Square Dance Nebraska - Ideas


There are two types of demonstrations. In both cases preparations should be made in advance. There should be clear communication about what is expected from your dancers when they volunteer to show off their talents. For too long we have been just haphazardly organizing demonstrations without any regard to what we are actually presenting to the public. And for too long the public has been ignoring us.

Recruiting Demonstrations

At this type of demonstration you are trying to encourage the onlookers to become part of square dancing. You usually can ask the onlookers to join you for some simple movements and/or hand out advertising for your upcoming class. In this situation you want to present your dancers as "John Q. Public."

To convince John Q. Public on square dancing you have to appeal to what J.Q.P desires. In general, they want fun, health/exercise, family activity, social interaction or to learn something new. They typically are not looking for commitments, time pressures, something not fun or settings where they don't feel they can relate to the people or situation.

The best option is to leave the petticoats home. The women should wear prairie skirts, regular street skirts/dresses and pants. A variety of clothing is the best option and it is worth the effort to organize what you are going to wear ahead of time. If a few women must wear their petticoats then it is best kept to a minimum. The men should keep away from overly decorative shirts.

The dancing should be easy moves. While Teacup Chain and Relay the Deucy look pretty, many onlookers will dismiss the activity as being too hard to learn. And it will be even harder to get them to join in after they've seen you demonstrate these calls no matter how much you try to assure them you will only do the "easy stuff."

After standing on the sideline and watching you "perform" they will be hesitant to jump into the spotlight and become part of the "performance" for others to watch. Don't reject the idea of incorporating some contra or line dancing into your recruiting. The ease of these types of dances can loosen their apprehension about trying a "real" square.

Dancers should keep personal styling down to a minimum. While precision dancing is not necessary, a square where everyone is doing something different is quite confusing to the onlookers. They have no point of reference to know the difference between what you are doing and what the call actually is. They could easily think that part of the square is required to be twirling around while the other part is required to not be twirling. The idea is to get them to focus on the "EASE" of the calls .... not how great of a dancer you personally are.

Once they have joined you in trying the activity out all personal styling should be abandoned. They do not want to be grabbed, pushed, or shoved. They don't want to feel like they must protect themselves from flying arms and legs. They want to feel secure that they will not be embarrassed by this experience.

The image you project is the image you will recruit.
You will only recruit what you show. If you show fancy clothes then you will only recruit those that wish to spend money on fancy clothes. If your group is all young or all elderly then you will only recruit the youth OR the elderly from the onlookers. You may wish to only recruit people who will be sure to buy the clothing. You may only wish to recruit the youth or only recruit the elderly. The point is that you should take careful stock in what you desire to recruit versus what kind of "look" you will be presenting the observers.

Put yourself in the place of the observer.
Ever have anyone try and get you up for a line dance (or any other type of experience) and, having never tried it, you refused to get up and try? Did you ever think about "why" you didn't want to get up? Sure, you may have told them that you don't like line dancing or that you just weren't in the mood. That's what most people say when the truth is that they don't want to be embarrassed. They don't want to look silly in front of a lot of people. And they are sure that everyone is only watching them. The people you are trying to recruit feel the exact same way. To figure out what would make your observers comfortable enough to join in, step back and take a good look at what would convince you to "at least try" something that you've never done before.

Performance Demonstrations

Here's the place you can shine. Wear your fanciest clothes, do the hardest calls possible, include some of that styling. There is only a few caveats to this type of event.

You are performing as a group and you want to look like a group. Prearrange what you will wear for clothing. While you may allow prairie skirts for the ladies it would look odd if only one lady was wearing a prairie skirt while the others were wearing the short petticoated versions. There should be a nice mix of prairie and petticoats or else the entire group should pick one type of dress or the other. Matching outfits are nice too.

Prearrange your styling. All do the Highland Fling or none of you do the Highland Fling. All kick at the start of a Right and Left Grand or none of you do. Staying on the beat of the music is a major factor in this type of event. Have the caller prearrange what records he will use and then adjust your styling to the type of music. If it's fast and upbeat then high kicks and flings should be appropriate. A slower tune may require that "refined" look. The positive side of this is that you not only show a variety of music but you show a variety of dancing.

Keeping in step with the music is the biggest factor. You don't want half the square rushing through a call and having to wait for the other half to get to their spot before they can start dancing again. This is not "dancing" and it doesn't look good as a performance. On club night, or other rearranged time (can even be at another club's dance), the group should get together and just have a tip or two where they practice moving to the music as a unit. Have someone watch you from outside the square so that you can get an honest critiquing.


Consider what you will be dancing on.
Wear the appropriate footwear. Comfort and security are important issues for both your safety and what you will present to your public.

Ladies should pick their undergarments with care. If you will be on a stage then more people will be able to see up your dress. One stage was high enough and one lady's dress was so loose that I saw past her pettipants up to bare stomach. Other women seem to have no problem wearing the short tennis style pettipants and then wearing nylons that have the darker brief line that extends below their pettipants. Pretend for a moment that you had to take off your skirt and petticoat and stand before people in only your pettipants. Consider how you would you want to look standing in just your pettipants and then dress appropriately. After all, when you're spinning and twirling enough to show off your pettipants it's pretty much the same thing.