Square Dance Club


Student Handbook






Jim & Toni Unger, Callers

(616) 453-4280


hhtp://Flutterbyes.SquareDance MI. com

(Note:  no “www” in address!)




Dear Square Dance Students,


Welcome to one of the best all-around social activities available.  Square dancing is a good low impact semi-aerobic exercise for couples of all ages.  Studies have shown that square dancing can add years to your life expectancy and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.


This Handbook will help explain some of the whys and wherefores of not only square dancing but also the Flutterbyes Square Dance Club-a kind of a one-stop-shopping for information about square dancing.  If there are any questions that are not answered in this handbook, please give us a call.



Jim & Toni Unger, Club Callers

(616) 453-4280


What is expected of students?

Since square dancing is made up of a series of instructions (called “calls”) that is executed by dancing couples.  It is vital that each student know how to perform each and every call.  Just as rebuilding an engine or brain surgery is based on knowing the steps that come before a particular function, so too is square dancing.  Therefore, just like academic classes, it is very important to attend most of the classes.  Experience has shown that beginning students who miss classes usually have to repeat lessons another year to master the beginning level of square dancing (called “mainstream”).  We are teaching a shortened, abbreviated list of calls designed to get you dancing by the January Club dance.  This 8 to 10 class schedule will allow you to dance at the Flutterbyes Club dances (only the mainstream tips).  To dance at other dances, more lessons will be required; however this is an excellent opportunity to find out if square dancing is for you.  If it is, additional lessons will be arranged.


Classes not only teach new calls, they allow you to practice previously learned calls.  If you miss a class, you’ll need remedial work.  Each lesson will review what was covered in the previous class.  If you need more help, ask the dance helpers (called “angels”) to show you the dance step(s) in question between tips (see “Square Dance Terms & Definitions”).  Other sources of assistance are:


·       The book: “The Illustrated Mainstream Movements of Square Dancing” 

·       All square dance definitions can be found at www.callerlab.org.  

·       Illustrated dance definitions can be viewed at http://www.tamtwirlers.org/tamination/info/index.html

·       For video lessons with actual dancers for Basic/Mainstream through Plus, go to  http://videosquaredancelessons.com/lessons/

or    http://www.kssquaredancing.com/joomla/square-dance-lesson-videos.html


However, the best way to learn is by doing.  After all, you don’t want a brain surgeon who only has book learnin’.  That’s why classes are so important.  You only get out of square dancing what you put into it.


Classes only require “casual” attire which means street clothes and comfortable shoes.  It is also nice if you could bring a treat or snack to share and to help clean up after class.


When lessons end, if you don’t continue to dance, you will most certainly need to repeat lessons.  Experience has shown that if new students don’t dance at least once or twice a month after lessons, they will need to repeat lessons.  We will make you aware of all appropriate dance opportunities.


We also strongly recommend you angel next years’ students for a year or two (or even more) after your lessons to polish your dancing skills.






Cost and Payment


The charge for classes does not even begin to pay for rental of the space.  Our club believes it is important to encourage new dancers and to promote the activity; therefore, costs are kept as low as possible.  To assist in space rental, during each lesson a voluntary raffle is held (called 50-50) to raise funds.  If you are so inclined, please help us by participating.




To assist students in the learning process, experienced dancers attend and participate along with the students.  There should be no more than 4 students (i.e. 2 couples) in each group of 8 dancers (called a “square”).  It is better to only have one student couple per square if possible.  If you are having trouble picking up calls, consider not dancing with another beginner as your partner.  Dance with an angel instead.  The purpose of angels is to help beginning students.  If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask the angels to show you the dance step in question. 




After completing about 50 hours of non-abbreviated instruction, many dancers are ready to attend “real” dances (called “mainstream” dances).  It is very important to become proficient with each level of square dancing before you go onto the next level (some dancers choose never to go to the next level).  This usually means dancing for at least a year or more after graduation before going on.  That’s why we strongly suggest that you angel for a year or more after graduation.  That way you not only become more proficient, you give something back to the club.



Club Membership


Upon graduation, students will receive one year’s free membership in the club.  Our year goes from June 1-May 31.   The benefits of Club membership include:

·       Reduced admission to Club dances

·       A monthly newsletter listing area dances and special events

·       You may participate in club social events, e.g. travel dances, parties, fundraisers, etc.

·       You receive one year’s free dues if you sponsor a class member who successfully graduates.


However with membership come responsibilities.  These include:

·       Serving on committees

·       Rotation through Club duty functions (greeter, admissions, clean-up, etc.)

·       Providing snacks at Club dances you attend

·       Helping clean up after dances 


Club Membership in the Flutterbyes is a fun and rewarding experience.  At Graduation, students will receive a copy of the “Members” Handbook.  While there are some similarities between the Student and Member Handbook, there are significant differences as well.  Copies of both handbooks are also available on the Flutterbyes website.

Square Dance Etiquette


To ensure that everyone at a square dance has an enjoyable time, please observe the following rules of etiquette:


1.      Do not drink alcoholic beverages or take drugs as that affects your dance reaction time.  Alcohol can also cause bad breath.

2.      Shower, use deodorant and brush your teeth.  Avoid eating strong smelling foods (e.g. garlic, onions, etc.) before a dance.

3.      Once in a square, do not abandon it.  It is rude to pass by a square needing a couple.  Usually form squares randomly (the exception is to divide up students among the angels).

4.      Introduce yourself to dancers you do not know and thank all the dancers after the tip.

5.      Be gentle in offering dancing assistance and instructions to fellow dancers.  Take care not to hurt other’s feelings and do not be critical.

6.      Listen to the caller.  Do not talk when the caller is talking or calling.  Not only is it rude, but all dancers may need the information offered.

7.      If a medical emergency occurs, members of the square should surround the person in question with uplifted arms to notify the caller that assistance is needed.

8.      Couples should wear square dance attire (see “Square Dance Terms & Definitions”) during actual dances unless it is advertised as “casual.” 


Flutterbyes Club History, Activities and Purpose


Flutterbyes is a non-profit teaching club founded by Jim and Toni Unger in 1990.  It functions as a caller-run club (CRC) meaning that the caller sets the direction of the club with input from club members.  Currently our club sponsors a club dance the first Saturday of each month October through May and on other special dates as announced utilizing both the Club callers and guest callers.  The format of normal club dances is alternating mainstream & plus calls.  In addition, we offer Second Saturday Plus dances January through April as well as travel dances, parties and other special events.


The Flutterbyes are members of the Western Michigan Square and Round Dance Association and the Michigan Council of Square and Round Dance Clubs and adhere to Callerlab rules.


Square Dance Myths


Like many other activities, there are several untrue myths about square dancing.  Here are a few.


1.      Square Dancing is only for old people.  Square dancing is for all ages.  In fact many teenagers square dance.  The earlier you learn, the easier you pick it up.

2.      Square Dancing is only fun but offers nothing else.  Square dancing is a low impact semi-aerobic exercise that strengthens your muscles and mind.  There are many physical and mental benefits to square dancing. 

3.      Square Dancing uses only country music.  Many different types of music are used including pop, rock, easy listening, polka, Broadway, county-western and even rap.

4.      You have to learn higher levels of square dancing to be good/have fun.  The right caller can make the most basic level (mainstream) of square dancing challenging.



Square Dance History (From www.dosado.com/articles/hist-sd.html)


It is difficult to trace exactly the roots of our modern square and round dancing, for they are deep and varied. Certainly, the taproots go back to our English and French ancestors, but there are traces of Scottish, Scandinavian, Spanish, plus many other folk dances.

As the American pioneers moved westward, the dances went with them. Many of the dances were lost or forgotten, but many were preserved, particularly in the southern Appalachians. There the running set established itself as one of the deep taproots of our western square dance. The running set even had a caller -- America's only unique contribution to the square dance. In the first part of the 20th century, American dancing suffered a great decline. It took a great industrialist, Henry Ford, and a superintendent, Lloyd Shaw, from a small school in Colorado to lift the great American folk activity out of the doldrums.


Henry Ford used to vacation at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. There he became interested in the dance program conducted by a dancing master named Benjamin Lovett.  Ford tried to hire Lovett, who declined, pointing out that he had a firm contract with the Inn.  This posed no problem for multi-millionaire Ford, who simply bought the Inn and, by contract, required Lovett to go back to Detroit with him. In the Detroit area, Ford established a broad program for teaching squares and rounds, including radio broadcasts and programs for schools.  He built a beautiful dance hall in Greenfield Village and named it Lovett Hall, which is still in use. In 1926 Ford and Lovett published a book which provided inspiration and material for many people, entitled "Good Morning."  One of the people who pounced on and devoured the book was a young school superintendent in Colorado Springs, Colorado, named Lloyd Shaw. Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw realized that Ford's book supplied only a part of the information on the American dance, and that the rest of it was under his nose in the small towns and farming and mining communities of his own West. He went to work painstakingly interviewing old-timers, collecting dances and music, researching. In 1939 he published the first really definitive work on western square dancing - "Cowboy Dances." Later he published a round dance book. He trained teams of dancers in his Cheyenne Mountain School and took them around the country exhibiting and teaching.  In the summer, he conducted classes for new leaders. It was then that western square dancing began to grow like wildfire.


Square dancing began its transition from the traditional, visiting couple type of dancing into all-four-couple-working kind of dancing in the 1950's.  Callers discovered that they could move everyone at the same time and create more interest.  Then Square Thru (which had been danced in contras for hundreds of years) was "invented" and introduced in 1955, and other movements followed quickly. Soon we had 16 basics, and then 20, and then 32, and then –well, you know the rest of the story.


In 1974, an organization named CALLERLAB, The International Association of Square Dance Callers, held its first convention.  It has met every year since. CALLERLAB's aim is to promulgate the principles of fun and friendship established by early leaders like “Pappy” Shaw and to standardize square dance terms, timing and styling.  ROUNDALAB, The International Association of Round Dance Teachers, works toward the same goals for round dancing. 




Square Dance Terms & Definitions


Below is listed some information that involves square dancing as a whole (i.e. we do not list the definition of calls) that is often hard to find in square dance instruction manuals.  For example, did you know that no matter where in the world you square dance, all the calls are in English?  Below are selected definitions. 

·       All square dance definitions can be found at www.callerlab.org.  

·       Illustrated dance definitions can be viewed at http://www.tamtwirlers.org/tamination/info/index.html

·       For video lessons with actual dancers for Basic/Mainstream through Plus, go to  http://videosquaredancelessons.com/lessons/ or

or   http://www.kssquaredancing.com/joomla/square-dance-lesson-videos.html



A method of fund raising at square and/or round dances. Rather than raise the dance entry fee, an (optional) separate purchase enters the dancer into a raffle, where the potential prize is some amount of money. Several random winners are selected, and the total of the money returned to the participants is half (50%) of the total money used to purchase tickets for this activity, hence the term, 50/50. Sometimes called “lucky split.”



Dancers at a class that are already at (or beyond) the current dance program who are there to help the students in the class. Very often, angels are club members helping at their club's classes, helping new dancers learn the basics of square dancing.



The type of clothes worn at square dance functions.  There are basically two types:


·       Traditional (sometimes called “Square Dance attire”):  Western (usually long sleeve) shirts and dress pants or jeans for men and square dance blouses and skirts or dresses for women (plus the applicable square dance undergarments)


·       Casual:  Street clothing for both men and women.



Usually a square or rectangular piece of cloth, with the club's logo.  One method square dance clubs use to encourage dancers to come to their dances is to award visiting clubs (usually with a square of attending dancers) banners with the sponsoring club's logo upon it. The tradition follows that the club giving the banner must then return the visit back to the club who captured the banner, in order to "recapture" their own banner back.



            An old term referring to the first 50 Mainstream calls.  See “Dance Programs”



When the square is no longer able to continue dancing because too few dancers know where they're supposed to be. This is considered to be a "broken" square, and is commonly referred to as "breaking down".

If the current song is a singing call, the couples should all return to their original home positions and wait for the rest of the floor to return as well; if it's a patter call, they should form two facing lines and wait for a call that brings all the lines "up to the middle and back", their signal to join in and resume dancing.


The leader (male or female) who directs dancers through a square dance tip, calling either a patter or singing call. This can be at a class, workshop or dance.   There are a few types including:

·       Club Caller:  The caller than calls most of the club’s dances

·       Guest Caller:  A caller (usually paid) that calls occasionally for the club by invitation

·       National Caller (also called a Professional Caller):  A caller who makes his/her living by calling square dances and is therefore very proficient at calling.



An international organization responsible for the consistent definition of square dance calls and programs throughout the world.



Similar to a caller, a cuer is responsible for directing round dancers during a round dance.


Dance Programs (unofficially called “levels”)

A defined program of square dancing, used to refer to a collective set of standard square dance calls taught to dancers. The seven programs defined by Callerlab, in order, are:

·                     Mainstream (about 70 calls)

·                     Plus (about 30 calls)

·                     Advanced (not all areas of the country split them) (about 60 calls)

o                    A-1

o                    A-2

·                     Challenge (hundreds of calls)

o                    C-1 ["Challenge Basic"]

o                    C-2 ["Extended Challenge"]

o                    C3A

o                    C3B (non-Callerlab)

o                    C4 (non-Callerlab)

The most common program danced is Mainstream, while Plus is very prevalent in many of the major urban areas of the U.S.


A small plastic or metal object which attaches to a badge, using only a single metal ring to attach to a badge. This object can symbolize a variety of things, including such items as visitations, callers, special events, etc.  Also called a fun badge.



Dancing By Definition. Dancing such that the individual calls can be broken into their component parts, so that a call can be danced from any position on the floor, including dancing a call from a different starting position (non-standard positions) than was originally taught.

This requires that dancers remember how each call is defined (as a group of linked Basic calls) rather than just from standard positions (that most people were taught).


A fancy move that is added to, or substituted for, the standard way of doing a call that has the same effect but can be more fun (than the standard, traditional movements). Frills that involve other dancers usually have some built-in signal so that you only do it if both dancers are ready and both know the particular frill.

Caution should be taken to avoid upsetting others in your square. Some dancers are distracted/upset by actions other than what is called, so care must be taken to use only those frills that are acceptable to those in your square. Use your knowledge of those with which you dance, dance carefully... and have fun!

Patter Call

A single song, used by a caller as background for a series of calls, very often with only call-related lyrics accompanying the music. One aspect of a patter call is that both partners of a couple will be moved in a variety of formations and arrangements, but each time be brought back to their home position before the next set of calls. This may occur several times during the patter call. This is in contrast to a singing call.


Round Dancing (aka Choreographed Ballroom)

Another form of couples-oriented dancing. This type of dancing is commonly included at a square dance, usually before the dance (often called Pre-Rounds) as well as between square dance tips. This type of dancing is a variation of ballroom dancing, cued by a cuer, with the couples dancing in a circular formation around the dance hall (hence the term 'Round' dancing).

Round dancing is similar to square dancing in that a leader (a cuer for round dancing vs. a caller for square dancing) is directing the dancers as to what dance step is to be performed by the dancers, a few beats ahead of the actual figure within the music.

There are two primary differences between round and square dancing. First of all, the round dance cuer is merely cueing (i.e., reminding) the round dancer through a previously choreographed set of steps, usually learned prior to the dance at a round dance class. In contrast, the square dance caller is very often creating the choreography on the fly. Secondly, footwork is a key element in round dancing, whereas square dancers are merely expected to move more or less in time to the music, with no particular concern about foot placement.

Sex-Specific Call

A call that is performed differently by men and ladies, regardless of position. (There aren't nearly as many of these as some people think. Examples: Star Thru, Slide Thru, See Saw, Swing Your Partner, Right & Left Grand, Box the Gnat, Weave the Ring, and Left Allemande.)



Stopping short at your correct position (and announcing - out loud - "short", to tell others in the square that they are not promenading), rather than promenading completely around the square. This is common in patter calls where you are less than a quarter of the way from your home position and don't feel like promenading one and a quarter of the way around your square.  Be advised that you should never call a "short" in a singing call. Singing calls are choreographed such that the caller knows the exact position of the dancers at the end of any sequence and any "long" promenades are already taken into account, sometimes merely to allow the caller the chance to complete a long chorus of the music.  In a Singing Call, the promenade rule is you must promenade at least ¼ the way around.  If you are only ¼ the way around from home, you should promenade 1¼ the way around.


Singing Call

A single song, usually taken from pop, Broadway, or country, where the caller will intermix square dance directions with singing (usually based upon the original lyrics of the song being played).

One aspect of a singing call that is generally unrecognized by many new dancers is that during the course of the song, the ladies progress from one partner to the next, usually in promenade (counter-clockwise) direction.


A set of four couples, in a four-sided formation, each couple facing one of the four walls of the room. Each square is comprised of two head couples and two side couples.  


Stacking Calls

Several calls, called in quick succession, requiring the dancers to remember several calls in a row When this occurs, finish each call before going onto the next.



Anything about the way you do a call that is not mentioned in the definition. Usually the definition tells you how to get there, while styling tells you how to do it smoothly. Most calls have standard styling that everyone should know and is always correct, plus alternate stylings, or frills, that you can add for fun.



The time you spend dancing in one square without a break. (This is usually a combination of a patter call and a singing call.)


Visitation (sometimes called a “Travel Dance”)

A club-organized event where the club "visits" another club, usually in the local area (though sometimes it may be a non-local club, usually with some sort of group transportation, such as a bus). In many clubs, a banner is given to the visiting club(s).



A formal class, designed for reviewing square dance calls that have already been taught to dancers at the workshop's program. The class instructor may be reviewing known calls in their standard positions, or teaching these calls in new formations or orientations that the dancers may never have learned before. For example, you could have a Plus / DBD workshop, expanding the dancer's use of existing calls at the Plus program that the dancer is already familiar with, but previously known only from the standard positions.



Yellow Rock

A hug directed to your corner. Used commonly to get the square to relax and get ready for the next call. Some callers will substitute different colors for different people in (or out of) the square. Other generally accepted color codes for "huggees":


Rock "Color"

Designated "Huggee"

Yellow Rock


Red Rock


Green Rock

Right-Hand Lady

Orange Rock


Blue Rock


Purple Rock

Whatever you can get away with




Square Dancing is fun, relaxing and good exercise