Clark Baker, March 2005
In my work with call definitions I encounter certain applications that
aren't exactly right, but perhaps they aren't wrong either. The
dancers usually know what the callers means. Yet we are reluctant to
sanction their usage in the definitions. So far we have been
referring to these applications as Gimmicks.
I have always felt that there are more than a few types of gimmicks.
However I have never taken the time to collect and analyze the various
types. Making a presentation on this subject at the 2005 Callerlab
meeting has forced me to collect my thoughts and write this paper.
Two dictionary definitions of gimmick come close to our square dance
- an ingenious and usually new scheme or angle
- any clever (deceptive) maneuver
When I asked callers to e-mail me their gimmicks, I received more than
a few. Right off the bat, I realized that I was interested in
choreography gimmicks even though there are other types.
Here is a perhaps incomplete list of types of gimmicks:
- Gimmick squares
- Tandem Squares, Progressive Squares, Rectangle
Squares, Hexagon Squares, Two-Couple Squares, do all calls halfway,
when you are next to you original partner, trade with them, etc. Here
the gimmick applies to all the dancing for a whole tip.
- Party or graduation gimmicks
- Tech Squares
celebrates graduation by having the class dance a special patter tip
and singing call. The class returns the favor by asking the club to
dance a patter and singer in some special way they have devised. Past
ideas have included replacing a dancer with a broom, dancing while
carrying balloons (one balloon for each level you know), dancing in
the dark with a strobe light, etc.
- Musical gimmicks
- For example, keep calling when the record runs out, using
the cadence in your voice to propel the dancers. In the singing call
Beautiful Noise, get progressively quieter until the last verse where
you come back in in full voice. Musical gimmicks are one of many
tools used to provide Showmanship.
- New calls, old calls, classic calls
- Especially in the 1970's, callers would teach a new call at every
dance. This programming technique leveled the floor (new dancers and
experienced dancers were on the same footing) since the call was new
to everyone. Some old calls are classics (e.g., Cross The Star,
Bucket Of Worms) and would be considered a gimmick today. Other
calls, like variations on Grand Square and Teacup Chain can be taught
and used to add variety by building on the dancers' existing
knowledge. Many of these are documented in Choreography
Gimmicks by Will Orlich.
- Choreography Gimmicks
- Something special or unusual related to a short piece of choreography. Many examples follow.
- Others gimmicks
- Are there more or better categories? Let me know.
Now we get to the crux of the talk. Is there a logical classification
for choreographic gimmicks? I certainly know that there are ones I
like and ones I don't like. I know that there are ones which are
proper according to the definition and ones which are improper. Some
I am happy to see many times and for others, once is enough. I know
caller judgment is important.
Reviewing all the gimmicks I have received, I came up with the
following categories. A few gimmicks seemed to fit into two
categories. Also, the categories may not be as crisply defined as one
might like. I am open to suggestions and observations in this effort.
- "D" -- Meets the Definition, not a common application for this
- "X" -- Extends the definition; is "logical"
- "B" -- Breaks the definition, but dancers will do it
- "E" -- Uses plain English to accomplish its effect
- "T" -- Tricks the dancers
In no particular order, here are a bunch of gimmicks and how I would classify them.
- Out of sequence #0 right-hand two-faced lines: Tag The Line, Girls go left, boys go right, Left Allemande. [E]
- Any Allemande Left that is unexpected and unanticipated, but still standard positioning. [D]
- From a L-H 1/4 Tag with the outsides in a L-H mini-wave: 6x2 Acey Deucey, Left Allemande (unexpected and from a never before seen formation). [D]
- Right And Left Grand ... on the third hand Promenade Home (dancers initially think they are wrong) [T]
- Right And Left Thru, Right And Left ... Grand (caller tricks dancers into anticipating a Right And Left Thru) [T]
- I like to stack the calls "Swing Thru, Boys Run, Bend The Line, and a Right And Left Grand" so far ahead they actually have to time to think about it before they inevitably crash. [T]
- Facing Lines: 4 Ladies Chain (perhaps with some Diagonal Right And Left Thrus and Ladies Chain to build up to this) [X or B]
- Facing Lines: Tea Cup Chain [B]
- Heads Pass The Ocean; Boys Extend; All Recycle (both the extend and the recycle) [B]
- Squared set: All 4 Ladies Lead, Flutterwheel [X]
- Lines facing out: Centers Walk, Ends Dodge [B]
- At Mainstream, from a Half Sashayed Couple: Right And Left Thru [B]
- At Plus, from a Half Sashayed Couple: Right And Left Thru [D]
- At Plus: Heads Half Sashay, Head Boys Chain [X]
- Same sex facing: Box The Gnat [B]
- Ocean Wave: Everyone Fold [X or B]
- Ocean Wave: Everyone Cross Fold [X or B]
- Ocean Wave: Everyone Cross Run [X]
- From BGGB Facing Lines: Girls Square Thru, On 3, Swing Thru; Boys Pass Thru And Cross Fold [D]
- Squared set: All 4 Ladies Lead, Dixie Style To A Wave (or Thar) [X]
- At Mainstream: Grand Left And Right (or Left And Right Grand) [X]
- At Mainstream: Wrong Way Promenade (or Promenade, Wrong Way) [X and/or E]
- From BBGG facing lines: Boys on a diagonal, Pass Thru (and similar "diagonal" choreography) [E]
- From GBGB Facing Lines: Star Thru and all Veer Left; Finish A Ferris Wheel [B]
- Squared set: Heads Lead Left, R&L Thru, Dive Thru, Circle Up Four, either Head Man Break To A Line, dance FWD & BK, Bend The Line, You're Home. [B]
- From Trade By: If you are in the center, Zoom. Outsides back up until you bump. [E]
- Ferris Wheel from C1 Phantoms (i.e. two-faced lines plus infacers bend the line) [X]
- Ping Pong Circulate from Heads Step To A Wave (are extra words needed?) [X]
- From Facing Couples say these exact words: Pass The Ocean And Roll As If You Could [B and E]
- A2: From a 1/4 tag with a two-faced line in the middle: Mini Busy As If You Could [X and E]
- Crossfire and Everyone Roll As If You Could [B and E]
- Ferris Wheel And Everyone Sweep 1/4 As If You Could [B and E]
- Coordinate from Facing Lines [D]
- A2: Trying to trick the dancers with "Pass And Roll" vs. "Pass Thru And Roll" [T]
- "U Turn Back" vs. "You Turn Thru" [T]
- A2: "Swing Slip and Slide" vs. "Swing Slip and Slide Thru" [T]
- C1: "Slip And Circle 1/4" vs. "Swing And Circle 1/4" [T]
- Facing Couples: Pass The Ocean ... Twice [B and T]
- From normal columns: Just the Boys only Veer Left and Everyone Finish Like A Ferris Wheel [X and E]
- Inverted Line: Any Hand Swing Thru (or Start With The Hand Available - Swing Thru) [B and E]
- Someone run around two dancers. For example, from BBGG lines facing out, Center Boy run around Two Girls. [X or E]
- Face Your Corner -- Dosado; Face Your Partner -- Dosado around 2 dancers [X]
- Heads square thru 4; Put Centers Out [X]
- Heads Right And Left Thru; Sides Right And Left Thru; All Right And Left ... Grand [T]
- From normal lines facing: Boys step forward, girls stay put. Boys swing Thru; Boys Back Up; Ladies Chain [E]
- LH Wave, girls on ends: Girls Fold; Boys Trade and Spread; Girls Touch 1/4 [D]
- From columns: 6 Walk 2 Dodge; Centers Walk And Dodge [X]
- From normal columns: Coordinate But The Girls Cast Off 3/4 (or Don't Trade, or U Turn Back) [D]
- From 8 Chain: Outsides Arch, Centers Dive Thru, Archers don't forget to California Twirl [D]
- From a Diamond, girls in centers with right hands: Chain 3/4 Down The Line [X]
- From normal facing lines: Right And Left Thru; Put the lady in the lead, Double Pass Thru [E]
- From normal ocean waves: Spin Chain Thru ... Girls "Now!"
(where "now" is the command usually used by the caller while circling
left with the grapevine step to cause all the girls to spin 360
- From an Alamo Ring: "Spin Chain Thru" or "Starting with the
right, Spin Chain Thru". Spin Chain Thru can be viewed as a series of
arm turns (1/2, 3/4, 1/2, 3/4), and once the dancers start, they
alternate hands, and do the turns. Is this a proper Spin Chain Thru?
While the ARC Committee ruled "no" in 2000, this gimmick makes sense
to most dancers and dances well. [B]
- From an Alamo Ring: "All Swing And Mix" or "Starting with the
right, all Swing And Mix". Viewing the Alamo Ring as an infinitely
long ocean wave, once dancers get started they know where to go.
Assuming that they will start with the right hand is not correct, but
also usually works. [B]
- Scoot Back 1 1/2 [D]
- Eight Chain 3 1/2; Center two boys U Turn Back; Promenade [D]
- Boys Scoot Back; Girls Dodge [D]
- From normal lines:
Boys Walk, Girls Dodge
Walk And Dodge
Boys Un-Walk, Girls Dodge
Girls Un-Walk, Boys Dodge [X]
- Squared Set: Sides Face; Grand Swing Thru [D and E]
- Allemande Left ... Your Partner, hang on and Roll Promenade [T]
- Out of sequence promenade: Heads Wheel Around And Arch, Sides Dive Thru; Promenade Home [D]
- Out of sequence promenade: Heads Arch, Sides Promenade Under [E]
- C1: Ah So and Sweep 1/4 [B]
- Chase Right and Sweep 1/4 [B]
- Chase Right ... Chase her again (in a singing call) [B]
- C1: From a Butterfly Completed Double Pass Thru: Butterfly Centers In [D]
- Ping Pong Circulate 1 1/2 [B]
- Double Pass Thru (say quickly) First Left, next Veer Right, Couples Circulate [D]
- Remember Your Couple Number, Sides Lead Right, Right and Left Thru, Eight Chain Your Couple Number [D]
(All are facing the stage)
Start with the front couples and do a Centers In Three Times [E]
Bend Your Big Line [E]
Star Thru, Leading Couple (the one looking at no one) California Twirl
If You Can: Dive Thru
Centers Swing Thru, Turn Thru, Left Allemande
- Remember Your Couple Number, Sides Lead Right, Right and Left Thru, Eight Chain Your Couple Number [D]
(All are facing the stage)
Grand Cloverleaf [E]
pick up your Partner Promenade
(At this moment, all with partner out of sequence)
- Out of sequence promenade: Put The Lady In The Lead, Promenade Single File
Man #1 turn back towards the outside and everyone else follow him like a giant snake [E]
Join Hands, Circle Left; Ladies In, Men Sashay; LA
- Allemande Left
All Promenade, but don't stop, don't slow down.
Side couples... put your girl in the lead for a single file Promenade
Heads, just keep as you are...
Sides keep going, Heads bend the line to face (Sides keep going) [E]
Heads, Star Thru
Do Sa Do
Square Thru Three
Allemande Left Your Corner
Right and Left Grand
- Four Ladies Chain
Heads - Right and Left Thru and Rollaway
Join hands and circle left
Girls up to the middle and back
Girls - Pass Thru and both face left and Promenade
Boys - Pass Thru to your corner and Allemande Left [D]
- Normal Alamo Ring (with Corner and Partner): Swing Thru, Boys Run Right, Boys Run Left, R & L Grand (most Boys are confused about the Run Left and will one more time run right...) [D]
- Allemande Thar (with Partner): Slip The Clutch ... U-Turn Back, R & L Grand (dancers will stick out left hand or even yet grab the Corner's left arm) [T]
- Within some choreography when dancers come to a Zero Box: lift my voice,
say "find your Corner" with excitement (dancers will grab the Corner's
left arm), lower my voice and say "Dosado" [T]
- From Static Square: Circle ... Right (most dancers will go to the left) [T]
- Something I like to use when my Squares are hopelessly mixed up (by
dancer's mistakes) and not repairable: bring only the two Head Boys to a
Left Hand Star - these Boys pick up original Partner for Star Promenade,
these girls pickup original Corner, these Boys pick up original Partner -
should give a long turning Two-Faced Line vvvv^^^^ though it rarely is
proper, most of the times dancers have some sort of an angle that I as a
Caller can also make a little bit fun of - call
Bend The Big Line [X]
Bend the Little Line [D]
Bend the Little Bitty Line [X]
for a R & L Grand
- Bow to the partner...aaand Swing 'er!
Turn around and bow to the corner.
Same thing..(slight pause)
Swing the PARTNER! [T]
- Pass To The Center; Centers Veer Home [X]
- Half Square Thru, Twice [mild T]
- Heads Square Thru 4; Dosado; Centers Trade; Double Pass Thru [T]
- Ocean Waves: Dosado; Centers Trade; Double Pass Thru [T]
- A2: Heads Square Thru 4; Dosado; Recycle (dancers should do the facing couple recycle) [T]
- Pass To The Center; Centers Zoom (expecting the centers to Pass Thru) [T]
- A1: After several Double Star Thrus, call Star Thru Twice [T]
- C4: Single Triple Wheel vs. Triple Single Wheel [T]
- Circle Left, Ladies In Men Sashay, Circle Left, Ladies In Men Say Hey (i.e., the men do not sashay) [T]
- Ferris Wheel, Outsides Sweep 1/4, You're Home (i.e., the outsides are really doing a concentric sweep 1/4)) [B]
Here are some comments from others on what is a gimmick:
- A gimmick is choreography that the definitions say is improper, but
that is occasionally called, and has a high dancer success rate.
- It is a gimmick when the sequence is purposely intended
to lull the dancers into expecting one thing and then trick them with
- Gimmicks are in the eye of the beholder.
- A gimmick is something rarely called by those callers whom the subject dancer has danced.
- A gimmick is everything that is fun - this may in some cases be normal
choreography, in some cases it may be illegal, in some cases it will be
extended choreography. But not all "illegal" choreography is a gimmick
to me - what I feel about a gimmick is when it makes dancers grin or
- My opinion is a gimmick is something that is a shade of gray. If it
violates the definition, or restriction, then it is not a gimmick, it
is a clear cut violation.
- Teaching and calling progressive squares could be considered a
gimmick. If teach becomes too long or progressive squares are done
too often, it becomes boring to the dancers who have seen it.
Same goes for teaching a hard singing call (like Running Bear).
- Challenge: A gimmick is something where a new situation cannot
be rigorously worked out based on its rules. But rather, each new
situation requires a new teach, new memorization, new correlaries.
is a gimmick,
is a concept.
- A good gimmick is smoothly danceable. Dancing is moving to music.
Therefore a good gimmick is when the dancers are moving to the music.
Just like showmanship, a gimmick can be choreographic, "theatrical",
or musical. It's a good idea to mix the types of gimmicks (i.e. don't
always use choreographic gimmicks every time).
I would like to close by hitting a few related subjects.
Definitions Committee: Callerlab has a definitions committee
that maintains the various call definitions on behalf of the various
dance committees. More information can be found
The actual definitions can be found
When creating or changing the definition of a call, the definitions
folks consider gimmick applications. Usually it is not appropriate to
make the definition admit these applications. If the definition were
made too general, it would also allow a lot of applications that
everyone feels are inappropriate. Instead the definition is written
to be restrictive, and gimmicks may be mentioned in the comments
Application Review Committee: Callerlab has a committee that
reviews questionable applications (uses) of calls. More information can be found
A document of all decisions can be found
Fortunately, most of the questions that come before them are not
related to gimmicks. Occasionally, they must rule on a gimmick
application. Usually their criteria is "Is this application proper
according to the definition?" Type "B" gimmicks would probably be
Caller judgment: I cannot understate the important in
exercising good judgment when using gimmicks. It addition to knowing
your audience, remember that gimmicks are a spice and a little goes a
Several of the gimmicks require skill in their delivery. It is not
uncommon to hear another caller use a gimmick, write it down, and
discover that when he calls it, it falls flat or just plain doesn't
work. Often the exact word order, timing, or diction is important and
he missed one of these areas.
My personal preference is to avoid almost all the "trick the dancer"
gimmicks. Generally they aren't good dancing and I don't believe the
dancers appreciate them anyway near as much as we think they do.
Revised: $Date: 2011/02/18 05:04:47 $
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