Advice for Dancers

This section contains resources for Date Squares members who are currently attending classes and learning to square dance with us but even non-dancers may find some interesting tidbits of information in here so feel free to have a look.

Missed Classes

Every student will occasionally miss a class and if you did, it’s not too difficult to catch up. To make it easier for you and the other dancers, you can use Taminations or these video lessons to familiarize yourself with the missed calls before you attend your next class. 

To find out which calls were taught during your absence, consult the Date Squares event calendar, find the class you missed and open it. The calls taught should be posted in the description of the event; usually a few days after the class.

To get the best out of your learning to square dance, regular attendance is key. The more days you miss, the harder it will be to keep up. It’s usually not a big problem to miss a single class; the caller always reviews the previous week’s calls anyway. If you have to miss two in a row, it will be very difficult to catch up if you don’t study the previous calls before coming to class. It’s almost impossible to catch up if you miss three classes in a row as you’d have to learn 12-15 new calls in a single night.


Dance Roles
We use the terms Boy and Girl while dancing/calling to indicate a person within a couple. At the Ottawa Date Squares, we don't insist that your role match your gender. You should choose a role that you're comfortable with. To help you choose, Girls tend to twirl more and have more flourishes. Boys are there to support them and guide when necessary.
Stick to your chosen role
Once you’ve chosen a role (boy or girl) you should stick to that role for every tip until you finish the program. Once you are very comfortable with that role and you know all the calls very well, you can choose to learn the other role in the next semester if you’d like to but this is not required.
New calls can be tough
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having difficulty with a call. We all struggle with some calls but you’ll find that once you’ve practiced the call for a few weeks it will become second nature.
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The square is usually full of veteran dancers who can assist you. If the caller is moving on to a new call before you’ve fully understood the current one, please ask him/her (or the New Dancer Coordinator or any other “angel” dancer) to repeat the call until you’ve understood it. It’s very important to have a good understanding of a call before moving on to the next one and no one is ever going to have an issue with repeating a call.
Have Fun
It seems silly to say it but if you’re not having a good time and there’s anything we can do about it, please reach out to us so we can address the situation. Learning to square dance can be hard work but it should also be fun.
Stick with it
We know it’s hard to visualize where this is going while you’re still learning but there will come a time when you’ve completed a dance level and will finally just be able to dance it at a special event. When that finally happens you’ll see how much fun gay square dancing can really be and it will make all the struggle totally worth it! We promise.
Hold my hand
If you’re on the right of a couple (whether you’re a follow or not) the handhold is palm down. If you’re on the left of a couple (whether you’re a lead or not) the handhold is palm up.
Half sashayed
Occasionally you’ll be on what seems like the wrong side of the couple; something referred to as “half-sashayed”. It happens often and isn’t cause for alarm. Just remember the correct handhold makes it easier to know where you are.
Don't get grabby
New dancers sometimes have a tendency to get nervous and can become stiff or “grabby”. Try to keep a relaxed posture and refrain from clutching at your partner. Find a comfortable grip that’s not too loose and not too tight; that you can disengage from easily when you need to and that won’t hurt your partner.
Conversation is frowned upon during teaching. It distracts other dancers, not to mention the caller and can be a cause of frustration for some. If you have something important to say that’s relevant to what’s being taught, raise your hand and speak your mind; otherwise, save it up for break time between tips. Anyone not dancing is encouraged to take their conversations out into the hallway so it doesn’t interfere with class.
No pushing please
A note to Angels (veteran dancers): You may be tempted during a class to attempt to assist a fellow student who is having difficulty with a call by pushing or pulling them through the call pattern. Resist the temptation! Leading someone through a call they don’t know will, more often than not, only confuse them and it may result in the caller not noticing that the person is having difficulties. You end up teaching the person how to successfully be pushed or dragged but they’ll end up not learning the call. If the square is going to break down, let it break down and the caller will address the problem instead of moving on and incorrectly thinking everyone now knows the call.
Show some style
Styling is what makes gay square dancing special but be sure you know the difference between the regular (straight) call and the (gay) styling if you have any intention of dancing at a straight event… Otherwise you’re likely to raise some eyebrows and possibly upset dancers who may not know our styling. Our caller will teach the standard calls first and will only teach the styling after you’ve danced the regular call for several weeks.
What's your position
Position awareness: always knowing intuitively where in the square you happen to be at all times relative to other dancers. Knowing what type of formation you’re currently in (line, two-faced line, wave, box, etc…) and where in that formation you happen to be. This is something that takes time to develop but ultimately will make you a better dancer. Try to remain conscious of your position at all times and you won’t be surprised by any oddball or irregular calls. You’ll also be in a better position to assist other dancers. It can take years to get good at position awareness.
Respect your fellow dancers and do your best to make them feel included and useful. We learn better when we are at ease and having fun. Also, not everyone learns at the same pace so don’t get frustrated if it takes others longer than you to pickup a call or if it takes you a bit longer. We’ll all get there eventually and it will be well worth it.
Dance by Definition: This is a concept that exists in many gay square dance clubs whereby dancers learn calls based on their definitions and not simply by muscle-memory repetition of the same moves every time. This results in a great deal more flexibility because now you can execute that call from any weird configuration without even missing a beat. It makes you a better dancer and makes you more confident in your abilities.
Take the time to review online resources for the calls you’re learning or ask the caller or other dancers to elaborate if you’re not quite sure of a call’s individual steps. Callerlab definition documents and Taminations may seem a bit boring but they are excellent tools to help call definitions stick in your mind. Reciting a call’s steps in your head (ex: Swing Through: Half by the right then half by the left) as you’re dancing it will mean you won’t break down if it’s called from a left-handed wave. The more steps there are in a call, the more important it is to know the definition.
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We hope these tips will help make you a better dancer and give you a better enjoyment of this amazing worldwide sport.

Can’t wait to see you on the dance floor!

*Yellow Rocks*

(square dance definition of “yellow rock”: a friendly hug)

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