European Association
of American Square Dancing Clubs e.V.

Friendship is Square Dancing's greatest reward


EAASDC-Bulletin September 2011

Dancing Tips

Timing for the Basics
From Set in Order, American SD Magazine

Have you ever been bothered by what you felt was too fast dancing? Movements coming so fast that you were barely into one call when the next call came along? For the newer dancer this sometimes happens because it takes a little longer to reason out what the caller has said and that stage of competency known as automatic reaction has not yet been reached. Essentially, there is a time while you are doing one basic that is the correct time for the next call to come along. This allows you to comfortably finish one movement and then, without stopping, simply move into the next basic without hesitation, static or stop and go, blending one basic movement with the next. This is one phase of smooth dancing.

In order to accomplish this, a caller needs to know how many steps it will take, how many beats of music to allow, for each basic movement. He realizes that if you are standing still (i.e., head couples in a static square) that it will take so many steps (eight) to do a right and left thru. However, if you are already in motion, moving toward another couple who is also moving toward you, when the call right and left thru comes, the blending process cuts the number of steps from eight to six. The caller knows this and allows for it in his calling. This is timing.

If you take fewer than the number of steps required for comfortable dancing, you are cutting the timing. In the beginning, the caller often allows the newer dancer more beats to do certain movements while the learning process is in effect. This is stretching the timing.

Now, about that caller who is calling too fast. A good, normal tempo for square dancing today is between 128 and 130 metronome beats per minute. To determine the tempo, take a watch with a sweep hand and, starting at 12, count 60 seconds around the clock, back to 12 again. As the clock hits the 12 with your first beat of the music, go and. Then with each succeeding beat during the 60 seconds, count one, two, etc. As the sweep hand reaches 12, your count will be the tempo of that particular piece of music. You can achieve the same results by going for 30 seconds or sometimes even 15 seconds, multiplying your number of beats by 2 or 4 as applicable.

It takes a prescribed number of beats to do each movement. These beats are listed for some selected figures as a portion of this article. If a lady's chain takes 8 beat of music, this is what a caller will normally allow you. If he is calling at a comfortable tempo of 128 to 130 metronome beats per minute, then you should be just completing one movement in time to move without pause into the next. Now let's say that for some reason, the caller changed the tempo of the music, slowing it down to 112 metronome beats per minute. This would be quite slow by today's standards. But let's say that instead of allowing 8 steps for a lady's chain, that he gave the dancers only 6 or 5 beats of music. Tempo-wise the music would be going slowly but from a timing standpoint, you would be racing to complete the movement in a fewer number of steps. The impression you would get would be that of constant rushing - a rat race.

On the other hand, let's say that the caller moved the tempo up by increasing the speed control to 140 metronome beats per minute. Too fast, you say. Let's suppose, at the same time, he allows the dancers more beats than usual, say 9 or 10 to do a lady's chain. Here is an example that even though the tempo was much too fast, you would find yourself with more than enough beats to do a specific basic, and as a result, you would feel unchallenged or perhaps uncomfortable in a constant stop and go atmosphere.

It's easy to see that sometimes when a caller might be right on the button calling to accompaniment that is set at 130 metronome beats per minute, but who is cutting the number of beats required for comfortable dancing, that you feel rushed or, at that same speed, if he were to allow you more than the required number of beats, that you would be standing and waiting for the next call after most of the commands. On the other hand, sticking to a comfortable tempo and allowing the comfortable number of beats adds up to a good marriage of timing and tempo.

You might be interested in checking your own timing with the following list, supplied by Callerlab and arrived at after several years of deliberation and study. A number of abbreviations are used in the list. For example, SS refers to Static Square, a full square of 8 people from a Standing Start. A Box is when two couples are facing each other in fairly close quarters. For example if, from a Standing Square, the head couples step forward, turn their back on their partner to face the side couples, man No 1 with lady No 3 as his partner are facing couple No 4 in a box. Other abbreviations will be explained as they come up.

OW - Ocean Wave. FL - Facing Lines. TFL - 2 Faced Line.

Callerlab TIMING - THE BASIC PROGRAM - Revised January 01, 2008

Allemande TharSS from allemande left to point of back up star 12
Allemande turnsfull around 8, 3/4 6, 1/2 4, 1/4 2
Bend the LineLines of Four 4, six 4, eight 4
Box the Gnat4 (from point of contact)
California Twirl4
ChainsSS two ladies across set 8, 3/4 10, four ladies across 8, 3/4 10, down the line 8
CircleSS 8 people full around 16, 3/4 12, 1/2 8, 1/4 4 Box 4 people full around 8, 3/4 6, 1/2 4, 1/4 2
Circle to a Line8
CirculatesOW centers 4, ends 4, all 4, TFL couples 4
Couples Lead Right or Left4
Couples Separate2
Courtesy turn4
Dive ThruBOX couple diving 2, couple facing out 6
Do PasoSS from start to finish of courtesy turn 16, to next call 12
DosadoSS corner 6, partner 6, BOX 6, SS across set 8
Double Pass Thru4
Ferris Wheel6
FlutterwheelSS head or side ladies 8, all four ladies 12
Forward & BackSS All 8, heads or sides 8, rock F & B 4, balance 4
Grand Square32
Half Sashay4, roll away, 4 ladies in, men sashay 4
Ocean Wave is a formationIn an alamo style each balance 4, each turn 4
Pass the Ocean4
Pass ThruSS heads or sides across set 4, BOX 2
PromenadeSS couples full around 16, 3/4 12, 1/2 8, 1/4 4, 4 people inside 8
Right & Left Grand10, weave the ring 10 (until you meet partner other side
Right and Left ThruSS heads or sides across set 8, BOX 6, OW 6
RunOW centers 4, centers cross run 6, ends 4, ends cross run 6
See Saw8
Shoot the Star4 full around 8
Slip the Clutch2
SplitHeads or sides pass thru around one to a line 8, around two to a line 10 To home 12, BOX insides split outsides to a line 4, to home position 6
Square ThruSS four people full 10, 3/4 8, 1/2 6, 1/4 4
BOX four people full 8, 3/4 6, 1/2 4, 1/4 2
Star Promenadefour couples full around 12, 3/4 9, 1/2 6, 1/4 3
four couples full around with back out at home 16
Star Thru4 (from point of contact)
Starsfour people full around 8, 3/4 6, 1/2 4, 1/4 2
eight people full around 16, 3/4 12, 1/2 8,1/4 4
Sweep ¼two couples 2, all four couples 4
Swingadvancing skill, usually 4-8 beats of music, used at caller's discretion
Swing Thru6 (from point of contact)
Touch ¼2
Trade By4
TradesSS partner 4, OW centers 4, ends 4, from TFL couples 6
U Turn Back2, Backtrack 2
Veer Left or RightBOX 2, SS heads or sides 4
Walk Around the Corner8
Wheel & Deal4
Wheel Around4
Cast Off 3/46
Centers In2
Cloverleaf6-8 beats from a completed double pass thru; if called for only
four people, the timing is 6
Dixie Style to an Ocean WaveSS heads or sides to the wave 6
all four couples to the wave 8
Eight Chain Thru(Eight Hands = 20)(Four Hands = 10)
Foldsany fold 2, any cross fold 4
Half Tag the Line4
HingeCouples 3, singles 2
Pass to the CenterBOX couples facing in 2, couples facing out 6
Scoot BackOW 6
Slide ThruSS heads or sides 6, BOX 4
Spin Chain Thru16
Spin the Top8 (from point of contact)
Tag the Line6
Turn Thru4 (from point of contact)
Walk & Dodge4
Reprinted with permission of CALLERLAB

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