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A New Concept for Challenge Dancers

by Ett McAtee

As we know, square dancing is a dynamic activity, always changing and molding into new shapes, designs and thought patterns. There is so much we can do with just one square of dancers, it boggles the mind. It's time to stretch your brains a bit, and think now of a new concept that was recently introduced at the challenge level. It is called "initially," written by Vic Ceder, and it makes you think of calls and their definitions in ways that you haven't thought of in years.

The "initially" concept, hereafter referred to as initially, adds a lot of choreographic interest to our everyday square dancing. The concept is only applied to calls that have an identifiable first part, and that part must be agreed upon by both callers and dancers. initially makes us evaluate what we are doing step-by-step, and work as a team in our square to be successful. It goes like this: the caller delivers the call in the following order: Initially {concept}, some call. Think for a moment about "initially tandem, swing thru." Dancers interpret this in the following way: they listen first to hear what call is to be done. Then, everyone does the first part of the call, and only the first part of the call, in the concept named, thus acting "initially." After the first part has been completed, the dancers re-evaluate and continue doing the call normally from the position that they find themselves in after the first part.

Take our example above. From parallel right handed waves, the call initially tandem, swing thru, means that everyone acts "initially" and does the first part of the call in tandem, then everyone mentally switches off the concept to continue the call normally. So, after completing the swing in tandem by the right, they finish up by normally turning 1/2 by the left, (in accord with the usual definition of the call, 1/2 by the right, 1/2 by the left.) Suppose you are in diamonds and the call is "initially twice, diamond chain thru." Everyone does the first part of the call twice, that is, two diamond circulates, after which they continue normally with the chain thru part. You can see that it takes a lot of teamwork and cooperation of all the dancers in the square to complete the call successfully.

Initially provides a great deal of choreographic freedom, so long as it is used with calls that have a clearly defined first part. This requirement can be a real mind-bender. Consider the following call from right-handed columns: "initially tandem, swing the fractions." All dancers would tandem cast 1/4 by the right, and find themselves in parallel right handed waves, from which they continue the swing the fractions normally with "...1/2 by the left, 3/4 by the right, 1/2 by the left, 1/4 by the right." Initially allows figures to be done from setups we might not expect, adding interest to familiar calls.

Remember, everyone applies whatever concept is invoked to only the first part of the given call, then re-evaluates what to do next, based on the new formation. Definitions must always be kept in mind, so you can pick up the call normally after doing the very first part in the concept named. In addition to tandem and twice, we can work initially as couples, concentric, siamese, cross concentric, and phantom, and each of these can proceed from a variety of starting positions as well. Just for fun, think of calls that have identifiable first parts, and visualize executing some initially {concept} calls. Just remember to turn off the concept after that first part, and continue normally thereafter! {Initially has a sister concept, also written by Vic Ceder, called "finally," whereby you begin the call normally, but do the very last part, "finally," in the concept named. We will not look at "finally" in this article. You can only imagine how interesting that could be!}

You might wonder how initially is different from some concepts already included at the challenge levels. At C2 we have "any-call motivate," for example, whereby we replace the first all-8 circulate of the named call (i.e. motivate) with the "any-call" and then continue motivate normally thereafter. This concept applies only to calls that begin with an all-8 circulate, and is self-limiting in this way. Thus a call such as "start triple box motivate" would be problematic, because one might wonder how to do a motivate in a triple box! By contrast, the command "initially triple box, motivate" removes the ambiguity. Dancers know that this means, "replace the first part of motivate (namely, the all-8 circulate) with a triple box circulate, and finish motivate normally." At C3A, initially serves as a precursor to the "random-concept any call" that currently resides on that list. As you may know, "random-concept any call" states that the dancers do the odd- numbered parts of the calls in the concept named, and the even parts normally. This rule requires careful parsing of the calls, to identify the odd and even parts, and then requires you to remember what you are supposed to be doing at each of those stages.

Consequently, random can be quite difficult in some cases. On the other hand, initially only asks dancers to apply the concept to the very first part of the call, and once having done that, they can then turn it off and continue normally from their new formation. Of course, you need to remember the definition of the call you are supposed to be doing, so you can continue normally!

So, what's the difference between "initially" and "start?" Historically, "start tandem" was sometimes used the same way "initially tandem" would be used today but with attendant ambiguities. Look at the accompanying diagram. If you were in this formation and the call is "girls start tandem spin the top," what would you do? First of all, think of the definition of "spin the top" which is "end and adjacent center swing half by whatever hand is joined, and then everyone fan the top."


Who starts tandem, and how do you finish? In our example, dancers might interpret the instructions several different ways. Possibilities include:

a. girls tandem swing, boys do nothing, everyone normally fan the top.
b. girls tandem swing, boys normal swing with each other, everyone normally fan the top.
c. girls tandem swing, boys do nothing, everyone tandem fan the top.
d. girls tandem swing, boys normal swing, all tandem fan the top.
What would you do?

You can see possible ambiguities and how dancers might interpret the caller's words differently. It would depend on the caller's inflection and punctuation in delivering the call, and even then, different squares might respond differently. Initially does not create this confusion and settles the question of what to do. Consider the following:

i. girls initially tandem, all spin the top
ii. girls start tandem spin the top
iii. girls initially tandem, girls start spin the top
Although "initially" and "start" may seem to be the same, "initially" more precisely defines who is to begin and also how to begin the given call in the original formation. "Start" means those designated do the first part of the given call, and the rest join in when they can, as in "those facing start a pass and roll." "Initially" means those designated, usually everyone, execute the first part of the call using the given concept, and then everyone finishes the call normally from where they are. The two could also be combined, as in example iii above.

Initially is becoming a very popular concept to have in our vocabulary, even for the C1 program. The innovation is to recognize that this concept is too useflil to be regarded simply as just another case of "do the nth part in some concept." Vic elevated its status by giving it its own name.

Listed below are some calls that have well-defined first parts, since this is an essential requisite for the "initial" protocol. Think of the first part of each call and then the rest of the definition so you can continue normally after initially doing the first part in the concept named. Good luck, and have fun!

Note: The author wishes to thank Vic Ceder for input and suggestions of examples for this article. After publlcation in Zip Coder December 1995, the Initially concept was voted to be added to the C3A list, and the Random concept moved from C3A to C3B.

Calls with well-defined first parts, some from Vic Ceder's "Calls with Parts" available as an appendix in his Ceder Chest of call definitions. See if you can identify the first part of each call.


right and left thru
pass the ocean
swing thru
8 chain thru
spin the top
spin chain thru


spin chain the gears
spin chain and exchange the gears
explode and anything
relay the deucey
grand swing thru
peel the top


1/4, 3/4 thru
half breed thru
grand 1/4 and 3/4 thru
pass the sea
pass and roll
pass and roll your neighbor
remake the setup
scoot and weave
diamond chain thru


alter the wave
circle by some fraction
cross chain thru
triangle chain thru
pass the axle
relay the top
swing the fractions
flip back
tag back to a wave
tally ho


alter and circulate
circle to a wave
cross the k
perk up
rims/hubs trade back/anything
scoot and counter
scoot and cross ramble
flip your neighbor
tag your neighbor
wheel the ocean/sea


anyone hop
any call the lock
couple up
latch on
lock the hinge
locker's choice
1/4 and 3/4 mix
1/4 the deucey
1/4 and 3/4 wheel the ocean/sea
scoot and rally
spin the pulley
swing chain thru
travel thru


some fraction cast and relay
change the wave/centers
cross flip the line
reverse the top
turn the key

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