Square Dance Nebraska - Ideas

You Can't Help Too Much
How did you read that sentence?
Did you read it as you shouldn't help to much or that no matter how much you help it wouldn't be enough?

How you read the title reflects the type of dancer you are. The fact is, you CAN help too much. You can be overly helpful to the point of embarrassing or even not allowing the new dancer to learn what the instructor is trying to teach.

Experienced dancers attend class to help the instructor. The instructor needs dancers that will show good examples. The instructor needs dancers that can get to the spot he is trying to teach the new dancers to get to. When the instructor says that square dancing is 99% listening he needs dancers that will provide that example for him. While the benefit is that the experienced dancers are helping the new dancers, they are helping by being an example. Not by being a teacher.

Didn't Understand the Instruction?
When a new dancer is confused it is natural for them to look within their square for help. They will easily ask questions of you (while the instructor is talking) because they are embarrassed to stand out in a crowd and ask for help from the instructor. Unfortunately, while you are instructing within the square the real instructor is still talking. While you are repeating things already said the instructor is continuing with his instruction and pretty soon you will end up parroting everything the caller "just said" because the class member was listening to you and not the real instructor.

As an experienced dancer it is not your job to teach them the call, it is your job to help them ask questions. To remove the aprehension they have about speaking out in class. Raise your hand and tell the caller that YOU didn't understand the instruction. Don't embarrass the class member by pointing out that you knew the call but the class member didn't.

Still Hesitant About Executing the Call?
After the instruction, it is common that the new dancer is still hesitant. They "think" they have it but there's just enough doubt that it causes them to react slowly, to think carefully before moving. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don't.

Since part of the appeal is the feeling of accomplishment, the experienced dancers should refrain from pulling and pushing the new dancers. The best thing the experienced dancer can do is lag back a bit and let the new dancer lead the way. After all, this is class and there is no need to teach them that rushing through the calls is the first thing they need to learn. If there is too much lag the experienced dancer may start to move with some indication that the new dancer should come with them. The best feeling is when a new dancer is confident enough to start taking you with them!

A serious complication can arise when the experienced dancer is wrong. This happens more often than you might realize. Most likely the instructor has taught many classes and can understand when giving a simple definition will inhibit further learning. An experienced dancer is often just reacting to the moment at hand and will "cheat" by using the term of boys, girls, right, left, etc. If the new dancer latches on to this and applies it to further lessons it can make the learning experience much harder.

But How Do I Get Them to Understand Without Talking, Pulling or Pushing?
Eye contact and offering a hand .... I mean, really offering a hand. This is where knowing proper hand positions is beneficial. Are they to be your partner? Then hold your hand out nearest to the hand you want of theirs and look them in the eye so that they know they are supposed to be with you. Learning Ocean Waves? Then hold your palm up in the traditional method and extend it out to them so they understand they should come to you with the same hand hold. There are many ways to communicate non-verbally and this is a good time for the experienced dancer to practice these things.

Once in a while there will need to be a form of "pulling" though I can't think of one time where "pushing" is appropriate. There are methods of open-hand pressure that can indicate that a dancer should come with you without ever "gripping" their hand. This allows them to go their own way and make their own mistakes if they must. And some people must make their own mistakes in order to learn! The only form of acceptable pushing is "pointing". A push tells a new dancer nothing except "get out of my way" whereas a point indicates where they should be going.

Even if this is your 20th class, there's always something new to learn.
Square dancing is about people first, the execution of the calls second, and dancing on the beat third. Hopefully, in time, all class members will learn all three things but it's a rare class member that will learn all of those things all at once. For the experienced dancer there is always something new to learn. Listen carefully to the instructor and do only what the instructor says .... no more, no less. Do you remember that in your class? If you learned by the same instructor you will be amazed at how often you say to yourself, "I don't remember it being taught that way." If you learned by a different instructor then take the opportunity to learn a different approach to the call. Don't simply shut off your ears because you think you already know the call. If you do then you will miss a lot from the class experience.

Take the opportunity to really see what the other half is doing. If you haven't danced very long then you are probably still only aware of "your part". Take this time to understand what is really going on with everyone else. When we first learn Star Thru is is very common for new dancers to only understand their part. If you're a guy then you know "right hand", if you are a girl then you know "left hand" and we usually forget what the other person needs to do because we are so busy learning. And there are a lot of things like that. Take this time to see yourself in the other positions.

Have you attended so many classes that listening to the calls being taught is mentally boring to you? Then take the time to look around at the new dancers in your square. What types of personalities are they? The range of abilities vary greatly and each type of personality requires different things. Take this time to figure out how you can be the best angel for them.

Is there a new dancer that relies too much help from within the square? Now is the time to put a stop to it. Get them to rely on the caller/instructor. This will be the basis for their success wherever they travel. You will not always be there to help them and listening to the caller is the only way to their success.

Is there a new dancer that refuses help? Don't worry about it. If they insist on going in the wrong direction then the best thing is for everyone else to end up in the right position so that there is only one place left for them. Don't frown at them, don't pout, and don't withdraw any further help. You learned square dancing in your own way and now they must do the same.