Square Dance Caller Advice: Body Flow by Mel Wilkerson

This is a guest blog post by Mel Wilkerson.


This is the second in a series of long posts for newbie or newer callers. Whereas the last one was about ripping apart a singing call and making modules for use in patter and fillers for yourself, this one is more applicable to sight calling and in particular smooth dancing for both patter and singing calls (for those of you that write your own).
It is all about body flow.

Thank you to contributors from great teachers like Ken Ritucci, Tony Oxendine, Rich Reel and others at one time or another from whom I have happily plagiarised stolen and otherwise bastardised sections of their infinite wisdom, added some of my own thoughts and set this down on the keyboard.

BODY FLOW

Callers may create a myriad of choreographic sequences, however, if the caller does not pay attention to BODY FLOW and HAND USE when moving from one position to the next, the result is a technically legal choreographic sequence that is awkward and uncomfortable to dance.

Note: Always check your singing call figures for body flow, and hand use. Dance them yourself from BOTH positions.

The following are examples of GOOD body flow and hand use:

  • From a Line — Right and Left Thru, Flutter wheel…
  • From a Standard 2-Faced Line – Bend the Line, Reverse Flutter wheel…
  • From an Parallel Ocean Wave with Boys looking out – Boys Run, Reverse Flutter wheel

The following are examples of REALLY BAD body flow and hand use.

  • From a Line — Right and Left Thru, Reverse Flutter wheel… (YECCHH)
  • From a Standard 2-Faced Line – Bend the Line, Flutter wheel… (YECCHH)

Body flow is one aspect of smooth dancing and as important as variety. Don’t use choreography that is not flowing, especially if you are only doing so because you want to vary your calling or for gaining the dancers’ attention.

These goals can be achieved in other ways. You should try to think not only of one dancer when considering a combination. Think of more dancers, and especially think of the ladies.

No offense ladies, but the truth is that most callers are men and it is a proven scientific fact that most men are generally lazy. With that in mind, callers tend to find excellent flowing choreography for themselves (from a man’s perspective) and sometimes overlook the fact that usually two but sometimes all four of the ladies in the square have turned into human corkscrews.

Body flow has at least the following four aspects:

Aspect 1
The dancers should not be forced to sharply change their direction of motion.

An obvious example:
From Right Hand Waves: Ends Run; Bend the Line; Reverse the Flutter

Other bad flow examples which often occur with new callers managing formations or resolving the square:

  • From Lines facing out: Wheel & Deal; Zoom
  • From facing Couples: Star Thru; Veer Left
  • From Right Hand Box Circulate: Out facers Run; Veer Left

Aspect 2
The dancers should not be forced to use the same hand twice in a row.

An obvious example:
From Double Pass Thru: Centers Square Thru 3; Touch 1/4

Other examples:

  • From Static Square: Heads Square Thru 4; Star Thru
  • From Standard Lines: Star Thru; Right & Left Thru
  • From Standard Lines: Star Thru; Allemande Left

Aspect 3
Avoid overflow. From time to time the turning direction should be changed.

Example:
From Static Square: Heads Touch ¼; Head Boys Run; Star Thru; Slide Thru; Touch ¼; Boys Run; Partner Trade; Touch 1/4; Girls Run; Star Thru; California Twirl ….

Other examples include often seen two particular moves called back to back which are technically do-able but simply do not work and should never be called:

From Right Hand Waves:

  • Spin the Top; Fan the Top
  • Swing Thru; Fan the Top
  • Cast Off ¾; Swing Thru
  • Cast Off ¾; Centers Run

Aspect 4
Some calls end a little bit offset, so that the dancers might not be in the right position for the next call. Dancer anticipation must be considered and is acceptable for some things but should not be relied on for everything. Make your choreography smooth flowing in a way that dancers do not explode and/or spread out from the desired formation and have to constantly adjust to do the next call.

Examples:

  • from Standard Lines: Square Thru 2; Trade By
  • From Standard Lines: Everybody do the girl’s part of Slide Thru; Everybody Trade
  • From Lines: Tag the Line, Face Left; Centers Trade

On the other hand, the next combination is OK, because the dancers are expecting the next call and therefore adjust themselves to do it smoothly. This is another interesting aspect of Body Flow.

  • From Double Pass Thru: Centers Square Thru 3; Allemande Left

So with all that in mind, for all you newbie callers consider the following singing call figure that was pulled off a recording session at a caller’s school. What is wrong with it, other than the fact that it is a boring sequence?

  • Heads Promenade 1/2
  • Right and Left Thru
  • Square thru 2
  • Right and left thru
  • 8-Chain 2
  • Slide Thru
  • Right and Left Thru
  • Slide thru
  • Swing and Promenade
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