Introduction to Modern Square Dancing

Perhaps you think you know square dancing from your school days. Well, think again, because this is not your parent's dance routine. They would hardly recognize Square Dancing. There is new music, from Golden Oldies to Elvis to current hits. There are new dance steps, exciting new patterns and unique calls to learn. Square Dancing happens in school halls, resorts and cruise ships. You can travel to dances all over the world. You will find square dance clubs within most countries of the world including Japan, China, Sweden and Germany – the calls are in English all over the world. Learn to dance and a whole new world of fun and fellowship will open up for you. You never lose your ability to dance "traditional", but with Modern Western Square Dancing you are able to progress to more challenging levels of dance that incorporate fitness and friendship in a fun family atmosphere.

Who will I meet?

You will meet people who love action, who are doers, and who like to make friends. Some like to dress up; some like to dress casual. Some are working; some retired. Technicians, nurses, police, teachers, mechanics, clerks, salesmen, artists, homemakers, doctors, scientists, investors and contractors are all members of Square Dance Clubs. They like to dance and travel, and their interests range far and wide.  They love people and parties. Square dancers are friendly people!  It's a great way to meet active, friendly people.

Will dancing help you stay healthy?

Walking is one of the safest exercises available. Combining mental stimulation with the joy of rhythm and Square Dancing challenges many aspects of conditioning. Dancers walk 2 - 3 miles per evening and can burn 280 calories every hour.  Using the large muscle of legs and arms strengthens bones and improves general health. It is a safe and social work out for any age or fitness level. There is even good evidence that dancing makes you smarter!

"I was dragged in kicking and screaming"

Unbelievable as it may be, there are times when only one partner wants to take up square dancing. The unwilling partner signs up for many reasons and discovers the joys of mental and physical participation. This is not a spectator sport. It is action and reaction; it keeps you mentally on your toes. With practice, the moves become as natural as walking. Learning is easy. The caller teaches new steps during the "tip" and then has everybody practice during the "singing" calls. Yes, mistakes are made – a little smile / join back in. Angels (experienced dancers) are there to help the new dancers; they have great smiles.

It evolved from tradition

It is great fun to get together with friends and swing to the music of a well-known band. Toe tapping rhythm and sing-along's are the themes expressed in the "singing call" where new and favorite calls can be practiced in an upbeat tempo. It is a confidence builder and it is fun!

We would love to dance with you.





Is your halo on straight? It is important that as many of our club members as possible come to the class as "angels." Angels are the wonderful people who volunteer their time to ensure that a class has the best possible learning experience.

Angles provide the new class members with their first real look at the club. How angels behave and treat the new dancers, other angels, and visitors will affect class members' decisions whether or not to join our club.

Angels are also role models. No matter what the instructor and club try to communicate to the students concerning etiquette, attitudes, or styling, class members inevitably take their cues from what they see the angels doing. So it is important that angels be extra careful to provide good role models.

Smile, be enthusiastic, and enjoy the dancing. Be friendly, courteous, and gentle. This is sometimes easier to say than to do, especially if it has been a long day. And, let's be honest, some of us have personal agendas, perhaps disagreements with club policies or less-than-cordial relations with specific club members that are out of place here and must be put aside.

Although most of us do the right things instinctively the majority of the time it can't hurt to reiterate certain points. The following advice for angels has been extracted from several sources, including articles in square dance publications and handouts prepared for other clubs.

This is perhaps the most common misconception that causes problems. The primary teaching function of an angel is to teach by example. To be in the right place at the right time. One important thing you can do is to establish handholds after every move. This not only helps the students maintain their orientation in the square, it is a very good habit to develop.

It is always tempting to explain something your square is not getting and the students will often ask you to do this --BUT YOU MUST RESIST. It diverts the student's attention from the Caller and one of the most important things to learn in beginner class is to listen to the Caller. Sometimes you can clarify a simple point for students between tips; this is fine, but not while the Caller is at the microphone.

Another difficult point is justHOW MUCH HELPyou should give in getting dancers into the right place. Dancers, after all, must learn to do the moves on their own. To gently guide someone through a maneuver if they have a momentary lapse of memory might be okay and sometimes one can help by indicating nonverbally where a person should go. But we accomplish little by pushing or pulling a dancer through an action when he or she doesn't know what was supposed to have been done.

It is better to let a square break down rather than to use too much force getting people into the right place. Broken down squares are an indication to the instructor that the dancers are having problems. Do be sure the Caller is aware of problems, raise your hand if necessary and ask the Caller to explain something if your square is having trouble.

Be careful, however, not to embarrass any dancer by the way you ask for help. It is much better to say that "the square is not getting" a certain move rather than saying "Joe isn't getting" a certain move.

Do encourage students. Let them know that all new dancers make mistakes and that things get better with practice. Also, angels do make mistakes too. It is good to admit to them cheerfully as it makes the students less tense about their own mistakes.

Club styling is always a third major source of contention. It is important the new dancers learn the calls with standard Caller Lab styling, that is, without the flourishes we like so much to add to moves. The Caller will introduce our Club styling at appropriate times after the calls are mastered. Angels must use only the styling which has been taught to the class.

This is not always easy. How many of us even remember how to do a DoSaDo without a Highland Fling? But it really is very important. Students are going to want you to teach them "how it's done" before they have mastered the call but you should resist the temptation.


Square Up, With Everyone -- not just a few friends. Seek out the weaker students and ask them to dance with you. Make sure that students are not sitting out because angels are dancing.

End Conversations Promptly -- when the teacher begins a tip. If you are not dancing, keep your conversations far away from the dance area.

Lend A Hand -- cheerfully if you are asked to help set up or clean up, help with refreshments or take attendance.

Keep An Eye Out -- for security problems, accidents, and dangerous situations like spills or debris on the floor.

Let The Instructor -- know if there are problems with the sound.

Don't Complain -- about the hall, the floor, the caller or anyone attending the class.

Don't Criticize -- students or other angels.

Remember -- your name badge.


Gary Winter, Caller

Gary WinterGary Winter started square dancing in the fall of 1984 with the Lamplighters.

He graduated in the spring of 1986, and started his life as a square dance caller in December of that year, under the direction of Murray & Barb Few.

The first club, the Swinging J.J.’s, which Gary called for starting December 1987, this club later became the Rock-A-Teens in 1989. Gary attended the Alberta Callers School in August 1989, and Callers College in the United States in 1992. From that date onward, Gary has been actively involved in the Square Dance movement throughout Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

Gary as a teen, attended the Pacific Northwest Teen competitions in 1991 and 1996. He hosted the Alberta Teen Extravaganza in 1992-94 and hosted Alberta Teen Festival in 1992. Gary was active in promoting square dancing in the schools and in 1992 took two squares to Fort McMurray and did demos in 7 schools in one day! By 1993 Gary had 85 new dancers in his clubs, including Mayerthorpe White Lightening. Gary was also the youngest caller on the program at the World Square Dance Convention in Roskilde, Denmark in 1994.

Over the 31 years that Gary has been calling, he has been on programs of many events always well prepared and professional. He is always well received by the dancers and soon becomes one of their favorites! To name just a few of the programs he has taken part in are Alberta Callers Convention; Penticton, BC Peach Fest; Canadian National Convention; Calgary Stampede Square Dance Roundup; Holiday Ranch. Gary has called in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Arizona, Washington, Montana, Ontario and Saskatchewan. As well Gary has organized many bus trips to B.C. and Saskatchewan to help those Clubs promote their activities.

Volunteering his time at public demos has always been on Gary’s schedule. To name just a few: EDSDA Santa Claus Parades, Festival of Trees, numerous nursing homes, Camp Van Es calling single events to inner city children from Edmonton and Calgary. Most recently he entertained the Canadian Armed Forces families at the Edmonton Garrison Community Halloween party.

Gary’s levels of calling include basic, mainstream, plus, A1 as well as round dance cueing, He has presented workshops to Alberta Callers on various areas of square dancing. Gary has always promoted square dancing at all levels and with all audiences and is always well prepared and very professional. He is always willing to share his knowledge of square dancing and his love for the activity shows in the enthusiasm that he brings to each event he is involved with.

Gary works tirelessly in his efforts to move square dancing forward to keep the movement interesting and challenging for all, at a time when many other activities are available to the population.

Gary has the loving support of his wife Trish, and their two sons, Coen and Kaiden (who has already joined with his Dad in singing calls). Gary’s life has many influences within the square dance movement with his parents Rick and Judy and his nana Pat.

The involvement and accomplishments that Gary has achieved within the square dance movement certainly meet the criteria “have made an outstanding contribution beyond the scope” as both a dancer and a caller to improve square dancing throughout Alberta and beyond.



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