Teaching Square Dancing to Grade 7

by Clark Baker

This talk will focus on my experiences in working with 7th graders, teaching a progressive series of classes, leading to a school-wide performance. Areas covered include crowd control, choreography, teaching techniques, handling reluctant dancers, dealing with attitude, a core vocabulary of calls and skills, teaching words, and learning speed.

We end with a quick walkthru of calls that look good in exhibition (Stars, Allemande Thar, Grand Square, Dip And Dive, Heel & Toe, Star Promenade & Butterfly Whirl) which you could use in any ONS. Finally we dance the routine to phrased calling.


A school my daughter attended has a May Day performance each year. Each grade performs a short dance, often related to the central subject they are studying—those studying Ancient Greece do Greek dancing. The 7th grade has traditionally danced the Jitterbug. Six yeas ago the 7th grade teachers decided to give square dancing a try. They were looking for a dance form that was less partnered and more a group activity. They knew I called square dances and my daughter was now past the 7th grade so her classmates wouldn't hold this change against her, so I said I would give it a try.


Problems and solutions

Calls that look good in exhibition

In addition to our usual one-time party dance calls, I include the following calls specifically because they look good in exhibition:

Final routine

I was unwilling to call the dance live because I wanted to get all the calls in, and wanted to give a try at phrased calling. In the end, having the routine be recorded on a CD and exactly the same every time aided in our practicing and made the performance better.

We worked the choreography out and made it work with the patter music. I recorded it by calling without dancers and waiting the correct number of beats. This was a new experience for me and took more than a few tries. Here is the final routine. The numbers in parentheses are how many beats I wait after saying the command. You can hear the routine here.

SHS 7th Grade Square Dance 5/05
Choreography by Lisa Greenleaf
Calling by Clark Baker

Music: Disco Joe

16 beat intro
Bow to your Partner, (2)
  Bow to your Corner, (2)
    Bow to your Opposite (2)
Join your hands and Circle to the Left (4)
Circle to the Right the other way back (4)

Allemande Left your Corner
Partner Right, Right And Left Grand, charge straight ahead (4)
Dosado your Partner (4)
Promenade Your Partner home (4)
Sides Face, Grand Square (14)
Reverse (12)

Allemande Left For An Allemande Thar
  Go Right - And Left - Men Swing Got A Back Up Star (4)
    Shoot The Star To Another Thar, Go Right - And Left -
      Men Swing In Got A Back Up Star (4)

Shoot The Star, Go Right And Left Grand (8)
  Get Back Home And Square Your Set
    All Join Hand Go Forward And Back (4)
      Do It Again Go Forward And Back
        Heads Face Right, Sides Face Left
          Those Two Ladies Chain Across (4)
            Turn Her Around And Chain Her Back (4)
              Heads Arch, Dip And Dive (12)

Same four circle up four (4)
Get Back Home and the Boys Star Left (4)
Pick up your Partner, Star Promenade (4)
Boys back up for a Butterfly Whirl
Go a turn and a half (2)
Girls hang on make a R hand Star (4)
All back out and Circle Left (4)
Circle Right Go The Other Way Back (4)

Allemande Left Corner (2)
  Allemande Right Partner (2)
    Allemande Left Corner (2)

With Your Partner Do Sa Do (4)
  Give Two Hands, Heel & Toe
Heel Toe, In You Go
Heel Toe, Out You Go
Heel Toe, In You Go
Heel Toe, Do Si Do (4)

Sides face, Grand Square (14)
  Reverse (12)

Head Two Couples Go Forward And Back
  Side Two Couples Go Forward And Back
    Heads To The Centers Make A Right Hand Star (4)
      With The Sides Make A Left Hand Star (4)
        Heads Center Right Hand Star (4)
          Find The Corner With An Allemande Left (4)

Do Sa Do Partner (4)
All Join Hands, Go Forward & Back (4)
Forward Again With A Great Big Shout (8)
Bow to Your Partner, Corners All
Thank your square, that's it that's all


Each year the kids mostly are "with the program" by session 3. Session 6 always makes it look like we will never get everything done in time but they pull it together in the last two sessions. The performance has always looked good and had good energy.

The teachers look forward to me coming in because, by spring the kids are tired of always listening to them and they get to hear a new voice. Also, now that we have the formula down, the teachers know how it will go and enjoy watching it happen. They will also will dance as necessary to fill out squares or substitute for missing students.

I am working at another school this year and they also want me to come in for multiple sessions leading up to a presentation at their spring concert. This time I have grades 5 and 6 together followed by grades 7 and 8. Working with this school and these grades has been another learning experience.