Category Archives: Learning to Call

Square Dance Caller Resource: Ocean Wave Resolution Technique by Dave Wilson

There are many different ways to control choreography in square dancing (reading from a page, using modules, using a mental image of the square, sight calling), but no matter what you do, you have to resolve the square at some point. Here is one method for resolving that uses ocean waves as the beginning point. This technique can be used when sight calling.

Book: Dancing for Busy People by Calvin Campbell

“Dancing for Busy People” is a collection of over 400 dances using easy to teach dance movements. Most dances use only walking movements based on commonly used square dance terminology. Only 25 basics are used. The same basics are used for contra dances, trios, quadrilles, Sicilian circles, mescolanzas and many of the round dance mixers. Some special description of footwork is necessary for the no-partner dances.

You can contact Calvin to purchase the book at this link:

Square Dance Caller Advice: Formation Management by Mel Wilkerson

This is a guest blog post by Mel Wilkerson.

Here is the latest post on formation management. Many callers will not agree and others probably will. That is probably because they either were involved in teaching me or I stole the material from them. lol. Please feel free to comment on any of these posts.


Credit for most of this information goes to Callers like Ken Ritucci, Tony Oxendine, Randy Page, Bill Harrison, Al Stevens, Bob Moffatt and many others too numerous to mention. It is an intermix of some of my own thoughts, some documentation from caller schools and workshops and other material happily begged, borrowed or stolen in the process of myself learning to call.
To all those that I have happily stolen from, it was done with their knowledge and permission with one request – usually the request of a good caller and mentor – pass it on, play with it and make it yours, and if you can help someone else along the way, give it to them as well.

The documentation on formation management extends in various books, manuals etc. to well over a thousand pages of technical mumbo-jumbo. This is not to say that such technical work is not valuable. On the contrary, it is exceptionally so. However for a newer or even an experienced caller, it can be very overwhelming. What I am trying to do here is to break formation management down to a more basic concept for ready and simplistic understanding.

Instead of asking what formations is this, and what formation is that, and what is the technical alphanumerical arrangement for this type of position or that funny shape and what to the technical terms like 1p2p or ZBOSD3c etc., etc., etc. mean for formations, TRY INSTEAD TO ACCEPT THAT the question of formation management can be reduced into a simple query.

Question: How do I get in and out of dancing situations while keeping the dancers moving, maintaining my program emphasis, challenging the dancers and having them succeed without my losing control of the squares?

Answer: Follow the calling process and utilise extemporaneous (not fixed or pre-written) formation management techniques.

So if the “Calling Process” is the answer – what is it? The calling process is essentially 8 basic steps. (Mind you step 8 applies to all the other steps)

Step 1: Learn the mechanics of square dance choreography
Step 2: Learn to use Modules – (zeros, conversions, flip flops etc)
Step 3: Learn to use 2 couple people mover techniques
Step 4: Learn to choose your key dancers and find them in a pilot square
Step 5: Learn a dependable formula for resolving the square
Step 6: Learn people mover techniques
Step 7: Learn to recognise and work formations

Remember: The ability to manage formations does not happen overnight!

Formation Recognition

Formation management is a skill that takes a long time to develop and must start with an analysis of square dance formations and the SIX arrangements in which is possible for them to occur.

While there are literally hundreds of possible formations, in general terms there are 20, which are the most commonly occurring. These are outlined below with a brief explanation of how to achieve them where warranted. Note they are formations only and do not denote boy girl relationships. This is important.

1. Facing in lines of four
2. Facing out lines of four
3. Eight chain thru position (Heads square thru gets you there)
4. Right facing two face lines (from a heads square thru box, veer left)
5. Left two facing lines (from a heads square thru box, veer right)
6. Right facing column (from facing lines call touch 1/4)
7. Left facing column (from facing lines call left touch 1/4)
8. Trade by formation (from a heads square thru box call pass thru)
9. Parallel right hand waves (from facing lines call pass the ocean)
10. Parallel left hand waves (from facing lines call Dixie style to a wave)
11. Starting double pass thru (the position you are in after a Ferris wheel)
12. Completed double pass thru (self explanatory)
13. 1/4 tag formation (Heads pass the ocean)
14. 1/4 Line formation (Heads star thru and veer left
15. 1/4 box formation or 3/4 box formation (column with 2 persons facing in – 2 persons facing out is a 3/4 box formation) From facing lines call touch 1/4 and the ends roll = 1/4 box)
16. 3/4 tag formation (an ocean wave between couples facing out – Heads pass thru, Sides pass the ocean)
17. Diamonds in general (from a two face line or wave, centres hinge)
18. Twin facing diamonds (from a line ends pass thru centres pass the ocean)
19. “Z” formation (From ocean wave, ends fold)
20. Three by one lines (Heads touch 1/4 and spread, sides step in and make a line.

Caller Lab lists over 79 different recognised formations such as individual circles, promenades and such but they are:
1. either heavily complex and transitory usually only seen at advanced levels and higher for formation recognition (you will get there); or
2. very simple such as facing dancers or back to back dancers or right and left grand circle or promenades, Alamo rings etc. which you should be able to recognise easily before you even thought about being a caller. Don’t ignore them they are important, but that is not where the focus lies at the moment.

The above 20 formations are essentially the basic building blocks of calling. While some of these are foundation positions (like lines or waves) others are transitory positions that are infrequent and only set up to move through quickly (such as a “Z” formation or 3/4 tag.
Learn the formations, learn to recognise them and see them when they occur.


Once you have a basic understanding of what the formations are it is time to become aware of formation movement. In simple terms this is described as moving around the square.

Fact: Each successive movement begins from a particular formation and that formation will be characterized by a particular boy-girl arrangement.

The caller must be able to determine what calls he/she can legitimately call from any given position and what he or she cannot call.

NOTE: Whilst some calls may be legitimate, be aware of body flow.

A caller must know what formations each successive movement called will put the dancers in, and develop the ability to anticipate, before the dancers get there, the arrangement and formation consequences of each successive call.

For example in the following sequence you must note (formation) which you choose a movement (call) which gives you an anticipated new formation (finish) – the (finish) then becomes the new formation for the next call. Follow the sequence below

Heads lead right, circle to a line, touch 1/4, all 8 circulate, boys run.

If my start is a static square (formation) and I call Heads lead right and circle to a line (call) I anticipate a finish formation of facing lines (finish). My new start formation is facing lines (formation) and I call touch 1/4 (call) my anticipated finish formation is columns (finish). My new start formation is a column (formation) I then call all 8 circulate (call) and my anticipated finish formation is a column (finish). My new start formation is columns (formation) and I call boys run (call) my anticipated finish formation is then an 8 chain 4 box (finish) and so on and so on.

Note: While this example (above) is a zero line (ZL) ending in a Zero Box (ZB), those specific things are not important for the concept of moving dancers. The importance is stressed more on knowing what the general formation is, and not the position of partners and corners or key couples.

Manage the dancer using movements that flow and change smoothly from one formation to another and keep them dancing

Do not worry about original partner and corner relationships until you are ready to resolve the square. It is not important yet.

One of the big mysteries in calling is that you hear everyone talking about FASR or any of the other new acronyms that describe where everyone is and what each person is and where in relation to the rest of the square

1. Is it important?

2. Do I need to Master it before I learn to call?

3. Do I have to know all of this for every call I make?

4. When do I have to be most aware of FASR?
F&A while moving the dancers around and S&R when it is time to resolve the square

5. Can I just know the basics and move up to learn the hard stuff later and still be successful calling?


Now that the dancers are moving, you must eventually decide to confront the challenge of getting them “home”. This is referred to as resolving the square. Although there are many methods of achieving this goal, start by learning only one and master it to form a basis to work from. (I personally prefer the friends and enemies technique but there are many. Find one you like and master it.

However, in order to approach a resolution technique, it is important to introduce the he/she relationship to formations. To achieve the get out, the caller must get the cancers from any formation/position into a known FASR position.

F (Formation) The geometric shape of the square
A (Arrangement) Position of boys and girls in the square
S (Sequence) Sequence of the dancers in the square
R (Relationship) Partner pairings of the dancers in the square

This sounds like a very complex process but in reality it is not. Although there are literally thousands of potential combinations possible, it is NOT necessary to be aware of them all, or in reality any of them beyond the basic level of pairing your key couple and seeing if his corner is paired.

The following method is highly structured and it is true that most experienced callers do not appear to follow the highly structured step-by-step method.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: It is important to know, AND BELIEVE, that the reason that highly experience callers do not appear to follow the step-by-step method, is that generally after using sure “get-out” techniques and people moving techniques, the experienced caller has developed the ability to recognise positions and placing on the floor from almost any formation (FASR state).
These callers have also developed the ability to seemingly “luck out” in finding a corner. Believe me, it is not luck. Practice has developed the skills to the point where the steps of the resolution become incorporated as part of the extemporaneous part of the patter routine. In many cases, callers see the pairing and use modifications of the basic method, or fixed memorized get outs from known and recognised FASR states when they happen.

HOWEVER: It is always important to remember that you as a caller need the basics to begin. If by chance you see that your dancers are in an unusual position, or somewhere where you did not expect them to be, you must trust and rely on your “sure resolution method” to keep out of trouble in any situation.

We as callers all know, and have experienced, losing our place on a cue sheet, or on a memorised module and having to start over. You know that heart wrenching new caller frustration when we make an error and start the dance over, etc. You know you have all done it at one point or another.

Knowing at least one sure fire resolution technique gives any caller the confidence to never have to do that, and never feel embarrassed or self-conscious about not being able to resolve. It’s the greatest lift and confidence booster to building choreographic flexibility there is.
So now we know the F (formation) we are aware of the A (arrangement) (boy girl pairing or not so that we can call the next movement) and we have been calling about a dozen or so movements… now we need to find that ever elusive corner for the “get out”

This is where your S (sequence) and r (Relationship) come into play. You have to pair them up and put them in the right order in order to call that allemande left.

Many callers will disagree with me on this statement, but in my opinion, until I am ready to resolve, the sequence and arrangement do not matter. MOVING DANCERS IS FORMATION AND ARRANGEMENT. GETTING THEM HOME IS ADDING THE SEQUENCE AND RELATIONSHIP TO THE FIRST TWO. DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT UNTIL THEN.

The next step in calling is the resolution technique that you have chosen to master. For new callers, find one, master it and use it effectively from different challenges until you are confident. Then learn another and so on.

As I said, the one I prefer as a basic method is the Friends and Enemies technique.


Friends: The four Key dancers in the pilot square (example couples 1&4)
Enemies The remaining four dancers in the square

Step 1: When ready to resolve the square, arrange the square in normal girl on the right boy on the left parallel (right couple facing in) 2-face lines
Step 2: Pair up the key man with his partner (Use circulates or trades) and if the key couple is not facing out, call couples circulate. (The end position is a 2-face line with the key couple paired up on the left side of the line facing out)
Step 3: Call “bend the line”. (The dancers are now in facing lines with the key man and his partner on the left end of the line)
Step 4: Check the friends and enemies. Identify the couple directly across from the key man and his partner.
Step 5: Call the appropriate get out resolution.


Step 1: When ready to resolve the square, arrange the square in normal girl on the right boy on the left parallel (right couple facing in) 2-face lines.

In order to form normal right facing 2-face lines the following solutions are helpful.

  • Box or ocean wave – call – swing thru; boys run
  • Facing lines of four – call – Star thru, veer left
  • Normal column – call – 8 circulate, boys run, veer left
  • Normal trade by – call – trade by; swing thru, boys run
  • Normal 1/4 tag – call – extend, swing thru, boys run
  • Normal Double pass thru – call – centres pass thru, swing thru, boys run

Step 2: Pair up the key man with his partner (Use circulates or trades) and if the key couple is not facing out, call couples circulate. (The end position is a 2-face line with the key couple paired up on the left side of the line facing out)

In two face lines, no dancer is ever more than 2 circulates away from the original partner. Use the circulates and/or trades as appropriate.

Note: be flexible, use combinations such as ends circulate & centres trade, or centres trade & couples circulate, or even use ends trade. Remember single use combinations are much nicer to dance than calling boys circulate, then girls circulate three times in order to achieve the desired end position of key couple paired up and facing out.

Step 3: Call “bend the line”. (The dancers are now in facing lines with the key man and his partner on the left end of the line)

There are many ways to get to this position and with experience callers often instantly recognise the pairing of key couple on the left of a facing line. This allows you to by-pass steps one and two. However, until you are ready and comfortable, force yourself to use the full 5-step method for confidence building.

Step 4: Check the friends and enemies. Identify the couple directly across from the key man and his partner.

The mirror aspect always assures that you have at least 2 couples paired and that caller knows their location because the caller is the one that put them there.

In simple terms:

1. The caller paired up the key couple, put them on the left side of the line facing in so thus knows where they are and does not have to think about them any more.

2. The mirror aspect of the square shows that the other half of the line and the other opposite couple are identical to the key couple half, thus you do not have to worry about them either.

3. Thus the only two dancers important to the resolution are the two dancers directly opposite the key couple.

The next part of step four is to believe that (because it is true) there are only 4 possible combinations opposite the key couple.

  • Combination 1: 2 friends – (the other couple you selected at the beginning)
  • Combination 2: enemies – (Neither of the dancers is part of the second selected couple)
  • Combination 3: Friend Boy/enemy girl – (Selected boy but he does not have his partner)
  • Combination 4: Enemy Boy/Friend girl (Selected girl but does not have her partner)

Unless the caller has been using asymmetric choreography, or the dancers have made a dancing error, these are the only four combinations possible.

Being able to do this smoothly requires practice, practice and more practice.

Recognition of who the paired couple is standing opposite your key couple becomes much simpler once you have developed the confidence to believe that the rest of the square is where you put them, and thus they no longer are important to resolving the square.


Step 5 Call the appropriate get out resolution.

There are only four line combinations possible as discussed above. In step five, each one of the four will be discussed, identified by its partner (friend/enemy) pairing. In each case there is a “FIXED” resolution for resolving to be used.

It is understood that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of possible solutions that would work to resolve. However, force yourself to use these ones only until you are comfortable and confident with them. That way they are yours always, and you will know that as you grow as a caller, you will never have to worry about losing your dancers again. Once they are yours, then begin to expand on the technique and become one of those callers that seem to “luck out” and resolves from anywhere. Remember they were reading something like this document when they started, and got to where they are now by PRACTICE.

Position – Resolution Calls

  • 2 friends – call – Allemande left or star thru, square thru 3
  • 2 enemies – call – Star thru, pass thru, allemande left
  • Friend Boy/enemy girl – call – Pass thru, wheel and deal, centres square thru 3, allemande left
  • Enemy Boy/Friend girl – call – Pass thru, wheel and deal, centres pass thru, allemande left

As previously stated, there are literally thousands, if not millions of possible resolutions to a square. The only limitation is the imagination and creativity of the caller. You will build your repertoire with practice. HOWEVER, this system always works and makes a good start point for building.

Note: It is important to use variety and changes in get-out resolutions; otherwise the dancers begin to recognise the formations and the get-out process. They will begin to anticipate your calls and thus can become easily bored and ready. This could lead to you losing the “happy surprise” aspect of resolution and the dancers develop a feeling of being cheated from their success.

Nevertheless, It is essential to learn at least one sure fire resolution technique as a base. It is not a finish point; it is only a beginning to build from.

Square Dance Caller Advice: Sight Calling by Mel Wilkerson

This is a guest blog post by Mel Wilkerson.

Benefits Of Sight Calling
Rich Reel 18 July 1999

  • Watch dancers 100% of the time (connect with them)
  • Catch and correct mistakes more consistently
  • Adjust level of difficulty instantly
  • Custom tailor workshop for problem calls and/or concepts
  • Resolve quickly when squares break down
  • Develop a mastery of choreography

I’ve already seen many of these benefits in my very first club calling experiences.

Things tend to go well when you prepare, and not so well when you don’t. Areas that you have prepared go much better than areas you haven’t. If you work on one area to exclusion of others, that one area is usually the only area you feel good about after you have called. You will feel disappointment in the other areas you have not prepared for.

Rich was a very smart man and given what he gave as axioms in 1999 I am posting about one more tool in the tool box.

One aspect of sight calling I get asked about a fair bit is what extemporaneous sight calling is. This is a term which often flies in the face of everything I say and most other callers say about preparation and practice and more practice with your calling. The term is probably the best appropriate misnomer that there is.

Extemporaneous – adjective
1. Done, spoken, performed, etc., without special advance preparation; impromptu: an extemporaneous speech.
2. Previously planned but delivered with the help of few or no notes: extemporaneous lectures.
3. Speaking or performing with little or no advance preparation: extemporaneous actors.
4. Made for the occasion, as a shelter.

Those are essentially what extemporaneous means: doing it on the fly without advanced preparation, being impromptu with no notes and no preparation on the delivery… basically everything that a good caller will tell you not to do.

The reality is that extemporaneous sight is essentially making it up as you go along… but that does not mean being unprepared.

  • You will have already practiced at least one resolution technique so you will never get lost again.
  • You will have already decided a focus movement for your tip (even quickly).
  • You have practiced and prepared in all the time you took learning to call and mastering your art.
  • You deliver your “unprepared” and “impromptu” seemingly made up on the spot choreography with no problems and everyone says, “WOW.”

Now that is sight calling.

Yes, it is, but there is a lot more that goes into it. Extemporaneous sight calling is memory calling, module calling, formation recognition and management (all put together and memorised), using zeroes and conversions, memorising resolution techniques – how to set them up and bring them back – and sometimes just getting plain lucky all thrown in one tip in a seemingly haphazard way without really caring who is with who until you are ready to get them home.
For the dancers, it is about smooth flowing, interesting and successfully challenged choreography and mainly fun and entertainment.

For the caller, it is mainly having practiced moving the dancers from one movement to another smoothly, recognising a few basic formations, and knowing how to resolve to get them back.
For example, I am visiting a club and the caller asks me to a guest tip. I have not prepared anything special for that evening but I always carry a few records or a thumb drive these days with me. I choose the move recycle and the song Ghost riders in the sky in my head. Nothing flashy or way over the top because I AM THERE AS A GUEST, NOT AS A FEATURE. I call smooth choreography and use the movement recycle a few times from a couple of different set ups and then use a figure known to me for the singing call that has recycle in it.

Well, that is a long winded introduction to the next posting in this sequence of tools in the tool box.

Here is another tool that you can use to make yourself better at sight calling. Some call it two couple dancing, others call it mirror image dancing and others call it isolated sight. I prefer the latter term but essentially they are all correct.

WARNING: Like all other tools, it is very useful but remember, you cannot build anything with only one tool.


Isolated sight is a calling technique used to isolate (or separate) two couples in a square. In theory, the methodology of isolated sight is to move the selected dancers through a series of choreographic sequences while keeping them separate from the other dancers in the square. As long as there is never another dancer (i.e. not one of the four you are working with) they are considered isolated and the techniques of isolated sight apply.

In keeping these two couples isolated, or separate from the other dancers in the square, it is possible to use a variety of choreographic manoeuvres and sequences. In basic terms, isolated sight is a two couple people mover technique used in conjunction with a complete square. (It is the application of two couple dancing; only it is done with a full square moving at the same time. You only work with two couples and ignore the others.)

1. The technique allows the caller and the dancers to concentrate on the specific nuances of selected choreography without having to worry about the rest of the square (Mirror image – what one half does the other half does)
2. The snapshot (often referred to as a burnt image) aspect of the technique allows callers a quick path to get-out resolution in case of difficulty with his/her choreography
3. It facilitates very easy teaching of movements which (as most do) only requires two couples.
4. It gives the caller the advantage of two couple concentration, whereby when using cross over movements (scoot back – Ferris wheel and pass through) the caller may concentrate on the isolated dancers while still giving the feeling of total interaction with the rest of the square.

1. It can very easily lead to overflow or redundant choreography if the caller is unprepared or if the dancer ability is limited
2. It is very susceptible to becoming a “caller crutch” and therefore predictable to dancers when new material is being introduced


Technique: The basic technique starts from a static square but may be modified to suit requirements as the technique is developed

STEP 1: Select Key Couples in a Square – Nominally couples 1 and 4

STEP 2: Use a “get-in” to set up a snapshot of the chosen four dancers. (Example: Sides Square thru 4…. Snapshot the image on key couple” – This position is a Zero Box)

STEP 3: Call your choreography stressing your tips emphasis calls, which moves the dancers through your dance, yet never separates the four.

STEP 4: When ready to resolve or return to a “known location” return your dancers to the “snapshot position”. It is important to not that when you move the key couple to the outside of the snap shot box, the square is zeroed.

1. A right and left thru is a great direction changer for eliminating overflow and setting up a new flow

2. Crossover zeros and equivalents are an effective interaction with the rest of the square without breaking the isolation of the four chosen dancers. (For example, from a zero box (the position you are in when you finish a “heads square thru”) swing thru, boys run, Ferris wheel, pass thru brings you back to the same position but the Ferris wheel creates a cross over interaction with the rest of the square.

3. Use flip-flops movements or modules to create square interaction without changing the isolation of the four chosen dancers. (Example: Eight chain four or relay the Deucey. Both these movements interact the dancers and flip-flop them to the exact same position only on the other side of the square)

Note: With practice, multiple snapshots become possible giving increased flexibility by moving and changing isolated couples

1. Set-up to a Zero Box = snapshot the position for isolated sight Chorography
Return to the Zero box (ZB) snapshot
2. Call: right and left thru, Pass thru, trade by (cross your fingers to remind you)
o You have just set up another snap shot (out of sequence Box(OSB)) for isolated sight choreography with other couples in the square
Return to the new snapshot position (OSB)
3. Call right and left thru, pass thru, trade by (uncross your fingers)

So to see how this all works lets go back a bit to my previous example of being asked to call a guest tip and I am a “newer caller”. I know the singing call figure from Ghost Riders and my caller-mentor who asked me to do a guest tip at his dance chose recycle for me to use.

Singing call figure: (H) square thru 4, swing thru, scoot back, ladies trade, recycle, sweep 1/4, square thru 3, cnr.

I want to use recycle in my patter and my singing call and I have practiced my resolution techniques however, I have not prepared a tip for this evening. My mentor surprised me. OH No!
Relax – just keep it simple yet interesting and use the moving techniques you know. You know at least one resolution technique so, if you get lost you know there is no real problem to get the dancers home.

Now you think, I want to use this movement recycle but I need to watch it – I know…two couple patterns (or that isolated sight stuff they talked about)

The heads are in a box so I will start with them… (heads at home is my snapshot)

Heads pass the ocean, ladies trade, recycle, slide thru – heads at home

Let’s do the sides now. (snapshot sides at home)

Sides right and left thru, ½ sashay, pass the ocean “boys in the middle trade”, swing thru, recycle, sweep ¼ (snap shot – sides are home)

NOTE. Those two quick heads and sides routines I made very short to avoid a lot of standing, but look: although those are quick and painless, by doing this, I just created two box zeros. Do not try to remember them now. Just focus on what you are doing.

Now to get the whole square moving…

Square thru four (Zero box snap shot only two couples – head man (left) side of the square will do)

Move these two couples around in relatively short sequences but make sure you break the flow by interacting with the other side of the square. For example:

(ZB snapshot) tch ¼, scoot back, hinge, ladies trade, recycle

Now I need an interaction with the rest of the square. I do not know where the dancers are in relation to my snapshot and at this point I do not care. I just want to change the body flow a bit, interact with the other side of the square and come back to my snapshot to get out.

Right and left thru, veer left, ferris wheel, centres pass thru –

That brings me back to my isolated four dancers. I want to quickly move the dancers back to my snapshot. I want to keep my focus on recycle.

Dosado, make a wave, ladies trade, recycle (ZB snapshot) flow is good left hand is free, why not? Allemande left and right and left grand.

This whole sequence is isolated sight.

  • It was not memorised.
  • It was not a module (other than the right and left thru, veer left, Ferris wheel, pass thru – to intermix with the rest of the square).
  • It kept the focus on my feature move – recycle.
  • It was not always the same way of getting there even though the recycle was done from the same right hand standard position.
  • I have used the figure focus for my singing call.
  • The choreography was varied and interesting for the dancers.
  • I did not try and outshine the host caller but gave a good show of myself to the dancers.
  • I have used the figure focus for my singing call.

I now have another tool in my tool box to help me become a better sight caller.

The entire sequence thus far, (about the first minute and a half of the patter tip looked like this.

(H) pass the ocean, ladies trade, recycle, slide thru, heads back away – Sides right and left thru and a half sashay, pass the ocean “boys in the middle trade”, swing thru, recycle, sweep 1/4, back away and the heads Square thru four, touch 1/4, scoot back, hinge, ladies trade, recycle, Right and left thru, veer left, ferris wheel, centres pass thru, Dosado, make a wave, ladies trade, recycle, Allemande left and right and left grand

Now that is not a bad looking sequence and personally, I think it would be a nightmare to try and memorise, but we do not have to because it is just a couple of isolated site sequences and a zero module intermix. Same sequence now in short. (ss = snapshot for two couple dancing, im = intermix memorised module)

  • (ss- heads) pass the ocean, ladies trade, recycle, slide thru, heads back away
  • (ss- sides) Sides right and left thru and a ½ sashay, pass the ocean “boys in the middle trade”, swing thru, recycle, sweep ¼, back away
  • Heads Square thru four,
  • (ss – zero box) tch ¼, scoot back, hinge, ladies trade, recycle,
  • (im to change body flow and mix with the rest of the square) Right and left thru, veer left, ferris wheel, centres pass thru,
  • (two couple movement to my snapshot zero box) Dosado, make a wave, ladies trade, recycle, (ss – Zero Box) Allemande left and right and left grand.

Have fun and play with this concept. Comments are always welcome.

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.


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.

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.


  • 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

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.

Square Dance Caller Advice: Patter Calling by Mel Wilkerson

This is a guest blog post by Mel Wilkerson.

This is a long post regarding calling patter for the first time around. Of the six or seven new callers I am corresponding with, this is an issue that frequently comes out and newer callers often feel disheartened that they are not sight calling and get lost when trying to remember long patter sequences.

I say, “Don’t.”

You already know long sequences but you know them in short bits. This is from a training exercise in one of my caller schools where we had the callers break down and create a full patter call using only two modules (every caller used the same ones), and two known singing call figures). No other moves were allowed except moving dancers into a single resolution technique if the callers got lost. It is quite basic but, for experienced callers, it is also quite challenging to go back to basics.

Before you read on however, I am a very strong proponent of sight calling, extemporaneous calling and resolution, even though this exercise may not seem like it. Remember it is a training, confidence building and learning exercise.

Starting Out Calling Patter – Two Singing Calls and Two Zeros Only

There are many books, texts, modules, organisational workshops, caller schools and other resources available to all callers at any level. Nevertheless, when virtually all callers start (yes there are a few exceptions), they begin to practice their first patters by using the known. This usually takes two forms:

1. Just calling random movements to feel the rhythm of patter and working the music.

  • One benefit of this is you learn to adapt phrasing and flow of word annunciation with the music.
  • One big drawback is that you are not actually using the music timing of movements and body flow to incorporate into your patter.

2. The second and more common thing that happens is that most new callers know about 1-5 singing calls and draw on that memory of the figures to adapt their patter routines into flowing and successful flow

  • One benefit of this is that the timing is known usually for the movements and the body flow is accurate usually to a resolution. It is comfortable and easy. It is also a good way to adapt patter phrasing and flow with the music.
  • One drawback is that your patter becomes redundant and you tend to rely on the same flow figures over and over again.

HOWEVER, the second method is a very valuable tool.

I have been asked by many new callers that I have taught, “”How do you sight call and still remember so many zeroes and combinations and modules?” Part of the secret is to accept that PURE SIGHT CALLING IS A MYTH – IT DOESN’T EXIST.

How is that for a controversial statement? The truth is patter calling is much, much more than just moving dancers around the floor successfully. I have yet to meet a caller that does not have memory modules and tools in the toolbox to draw from. Sight calling is little more than knowing your basic three tools and expanding the toolbox beyond one or two known formations comfortably. As you grow and practice, so too does the tool box and so too does your ability to sight call, move dancers without memorised sequences and the ability to resolve from anywhere.
As callers get better and more practiced, their ability to randomise the flow and move the dancers comfortably around the floor in a seemingly random flow increases. The reason for this is that they have learned to use the tools effectively and have learned to build bigger and better things with the tools and resources available. Nevertheless, pretty much all of them start with three basic tools


1. Understanding of the square dance movement. Knowing how the movement works – where it starts and where it finishes.

  • This does not mean knowing where everyone is or what the name of this or that formation is or even who is specifically with whom. All of that will come in time.
  • This refers to things like from a static square – heads square thru puts me in a box. OR a pass thru from a line of four takes me from a face to face position to a back to back position but still in a line – simple things.
  • If you understand those basics and your movements for the level you are learning (hopefully starting at basic and mainstream) then you will quickly learn that when I call this movement, I end up in this type of position and I can call something appropriate from the new position.

2. The caller must learn ONE GUARANTEED RESOLUTION TECHNIQUE and practice it until you own it.

  • Once you own a resolution technique, then you can confidently state that it doesn’t matter where the dancers are at any time you can get them home.
  • Knowing that you know this is the greatest confidence builder in the world.
  • It means that you will never get lost and you can move dancers around and if you lose your place, you will always be able to get them back home without having to call – “FIX IT”..or “Star promenade pick up your original partner and promenade home – etc.
  • Don’t laugh: even the very best callers have done this at one time or another
  • PS: once you know one resolution technique – you can call yourself a sight caller because the first two tools are really all sight calling is.

3. The caller must learn at least ONE MODULE ZERO FROM A LINE and ONE MODULE ZERO FROM A BOX

  • The reason I say this is that these two zeroes are your breathing time to relax and gather yourself when you lose your place on the floor.
  • Trust me it will happen, but if you know your movements, it doesn’t matter. – you are always no more than three moves from either a line or a box no matter where you are in the square.
  • Once you get to either that line or box, you can use one of those two modules to gather yourself, whilst keeping the dancers moving.
  • This allows you to use your one guaranteed resolution technique to get home and start again.

The two module zeroes that I learned first were:

From a Box (two boxes actually one on each side of the square)

Swing thru – Girls circulate – Boys trade – Boys run – Bend the line – Touch 1/4 – All 8 circulate – Boys run

From a line (facing lines of four)

Pass thru – wheel and deal – double pass thru – first go left – next go right

Note that both of those have an interactive flow with the dancers throughout the square but do absolutely nothing other than move the dancers from one point, back to the same point without changing anything.

OK so now I have my three basic tools. I have to ask – how do I call?

Start easy. Move the dancers around using known stuff to make your patters. Let’s, for instance, start with a common singing call pattern from one of your known singing calls.

First – look at the full call and see what it does.

Heads Square Thru 4 – Swing Thru – Boys Run – Ferris Wheel – Centers Pass Thru – Slide thru – Square Thru 3 – Swing Corner and Promenade Home

Hmmmmm… This takes me from a static square to a corner swing. If I change the corner swing to an allemande left, I have a short patter sequence.

Now, let’s look at where this puts us with each movement we call, but at this point we are only going to look at lines and boxes. (Don’t worry the rest will come later as more tools get into your tool box.)

  • Heads Square Thru 4, – (from a static square to a box)
  • Swing Thru, (not a line or box – ignore it for now)
  • Boys Run, (two face line – but not a line of four or box so ignore it for now)
  • Ferris Wheel, (double pass thru position, not a line of four or box so ignore it for now)
  • Centers Pass Thru, (box)
  • Slide thru (line of four)
  • Square Thru 3, (line of four facing out – not a facing line or box so ignore it for now.)
  • Allemande left
  • Promenade

We can now incorporate our known line or box modules to make a longer patter sequence.

  • Heads Square Thru 4, – (BOX – insert box module)
  • Swing Thru, (not a line or box – ignore it for now)
  • Boys Run, (two face line – but not a line of four or box so ignore it for now)
  • Ferris Wheel, (double pass thru position, not a line of four or box so ignore it for now)
  • Centers Pass Thru, (BOX – Insert box module)
  • Slide thru (LINE OF FOUR – Insert line module)
  • Square Thru 3, (line of four facing out – not)
  • Allemande left
  • Promenade

Now with only one singing call figure, one line zero, and one box zero our full patter looks like this:

Heads Square Thru 4, – (Swing thru – Girls circulate – Boys trade – Boys run – Bend the line – Touch ¼ – All 8 circulate – Boys run) – Swing Thru – Boys Run – Ferris Wheel – Centers Pass Thru – (Swing thru – Girls circulate – Boys trade – Boys run – Bend the line – Touch ¼ – All 8 circulate – Boys run) – Slide thru (Pass thru – wheel and deal – double pass thru – first go left – next go right) – Square Thru 3, allemande left – promenade

At this point we have not done any sight calling. All we have done is used three memorised modules (the singing call figure, a box module and a line module).

Many new callers say at this point that yes but I only know one box module I need to know more. My answer to this is that you already do know. Let’s look at your singing call figure again.

Heads Square Thru 4 – Swing Thru – Boys Run – Ferris Wheel – Centers Pass Thru – Slide thru – Square Thru 3 – Swing Corner & Promenade Home

After the first heads square thru you are in a zero box (allemande left box). The swing thru – boys run – ferris wheel – centres pass thru – brings you back to this same box. Now you have two box modules that you can use at any time and you have not had to memorise anything else.

You also know that from any zero box (allemande left box) you can call two successful memorised resolutions to an allemande left. Both of these are in your singing call figure already.

The first (from a zero box – the entire singing call figure) Swing Thru – Boys Run – Ferris Wheel – Centers Pass Thru – Slide thru – Square Thru 3 – allemande left

The second is from the last zero box after the centres pass thru: Slide thru – Square Thru 3 – allemande left

Now most new callers have at least two singing call figures memorised so let’s add a second simple singing call to what we have already.

Heads Square thru – Right and Left Thru – Veer Left – Couples Circulate – Chain Down The Line – Star Thru – Pass Thru – Trade By – Swing and Promenade

As we did with the first singing call, let’s break it down only into boxes and lines of four, and change the swing and promenade to an allemande left and promenade.

  • Heads Square thru (box)
  • Right & Left Thru (box)
  • Veer Left
  • Couples Circulate
  • Chain Down The Line (line of four)
  • Star Thru (box)
  • Pass Thru
  • Trade By (box)
  • Allemande left and promenade

What I am going to do now is use the three zero modules that I have and insert into the sequences. Remember the three modules we have:

1. (Box) Swing thru – Girls circulate – Boys trade – Boys run – Bend the line – Touch ¼ – All 8 circulate – Boys run
2. (line) – Pass thru – wheel and deal – double pass thru – first go left – next go right
3. (Box zero module from first singing call) swing thru – boys run – ferris wheel – centres pass thru

Note that in this singing call figure there are two box formations, a line formation and then two more box formations. I will now take my second memorised singing call, and add the already known zero modules for the first box only then the line then the first box in the second part. I then have a patter sequence that looks like this:

  • Heads Square thru (insert box module ) Swing thru – Girls circulate – Boys trade – Boys run – Bend the line – Touch 1/4 – All 8 circulate – Boys run
  • Right and Left Thru
  • Veer Left
  • Couples Circulate
  • Chain Down The Line (insert line of four module) – Pass thru – wheel and deal – double pass thru – first go left – next go right
  • Star Thru (insert second box module) – swing thru – boys run – ferris wheel – centres pass thru
  • Pass Thru
  • Trade By (box)
  • Allemande left and promenade

For variety I can mix and match these routines by inserting the module after the second box modules rather than the first or choosing to ignore them entirely.

Also note that in the second singing call figure: the figure itself is a zero box module. After the Heads square thru I am in a zero box (allemande left box). From there, the rest of the singing call brings me back to the same allemande left box.

• (zero box) Right and Left Thru – Veer Left – Couples Circulate – Chain Down The Line – Star Thru – Pass Thru – Trade By (Zero box) – Allemande left and promenade

If you keep looking at what you know you will find out that you know a lot more than you think. With two modules and two singing calls and only adding in the zero modules at the box or line positions of the singing call figure I can now create – what I know at the box and lines I can make at least 8 different independent patter routines from the first singing call and 12 different routines from the second patter by only changing adding one box or line module – this increases exponentially if I add more than one box and one line in the same figure.

I have still not done any sight calling because at this point it is all been using two singing call figures and two modules. Remember the second tool in your tool box (ONE GUARANTEED RESOLUTION TECHNIQUE) if at any point you lose your place or where you are in the sequence, then you use your memorised resolution technique…the sight part is moving the dancers from where they are to match up your key couples and resolve. Simple, yes?

Good luck and hope this is useful to some new callers. Please remember that this is one opinion only. Do not just listen to one. Listen to all the experienced callers out there. Ask them questions and find out how they do things. Find out what is right and comfortable for you and make it yours. You only get better through practice and more practice.