to dance this tip, but do not wish to dance with this specific person. You are under no obligation. Please be kind in your decline. However, it would be best if you did not accept a different person's offer to dance the same tip. Wait until the tip is over, then join back in.
Sitting this one out.
You are not required to dance every tip. "No, thank you" is a perfectly acceptable answer. However, we ask that couples and singles that are physically able to dance be willing to step in and fill spaces as needed so that an entire square can be included in the active tip.
Helpful Hannahs are not valued.
Refrain from giving unsolicited help to other dancers. We have knowledgeable callers and instructors. It is their job to teach the students. Our club will have our Angels teamed with new dancers in the squares. The Angels in the square will support the instruction of the caller/instructor. They can help the dancers in that specific tip better understand and 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.
LISTEN - LISTEN - LISTEN!
It is worth repeating. Even if you already know or are not interested in what the caller or master of ceremonies is saying, others are. Save the unnecessary conversation for breaks or after the dance.
Gentleness with other dancers.
While dancing, 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. However, you should hold on loosely so the other dancers can get away if they are supposed to move, and you don't realize it. Touch lightly when doing arm turn calls (left allemande, turn thru, etc.). In waves, gently touch fingers and palms to adjacent dancers. Don't grab or hook your thumbs. Be aware if a fellow dancer in your square has a "Do Not Spin" attached near their name badge.
Mistakes are inevitable.
If mistakes are made, or a square breaks down, it wastes time and energy getting angry with yourself or anyone else. Please keep an upbeat calm so the others are encouraged to keep trying and practicing. We all make mistakes. The goal of square dancing is to have fun. 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 should break down (no one knows where to go), it is best to go to your original home spot and then form lines. This is done by the head couple sliding over to the side couple's position while the side couple slides over to make room for them. Presto! Two-facing lines.
Follow the dress code.
It is important to note that men should wear long sleeves because grabbing a sweaty arm during a dance is unappealing. Women should refrain from wearing excessive amounts of jewelry, especially pieces that have the potential to injure other dancers. Name tags are a must. Casual attire is great for classes. Themed Dances will specify the expected dress attire. (If in doubt, then traditional square dance attire is assumed.)
Know your capabilities and stick to them.
Do not try to dance above your level in knowledge or speed of motion because your lack of ability will ruin the dance for the rest of the dancers in the square. Be courteous to everyone and sit out if you are at a different level. However, you may join a dance above your level if the square explicitly invites you to do so.
Shouting during the calls.
This part is fun. Many of the calls the caller uses have echo shouts the dancers will do. 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.
Touch hands after every move.
Establish your position by touching your hands after every move or call, as it helps maintain the square's formation.
Keep your set small.
The best way to keep the set small is to join hands with all adjacent dancers immediately following the call. Having a smaller set gives the square ample time to do the calls.
Be a dancer, not a walker.
Step to the beat of the music. Please reconsider the square if you cannot keep time with the tempo. A dancer unable to keep up with the beat of the music will cause the square to repeatedly break down.
Do not abandon a square early; try not to leave the event early.
Never leave a dance before the song is over. Square dances depend on having eight people dance correctly. If you leave the square early, you leave your partner and the other couples high and dry. Your skill level or the level of other dancers in the square is not an excuse to leave early. If you must leave mid-song to tend to an emergency, it is common courtesy to find a replacement. It also 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 and some disappointed couples who may not have enough dancers to fill a square for the last dance.
Emergency during a dance.
If a dancer goes down, a second dancer attends to him or her. The remaining couples join hands and take one step backward to allow an injured person and the attendant room. The remaining couples raise their joined hands as high as possible in an arched circle. Upon seeing this signal, the caller or hall monitor will know to place an Emergency Call for Medical Aid.
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.
Remember to 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 thanking at the end of the dance. Also, remember to thank your fellow dancers for participating.
The job isn't done 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 find there is always something new that can be learned or improved. Be brave to ask questions or let the caller/instructor know what 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.
Dance at other clubs. Dance with other callers.
Frontier Squares is our home club, and we value our members' support. However, the local square dance community is also our community. We love building networks and friendships with other clubs and encourage our dancers to do the same.
ABOVE ALL, ENJOY YOURSELF AND HAVE FUN!
Happiness is contagious! Come to Frontier Squares ready to catch our excitement!