Didn't hear, understand or know the last call? Lost your concentration? Haven't the foggiest idea where to go next? Don't panic, it happens to all of us. Breaking down is part of the game. Getting back into the action is the mark of an accomplished dancer.

First, if the square has not totally disintegrated, look for the hand signal of someone trying to help you and trust them.

Second, if you have taken the precaution of noting who your opposite is (same sex on the opposite side of the square), then fill the spot symmetrically opposite the position of your opposite. The only exception to this is when the caller is using asymmetric choreography, which is quite rare and should be obvious.


M = Opposite Men

L = Opposite Ladies








Third, if help and symmetry fail then wait for the dust to settle, look for the hole and fill it fast. Even if the empty spot turns out to be the position of someone of the opposite sex, hang in there as long as you can. Suddenly having to dance the part of the other sex can be fun if you don't fight it. Take corrective action if the caller gives you clues such as "all men are in the centre".

Fourth, if all is chaos, square up quickly (below, left) without a lot a talking that will bother the squares around you. Unless the caller appears to be close to a resolution, the number one man and his partner should initiate action to create normal facing lines (below, right). Usually the head ladies slide over to stand beside their corner keeping their partner with them. The rest of the square should then adjust into facing lines. Watch the other squares for a normal facing line situation and join in when you see one. Callers will try to help you by saying "Normal lines go up to the middle and back". If an Allemande Left or Promenade occurs first, simply adjust back to a squared up set.

You will probably not end the figure with your corner or partner. Quickly adjust during the promenade or stay where you are. If your caller is using sight resolutions, returning to your original spot will be appreciated. For the caller to remember one set of partners and corners is tough enough without the additional problem of changing every time someone makes a mistake.

Fifth, if the square totally disintegrates, and by the time you have squared up you see that the caller is close to a resolution then wait patiently at home until after the Promenade. It is a good idea to skip the Allemande Left, Grand Right and Left and Promenade because most resolution promenades are not all the way around the set. Promenading from home will take you too long and cause you to be late starting the next figure.

Sixth, during a Singing Call the minimum necessary to resume dancing at the next sequence is each man at home with some lady for a partner. If there is confusion, be ready for a quick Swing with your corner or nearest opposite sex and then Promenade to the man's home position. Or failing that, men should quickly head for home while ladies should join the closest un-partnered man.

Seventh, keep smiling and laugh at the crazy confusion we can make while pursuing this wonderful recreation. DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY, KEEP DANCING!!!

Read CALLERLAB's advice on recovery techniques.

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Help to improve the knowledge of the team.
     Help because you think that you can assist another individual to better understand their role in a certain call. Do not help just to show off your skills nor just to attain the "Allemande Left". Do help if it can be done gently and will keep the square dancing and thus allow learning and minimize frustration.

Help only when help is truly needed.
     Help the new or uncertain dancer only when absolutely necessary. Give them a chance to think, and a chance to move a bit slowly until they feel comfortable with the call. The idea is to encourage them to learn and build their confidence.
     Help if requested either by the panic cry or by a dancer who tells you at the beginning of the tip that they feel a bit uncertain. Help when a dancer is obviously confused and looking for a direction. Most dancers appreciate a warning if they are about to make an unrecoverable mistake.
     Help only when you are certain you know what should be happening. It is most embarrassing to find that you have helped someone go the wrong way.

Help gently and as little as necessary.
     Sometimes the only help needed is that you dance your part with precision. Be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there. Give others the maximum opportunity to see positions and formations before moving on to the next one. Movements with stars only work well when all four dancers are synchronized, so hesitate momentarily to be sure the star forms before turning it. Be firm in using handholds and hand pressures. Reaching out to form lines or waves or columns will clarify the formation if someone is unsure. A firm arm or hand turn will confirm the tentative grasp of the uncertain dancer.
     If someone appears to be wandering and a bit lost, discreetly point the way. If necessary use a short word or phrase to catch their attention but avoid lengthy explanations because you both will fail to hear the next call. Use a gentle touch on the shoulder or gentle hand pressure to indicate turning direction. Avoid leaving your correct spot to help someone else thereby distorting the formation and causing more confusion. If someone of the same sex steals your spot it is usually easier to take theirs than it is to correct the mistake.

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Helpees should admit when they need help.
     Let others know when you are uncertain. "I'm lost" or "Help" or freezing to the spot are effective attention getters. Don't panic, don't wander aimlessly, do look for the helpful gesture, word or hand.

Helpees should attempt to dance for themselves.
     Learn definitions and recite them to yourself applying each part as you move. Check your position with that of your opposite or counterpart in another square.

Helpees should keep dancing if at all possible.
     Look for the hole. Be flexible and assume your new identity if you find yourself in the wrong spot and must switch from "head" to "side" or "boy" to "girl". Remember it is all for fun and a square that keeps going in spite of some switches will have lots more fun that one that stands around waiting for the next resolution.

Helpees should try to find out how to dance calls that cause trouble.
     Try to remember what call caused trouble so that you can ask about it later. But don't analyze until the tip is over, thinking about your last mistake is a sure way to make another. Most callers are happy to walk you through a call or sequence that is causing difficulty. Ask between tips for a short walk through or in your home club ask for a workshop.

Helpees should thank helpers for their help.
     Helpers are glad to know that their assistance is appreciated rather than disliked. Most helpers are sensitive to a helpees response and will discontinue helping if they sense that it is unwanted.

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HEADS – In a squared up set Heads have their back to the caller or are facing the caller.

SIDES – In a squared up set Sides are standing with their sides towards the caller.

PARTNER – In general your partner is the dancer beside you in your quadrant of the square.
     In a squared-up set or normal couples the Gent's partner is on his right, the Lady's is on her left.
     In a circle with alternating sexes look in the same direction as above to find your partner.
     When in lines, divide the line in the centre and look for the person beside you in your half.
     When in couples or columns, your partner is beside you.

ORIGINAL PARTNER is the person who was your partner when you squared up.

NORMAL COUPLE is a Couple with the Gent on the left side and the Lady on the right side.

CORNER – In a squared-up set or circle, the dancer on the other side from your partner is your corner.
     To find your corner in other formations, think about connecting the dancers in a circular string.
     When asked to Allemande Left or Swing the corner, the caller will usually have you facing your corner or standing beside them if you are facing out. For facing lines mentally make a Circle of 8 to find your corner and apply the "Gents look to their left, Ladies look to their right" rule.

OPPOSITE – Refers to someone you are facing directly or sometimes on a diagonal. In a squared-up set, your opposite is the dancer of the opposite sex who is facing you directly across the square.
     We also talk about symmetrical opposites. In the squared-up set, your symmetrical opposite is the person of the same sex in the couple facing you. In symmetric choreography that dancer should always be opposite you along a line through the flagpole centre of the set.

COUPLE NUMBERS – In a squared-up set Couple #1 has their back to the caller, Couple #2 is to their right and has their left sides to the caller, Couple #3 is facing the caller, and Couple #4 is the remaining couple and has their right sides to the caller. Count around the square in a counter-clockwise direction.

PROMENADE – Couples moving as pairs around a circle in the counter-clockwise direction. Unless otherwise directed stop and face in at the Gentleman's home position.

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Facing Lines

4 dancers facing 4 dancers
Right-Hand Two-Faced Lines

2 parallel lines of couples holding right hands
Right-Hand Waves

2 parallel lines of 4 dancers facing alternately, end & centre holding right hands
Eight Chain Thru

Couples facing in two boxes which are adjacent back-to-back
Double Pass Thru

One couple behind another facing a similar pair of couples
Right-Hand Columns

4 dancers in single file holding right hands with 4 dancers in single file facing the other way

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(In the diagrams men are squares and ladies are circles.)

Where is my corner for an Allemande Left from a Trade By formation?
     When looking for your corner always think of the dancers as being beads on a more or less circular string. If you are in the middle of a Trade By formation then your corner is in front of you. If you are facing out in a Trade By formation then your corner is beside you.

Who am I facing after a Box the Gnat?
     You should be directly facing the person with whom you Boxed the Gnat having exchanged places with them.

How far around do we Courtesy Turn on a Ladies Chain Down the Line?
     The ladies will turn 3/4 of a full circle to end as a couple facing in towards the other couple dancing at the other end of your original right-handed two-faced line or left-handed wave.

Starting here . . . . . . . or here . . . . . . . ends here in Facing Lines.

What is the definition of Slide Thru?
     All dancers pass thru and then turn 1/4 on the spot. The direction of turn depends upon the sex of your position in your squared up set. Men always turn 1/4 to the right. Ladies always turn 1/4 to the left.

before . . . . after . . . . . . before . . . . after . . . . . before . . . . after    

Where does a Turn Thru end?
     Turn Thrus may start from facing dancers or from right-handed mini-waves. Dancers join right forearms, turn by the right one half, release arm holds and step forward. After a Turn Thru you should be back to back with the person with whom you did the Turn Thru.

starting here . . . . or here . . . . . ends here

What is the difference between Pass Thru and Pass to the Centre?
     A Pass Thru can be done by any pair of facing dancers. They simply move forward, passing right shoulders with each other and end back to back with each other.
     A Pass to the Centre can only be done from an Eight Chain Thru formation or Parallel Waves. All dancers Pass Thru. Then the dancers on the outside do a Partner Trade. It ends in a Double Pass Thru formation.

Starting here . . . . . . . . . or here . . . . . . . . . . . . ends here. . . .

Pass to the Centre

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In orienting couples, Round Dancers imagine a circular room with a centre point. Place that centre point in the middle of the available dance area.

LINE OF DANCE – Facing towards line-of-dance means couples or individuals are facing around the hall like spokes of a wheel in counter-clockwise direction.

FACING TOWARDS REVERSE – Couples or individuals are facing clockwise around the circle.

BACK TO THE CENTRE means standing with your back to that centre point.

GENTS FACING THE WALL means the gents have their back to the centre point.

LADIES FACING THE CENTRE means they are facing towards the centre point but usually they are also facing their partner directly in front of them.

SIDE is a step to either side taking weight.

CLOSE is a step bringing feet together and parallel and changing weight.

TOUCH is the action in which the toe of the free foot touches the floor at the instep of the supporting foot. There is no weight change.

VINE FOUR is a movement that moves the dancer sideways to the right or left. For a Vine to the right the dancer steps sideways to the right on the right foot, crosses the left foot behind the right and steps on the left, steps sideways to the right again on the right, and crosses the left foot in front of the right and steps on it (Side, Behind, Side, In Front).

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     Should be a smooth, effortless gliding step in which the ball of the foot touches and slides across the surface of the floor before the heel is gently dropped to the floor. The length of stride should be fairly short with the movement coming mostly from knees down. Dance step should be coordinated with the beat of the music.

     When two dancers are side-by-side facing the same way they should join inside hands. Men should always hold palms up, ladies palms down. In the event of a same sex couple, the left-hand dancer turns palm up, right-hand dancer turns palm down.

     The action brings two people toward each other to pass by and end back-to-back. Hand holds should always be gentle and please let go before passing.

     (Described for Mainstream where it is limited to normal couples.) The man extends his left-hand with palm up to serve as a direction indicator and to lead, not pull. He places his right hand in the small of the lady’s back. The lady places her left-hand palm down in the man’s left and uses her right hand to work her skirt. Working as a unit, the couple turns around with the left-hand dancer backing up and the right hand dancer walking forward.

     This movement comes from the traditional lancers and is meant to be an elegant marching formation action done precisely in time to the music. It is supposed to take 32 beats of music – 4 steps for each side of your little square and then 4 steps for each side in reverse. This is not a race and the penalty for trying to win is to wait at home until the caller is done singing the words to the 32 beats of music.

     Stars move forward for all dancers and dancers are supposed to have inside hands joined in a “palm star” (hands together at average eye level with fingers up and palms touching).
     Thars have centres backing up while the outsides move forward. When the men are in the centre backing up their inside hands will form a “packsaddle/box star” (Four men with palms down take the wrist of the man ahead and link up to form a box). When the ladies are in the centre backing up they should simply touch hands in the centre in a “palm star”. The dancers in the centre must remember to allow those on the outside to set the pace, since they have to travel a much greater distance.
     In both Stars and Thars, ladies on the outside may elect to hold their skirts out to the side.

     Dancers turning in the centre should use a forearm turn (each hand with thumb beside fingers on the inside of the other’s arm).

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     Most conventions request Traditional Square Dance attire at the evening sessions. Check the advertisements to determine appropriate dress at other times. Crowded halls of enthusiastic dancers tend to be quite warm even in winter. Consider coolness when choosing your outfit.

     Comfortable shoes are a must when attending a dance that offers multiple sessions. Experienced dancers recommend at least two pairs of well broken-in shoes. Those who round dance might want to have another pair just for that activity. At least one pair of shoes should be suitable for a carpeted surface, as they are often found in Convention Centres and cannot always be covered with wood.

     Callerlab Program names are used to indicate the type of dancing which callers intend to call in each hall. Callers will expect the dancers to be familiar with the common uses of all of the calls on the designated list. In choosing a hall you should be reasonably confident that you and your partner have successfully danced, without help from the caller, all of the designated calls. Please be considerate of your fellow dancers who have faithfully attended lessons in order to learn all of the calls on the list. Do not try to dance in a hall where you are unfamiliar with some of the calls. If your home club claims to dance a certain program but your caller rarely uses certain calls on the list, ask for a review before the convention.

     Workshops are designed to be appropriate for dancers who would normally dance in the hall where they are offered. At a Non-Standard Workshop naming a call on the list for the hall, you should expect an in-depth look at some unusual positions with other calls from the same list being used too. If the workshop is an Introduction to the Next Level, then you should expect to be taught one or two new calls or to have a brief look at several calls from the next list, again assuming only those calls on the list for that hall. Usually workshops are cumulative so it is best to arrive in time to participate from the beginning.

     In Round dancing you should be aware of the Phase that you can dance. With a solid foundation at a certain phase you should be able to dance most of any dance that is designate to be that phase. If you and your partner find yourselves in over your heads, simply step quietly aside and let the circle go on.
     Teaches are designated by Phase and Rhythm and usually assume familiarity with most of the designated Roundalab moves for that phase and rhythm so that the cuer will be able to teach a new dance in a short time. Workshops or clinics usually are designed to teach several moves from a specific Phase and Rhythm.

     Study the program and decide what your priorities are. Pace yourself so that you have some energy left for the last evening session. Above all -- Have Fun!

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