Square Dance Caller Advice: More on Building Patter from Singing Sequences by Mel Wilkerson

This is a guest blog post by Mel Wilkerson.

I just got some interesting correspondence on this post regarding using singing calls in patter by breaking them down into modules for use. Please remember doing this is not all there is to calling patter. It is only one small tool in the basic starter kit moving dancers around the floor.

The focus of the correspondence was looking at a singing call figure that really doesn’t break down much into remnants to give you module zeros (line or box zeros). This is true of many (probably nearly half) of all singing calls when you start getting into more complex choreography. The thing is do not even try to break down these more complex ones into anything beyond one or two uses. If you do, you will frustrate yourself trying to think of 1p2c lines or 1c-3p OS box and all sorts of crap that you really do not need to frustrate yourself with. The simple rule is: KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Do you need to know what a FASR/FAROO CW/CCW 1-3 OS position by number and letter designation means? No. It is nice to know and eventually all that stuff will come but in reality, at this point you don’t need it and frankly, you do not want it.

Anyway, back to the correspondence. The singing call provided was as follows:

Why 1 & 3 (2 & 4) you square thru & you count 4 hands you know
When you see the corner girl, do a little dosado
Swing thru & now boys run to the right
Tag the line & when you’re there, let’s cloverleaf tonight
Oh girls square thru, go 3 hands around
Swing that corner lady, promenade her
Heads Square thru 4 , Do-sa-do, Swing thru, Boys run, Tag the line, Cloverleaf, Girls square thru 3, Corner

Simple break down:

Heads square thru puts it into a box position (two boxes and in this case a zero box or allemande left box)
Do-sa-do does nothing to either the formation or arrangement
Swing thru – boys run (this makes a two face line with your original sides facing out and the heads not paired facing in and out of sequence. – in other words a two face line where you can call a wheel and deal and be at an allemande left)
Tag the line – this puts you in a completed double pass thru position with the girls in the lead – (for new callers this is a difficult formation to pick and flow from so we will ignore it for now
Cloverleaf – puts the girls in the middle of a double pass thru position – again this is a more difficult formation to recognise for new callers at a glance so we leave it alone
Girls square thru 3 – corner swing. – Note: this corner swing formation is not good for an allemande left


After the initial square thru you are in a zero box (allemande left box). You can add in any module for a box, or any singing call figure remnant that takes you from a zero box to a zero box. For example from the call (heads promenade ½ , sides right and left thru, square thru four (ZB), right and left thru, veer left, ferris wheel, pass thru (ZB), swing corner) – you can add the singing call remnant from the zero box(ZB) to the (ZB) as a module

After the swing thru – boys run you are in a two face line. This particular line has one couple (sides) paired facing out, and the other facing in. Learn to recognise this formation. It really doesn’t matter which paired couple is facing out. All you have to know is that the couple facing in is not paired. From there it is just a matter of seeing if one of the unpaired couple is a corner for the paired couple. If it is you now have a corner get out in your repertoire.

From a two faced line – paired couple facing out and the unpaired couple has a corner dancer for the paired couple you simply call the rest of the singing call figure to an in sequence corner pairing – Tag the line, cloverleaf, girls square thru 3 – CNR
From this position a star thru and boys circulate takes you to a partner promenade, but there are lots of other options

The important thing is that if you recognise this starting position (two face line – one couple paired facing out and the other not paired and one of the dancers is a corner to the paired dancer in the line – you have a get out

This particular singing call figure is probably not the best one to break down into component bits and pieces for modular example but it does have some aspects which are good for new callers.

The module that you have is from a zero box.

Swing thru, boys run, tag the line, cloverleaf, girls square thru 3 – takes me to a corner swing
Most would think that it is really only good for corner resolution from a zero box or for use as a get out. This is not the case at all.

It is also a good box to line conversion by adding a star thru or a slide thru at the end of it. Let’s say for sake of argument you are calling away and you get lost and lose track of where the dancers are. You do however see that they are in a box, so you call this little module: swing thru, boys run, tag the line, cloverleaf, girls square thru 3, star thru. You are now in a two face line boys on the inside. You have a chance to see who is with whom and carry on.

But wait there is more.

A zero box is a box where everyone is facing their corner.
A corner two face line is a two face line in sequence where everyone has their corner as a partner.
With the addition of the “star thru” we also have a module conversion from a corner box to a corner two face line.

This may not be of great use to you at the moment, but as your repertoire of modules and such grows, you will have added conversions, lines to boxes, boxes to lines, and get outs from known positions. They all help build the caller into a well-rounded repository of knowledge.

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