The training of callers today is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of the square dance movement for the future of it's very existence. It is this caller's feeling that too much training has gone in the wrong direction. The most important part of the training is practically nonexistent!
The art of calling requires much more training in the art of music than we leaders are giving it. The very heart of all calling should start with the music to allow dancing the basics instead of just going through them with a hit or miss method. Methods of calling, such as sight, mental imagery or combinations of both, or memory itself is just that ... methods. Formations such as box 1-4, 1P2P lines, two-faced lines, etc., is just that ... formation sense and have nothing to do with the art of calling. Don't get me wrong. These are important matters to find out about and to maybe use someday, but the real matter of how to call relates to the music as it pertains to choreography.
Where do we put the actual call in the music so that we don't lead the dancer too much, or make them wait? This is the heart of the matter and what's been overlooked. In our movement today, it is much easier to take the easy way out in our training of callers by teaching them WHAT to call, rather than HOW to call correctly. The importance of music has been overlooked and pushed into the background so it won't "bother" the caller.
Have you ever wondered why this subject has been ignored? I suggest that you start by giving this some serious thought before square dancing becomes some other activity to be known as square games in puzzle solving. Think about it, dancing requires music to move the feet in rhythm. It is also the only common denominator between the dancer and the caller. Any dance requires movement from the first beat of a phrase until the completion of the dance whether it be a fox trot, waltz, round dance, contra dance, rhumba, etc.. If all dancing starts with the down beat after the intro, then why should square-dancing be excluded from this feeling? Why should square dancing be excluded from the same format that applies to all other dance? Why should square dancing suffer through hit or miss methods? We'd better start answering some of these questions before we find ourselves trying to explain to knowledgeable people in dance that square dancing is really not dancing but a game we play with people in formations that have nothing to do with dancing as they know it. We should instead be proud that it is dancing and we need to address ourselves to the fact that it can be danced, and danced correctly.
We have heard almost all our leadership say that we should be putting more emphasis on smoother dancing. This is impossible unless we have smoother calling. Neither is possible without the proper use of music! We need to commit ourselves to bring music to the forefront again and to start teaching our callers of tomorrow how to call to the music. Music is the KEY for this to happen, just as it has been the key to all dancing ... It may be harder to call to the music. but it is the right way. The right way is usually harder to do in most instances, and square dancing and calling is no exception. It is my personal opinion that we need to make hard decisions soon. We can face the music (literally) or we can maintain the status quo. One decision will enable us to get on with the task of facing reality for the insurance of our dance structure, while the other will only enable us to drift along with the tide. I, for one, wish to go on record to do all I can to insure the future of square dancing, not necessarily as it is now, but as it could be! We have the leadership and organization to tackle this task but do we have the guts?
This article was originally printed in the American Dance Circle, a publication of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation. It is used with the permission of the author.
Published 2003-01-01 / Heiner Fischle, Hannover, Germany