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Some Square Dance Jargon

Square dancers have almost as many jargon terms as people in a technical field. Here are a few that come to mind, so you don't feel left out. This list does not include the names of the calls themselves, just vocabulary used for talking about calls, formations, or square dancing in general.

1. A set of moves that you do when the caller calls its name. Most are made up of simpler calls.
2. A series of calls that traditionally starts and ends with "bow to your partner, bow to your corner".
A series of calls{1} that begins and ends with the dancers at home.
patter call
A call that is spoken or chanted rather than sung, but is usually done to background music. Also called a hash call. You wind up with your original partner each time you promenade home.


singing call
A call that consists of a song (any song with a good beat will do, and it depends mostly on the caller's taste) with some of the lyrics replaced by square dance calls. The typical singing call has 7 sequences, in the pattern ABBABBA; at the end of the B sequences, you usually wind up with your (new) corner for the promenade home.


Directions the caller sometimes gives after a call that he or she thinks some dancers may have trouble with, giving the definition of the call ("Right and Left Thru--Right Pull By, then a Courtesy Turn") or filling in who does what, given your current formation ("Flutterwheel--Men are in the lead"). A careful caller will mumble, so you don't think this is another call.


sight calling
Calling ad lib and then trying to untangle the square on the fly, rather like unscrambling a Rubik's cube.


break down
What a square has done when so few dancers know where they're supposed to be that everyone is hopelessly lost.
The time you spend dancing in one square without a break. Typically this consists of a patter call and a singing call. Origin obscure.


level or program
A list of calls, including all the levels below it. The levels are: Basic, Mainstream, Plus, Advanced (A1-A2), and Challenge (C1-C4).


A class for people who already know one level to learn the next level, or to gain more skill at their current level.


A dancer participating in a class who already knows how to dance the level being taught.


Not meeting. Said of a night that a club would ordinarily meet, but this time doesn't.


Two side-by-side dancers facing the same direction.


normal couple
A couple with a gent standing to the left of a lady.


leader, trailer
In any 1x2 setup (e.g., a tandem, facing dancers, etc.), the dancers facing out of the setup are leaders, those facing in are trailers.


sound effect
Something the dancers yell back, ideally in unison, in response to a call. Examples:
Ferris Wheel            - "Wheeee"
Flutterwheel            - "Whoop, whoop, whoop"
Ladies In, Men Sashay   - Ladies whoop it up
Scoot Back              - Scooters grunt,  or Scooters squeal if girls
Slide Thru              - "Whoosh" while gracefully sliding arms out to the sides
Spin the Top            - "Spin the Top?"
Load the Boat           - "Toot, toot"
Ping Pong Circulate     - Clap hands