What is Square Dancing?

As one source describes it, “First and foremost, square dancing is people; socializing, dancing, playing music, and having an experience together!” 1

  • It has been said that square dancing is, “Friendship Set to Music”. 
  • It creates an atmosphere of music and laughter among friends and neighbours. Square Dancing is also healthy, both mentally and physically.  If you need to blow off steam, try square dancing!
  • Most clubs will dance once a week during their dance season, which is generally from September to April or May.  If that’s not enough, there are always special dances as well as other clubs that you may wish to visit.
  • Another great thing about Square Dancing is that you can dance around the world; the moves are standardized and the calling is always done in English.  You will be welcome to dance wherever you might find a Square!
What is Modern Square Dance?
Modern Square Dance, like it’s predecessor – the Traditional Square Dance, is directed by a caller. The caller strings together, or choreographs, a sequence of moves to create an intricate dance set to the music of his or her choice. The music for modern square dancing can be from any artist, year or genre. You will find a wide variety from caller to caller. There are eight people (four couples), who generally function as a team, in each square. The formation is a couple, facing inward, on each “side” of the square. Usually, each square dances independently of one another. However, there are always exceptions to every rule; some callers can create specialty and fun dances which will move a dancer from one square to another.
What is the Difference Between Modern and Traditional Square Dance?
Traditional, or “old time” square dance is the term used for dance styles other than Modern square dance. Around 1950, the Modern square dance began to develop out of blend of American regional (or traditional) styles. Traditional square dance is characterized by a limited number of basic moves; You don’t need lessons in order to join a group. The movements, set to live music, are called in a set order and repeated.
Modern Square Dancing does not have the same limitations. You need to learn a number of basic moves which a caller will combine to create the dance progression.  The callers often spend a great deal of time in preparation for any class or event that they may be calling. You really don’t know what moves you’ll be dancing until the caller actually calls them. Anyone can become a square dancer by learning these moves. Look around and you will find a club where you can receive lessons while enjoying the fun that comes with it.
Who can Square Dance?   What if I don’t have a partner?
If you can walk, you can Square Dance!… Strike that… There are clubs where Square Dancing can be done in wheelchairs or even on horseback!  If you can follow instructions while moving to the music, then you can Square Dance.
Square Dancing is an activity that is done by men, women, the young and not-as-young-as-we-used to be, singles, couples and families. If your doctor has told you that you need to get more exercise, Square Dancing is the fun way to get fit! Bogged down by everyday problems, relieve that stress with laughter, movement  and music!
In general, Square Dancing is not competitive as it is a recreational activity. As always, there are exceptions to the rule. One, being the teens clubs who do dance in competitions.  A person could get worn out just by watching these young people!
If you don’t have a partner, don’t let that stop you. There are other singles who are in need of someone to dance with.  These days there are dancers who will learn to dance both the left-hand and the right-hand role just so they are never left out.
Do I have to wear those “poufy” skirts?   Do I need special shoes?
Today, the choice of attire is up to you!  It is recommended that new dancers wear clothing and shoes that are comfortable and easy to move in.
The wide skirts and crinolines that people often associate with square dancing are not mandatory. Although, there are those of us who do enjoy dressing up in our “costumes”. Most men will dress in western-style shirts and pants.  Many women opt for the prairie, or long, skirt. Wearing a skirt of any type allows the dancer to hold it and move the skirt in a light rhythmical flourish in time to the music. This is known as skirtwork.
Again, shoes are a matter of comfort. Many dancers prefer a shoe or western boot with a leather sole as it makes it easier to slide your feet across the floor, while others are more comfortable in rubber soles. In order to protect dance surfaces, it is recommended that you change into shoes with a clean sole. As they say, if the shoe fits….
Is it expensive to learn to Square Dance?  
Many clubs will offer a free lesson or two at the beginning of the season so you can try it out. After that, it is generally between $5 and $10 per person each night. It makes for an inexpensive way to have fun, keep fit and make friends!
What is Round Dancing?
Round dancing is much like ballroom dancing with a few exceptions. Individual couples move in a circular, counter-clockwise pattern around the dance area. It is choreographed ahead of time and the “cuer” calls each move so the couples are dancing the same steps at the same time.
A great deal of work goes into creating a round dance. First, the cuer will select a piece of music of his or her choice. As with square dancing, this does not conform to any specific artist, year or genre. The cuer will then add the different steps or figures to flow to the music. This is then written out on a cue sheet for use at the dance.
At a square dance you will generally find a “round” between each tip. You will find more information about round dancing here
What is Contra Dancing?
Contra dancing is social interaction, meeting people, and making new friends, set to music. A caller guides new and experienced dancers alike through a variety of
A dancer and his or her partner dance a series of figures, or moves, with each other and with another couple for a short time. They then repeat the same figures with another couple, and so on. The figures are similar to those of square dancing. The figures are combined in different ways for each different dance.
The caller teaches each dance before it is actually done to the music. This gives everyone an idea of what to expect so the movements can be easily executed. The caller leads the dances while they are being done to music, so dancers are able to perform each movement to the music. Once the dancers appear to have mastered a particular dance, the caller may stop calling, leaving the dancers to enjoy the movement with music alone.
People of all ages and lifestyles, including children, are welcome. Contra dances are a place where people from many walks of life come together to dance and socialize.
What is a “Tip”?
A tip is a segment of dances in the whole of a square dance. It generally consists of one patter call (also known as hash call) and one singing call or any combination that the caller likes. Wikipedia has more information about callers, cuers and types of calls.
Our clubs are always happy to answer your questions so please feel free to contact the club nearest you.



1. http://www.cdss.org/what-is-square-dancing.html