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by Bob Osgood, "Sets In Order - Square Dancing Magazine"
(printed with special permission from Bob Osgood)
There is much discussion these days about the program lists that identify what calls square dancers should be taught. We have the CALLERLAB Mainstream, Plus and Advanced programs as well as the One Floor program advocated by the American Callers Association. Have you ever wondered where the idea for listing square dance terms to identify a program of square dancing began? The first attempt to provide some standardization of such a list was undertaken by the late Bob Osgood who was the editor of Square Dance magazine which was known by everyone as Sets in Order. We present this series to you with the permission of the late Bob Osgood with whom we spent some time at the most recent CALLERLAB convention.
For more than a year in the late 1960's Bob assembled a group of leading callers from around North America and asked them to identify the calls that new dancers should be taught. This Gold Ribbon Committee finally agreed on a list that was published in the December 1968 issue of the magazine. It was a list of 50 terms that became widely known and accepted as the SIO 50 Basics.
In this newsletter we are reproducing the article from that December 1968 issue of SIO in which Bob reported the first phase of the work of his Gold Ribbon Committee. We are grateful that Bob gave us, during a visit last year, both a full set of the Sets in Order magazines and permission to use articles from them in our newsletters. The 50 Basic list, presented in a recommended lesson plan follows the article.
It was a bit of a struggle for us with the length of this article, but we finally decided that it is much easier to read it as a "single" document, rather than in two or three slices spread out over two or three months. Thus, the whole article follows below.
There are those who say we should only look "forward"...not "backward". However, we feel that much can be learned by better understanding where we started.
Tom Dillander - Music@Dosado.com
Ladies and Gentlemen...Mr. Bob Osgood!
AS I SEE IT
by Bob Osgood
The Christmas season is always the high point in the year, but to those in square dancing it seems to have additional significance. The Christmas season is always the time for families and special gatherings, of gifts and singing. A time when many of the deep concerns of the world appear to be held in abeyance for a short while, and where pleasures pure and simple are enjoyed by friends.
In the square dance circle, are many who find that this activity has brought them more closely in touch with true friendship, and with a joyous sense of belonging, and sharing happiness with others. Although this feeling of Christmas spirit seems to envelope the square dance activity throughout the year, it reaches its height during this month. With Christmas parties, exchange of gifts, the singing of carols, all seems right with the world, and with the world of square dancing in particular.
All of us out here wish each one of you, wherever you may be, the happiest Christmas and holiday season ever!
Phase One: Just about all we can think of these days is the Gold Ribbon Report and the culmination of a research job that has been going on for several years.
Thanks to the help and encouragement received from so many of you, not just the Gold Ribbon Committee members, but others who feel there is tremendous inspiration in the thought of a "New Plateau" for square dancing, we have been able to fit together, piece by piece, a program which is time-tested, and which we hand you now to think about carefully before you possibly put it into use in your community.
Just refresh your minds. This is the first phase of a many faceted program, all a part of the Gold Ribbon Report. Step one is the addition of a new program, something especially designed for those people who have neither the time nor the inclination to spend thirty weeks or more in a learners class and then limitless time in workshops and attending clubs in order to keep up with new material. This is the program built around a limited number of basics.
Thinking back, you’ll remember that there are some where in the neighborhood of 70 terms in the standard Sets in Order Basic List. (We checked another list of terms the other day that included virtually every "Experimental Movement" introduced during the past dozen years or more, and were astounded by the total of more than 800.)
This new program employs fifty of the most-used, basic, bedrock terms. During our research period we have been referring to this particular portion of the program as the "Limited Basics Program". However the word "limited" has a rather distasteful sound to it, so we sent out an S.O.S. for a better title. We received quite a selection. They ranged from the familiar, "High Level, Intermediate Level, Low Level," to color keys of red, green and yellow, etc. None seemed just right.
The best descriptive name, as far as we were concerned, was "Smooth Dancing." However, no matter what name we bounced around, we always had the feeling that it was somehow derogatory, that someone dancing within a group bearing that name would some day say to himself, "Does this mean that I’m in the ‘dumb’ group?" Almost every term seemed to be comparative, and yet the program of limited basics is not designed to compete in any way with programs now in existence. It is simply another plateau, a different concept to fill the needs of those people attracted to square dancing, who would like to spend less time in being involved.
Even the words "fun level" seemed to solve nothing. Fun for whom? Square dancing always is supposed to be fun whether it’s a one night stand or an advanced workshop. What might be fun for one might not necessarily be fun for another.
The name that seemed to be most satisfactory finally came from Arnie Kronenberger. He suggested (1) that we find suitable names for the plateau that involves full use of the basics, and for the one that involves exploratory dancing, and (2) that we reserve for this first plateau, the distinctly obvious title, "Square Dancing."
So that’s the way it is and we hope that you enjoy presentation number one, basic "Square Dancing", on the following pages.
Then and Now: There has been considerable talk recently about losing dancers because the type of dancing available is too cerebral, too dependent upon memorized terms, too apt to require more time than many people today have to devote to recreation.
Perhaps the best way to explain how we arrived at this point is to show a few steps in the evolution of square dancing. In the "horse and buggy" days and before the public address system, the calls and dances themselves were quite simple. The number of basic terms was few; the variety came in how these terms were used.
The very simplest form of square dancing was the "visiting" dance. One couple would be directed by the caller to leave his home position, move out to the right and with the couple there, do a specific figure. When it was completed, the active couple would move on to the next couple, repeating the figure, and on to the next until they had been all around the square.
After square dances of this type had been called virtually unchanged for many decades, the "new look" of the late 1940’s brought figures that kept everybody busy. Line dances like The Route and circle patterns like Rip ‘n Snort began to set the pace.
Along came choreographers such as Jim York, Ed Gilmore, the Allens and others who, without changing the known language of square dancing, added new and challenging "traffic patterns" that tested the ability and imagination of the dancers. All patterns were constructed from the basic movements, the basic language, of the day.
Presently new terms began to show up in the same dances with the Allemande Left and Do Si Do. All Around Your Left Hand Lady—Allemande Thar—Do Paso, were some of them. At first, callers’ groups moved in to place controls on the amount of new language being presented but, as time went on, everybody seemed to get into the act—from experienced callers, to new callers, to dancers who had never called, all tossing new terms into the square dance hopper.
In the guise of "challenge," movements bearing non-descriptive titles came forth by the dozens. Occasionally a term would tell the dancers what to do; more often the terms were non-descriptive and completely unrelated to the character of the square dance activity.
At first the effect on the dancers didn’t appear too damaging but when it became necessary for the average dancer to attend two workshops and three dancing evenings a week to "keep up with the new language," the fun ended for many of them. The hardiest lasted, enjoying the friendship, the fun and the challenge. Undoubtedly some stayed on because of the new terms.
However, where once it was possible for a new dancer to learn all the basic terminology in just a few weeks and then continue on into a club, now the number of weeks required in a learners’ class stretched and stretched. When it reached 32 weeks, it proved to be the "breaking point" for a lot of people who simply did not have time to spend bridging the gap from beginner to club.
Now we have come to a point when many serious-minded square dancers, callers and teachers are considering a return to the type of program that would put the emphasis on a variety of patterns, using just a certain amount of square dance language. And so we arrive at our current project.
The idea of an in-depth program of Square Dancing built around a limited number of proven, basic terms is not new. It is simply the updating of the highly popular and effective program which existed during square dancing’s greatest "boom" of several years ago.
Sets in Order, thru the Gold Ribbon Committee, has, for the past several months, been investigating a program that will inaugurate a "New Plateau." It will offer pattern changes for plenty of variety and challenge, rather than more new terms, new "basics." It will encourage a deeper concern with the type of material used; in the quality of teaching, calling, selection of calls, etc.
It is felt that now, today, December, 1968, is the time to consider this program, for we can look at all of the basic language developed since the beginning of square dance time and select those movements most versatile and adaptable. The results of this study by Sets in Order and the Gold Ribbon Committee is presented on the following pages as a basic Square Dance program.
The addition of this program to the present activity will in no way detract from things as they are. It is not intended to change things for those who like today’s square dancing just as it is. It is intended to be the perfect complement and offer a place for everyone who wants to square dance.
It will seek to provide a place for a husband-wife activity where the time requirements for learning are not too great; where a dancer can return easily if he must leave the activity briefly; where dancers who have only so much time may dance consistently without being faced with continual "new language." This latter point should appeal to those already in square dancing who may be lost to the activity unless such a place is found for them.
Variety—without the artificial stimulus of a changing vocabulary for square dancing, is the key to the whole program.
The Basic Program of American Square Dancing: Here is the New Plateau for American Square Dancing. It is designed for the person who may be attracted by the prospects of Square dancing as an enjoyable, desirable couple hobby, but who does not wish to put in as much time and thinking energy as is required to participate in the full-basics program as it is today. There must be many in this category.
This is a complete, self-contained program. It is not a replacement program for the extended or full-basics program that is participated in by so many today. On the contrary, by helping to provide a place for everyone who may express a desire to join in this great hobby, it will serve to complement the existing activity.
This program is not going back to an oversimplified type of dancing. It is a distinctly different type of program that draws from all the experiences and all the material developed during square dancing’s growth. This is not a low-level program. It is an in-depth program. It does not depend on limitless basics with new names that must be committed to memory.
The program will use to the fullest extent, each of the 50 basics shown on the accompanying list. By using just these terms, and combining them with clear English language directions, it will seek variety through the use of limitless patterns, and related square dance forms. It will stress the importance of dancing well; not just skimming the surface of many movements. It underscores the value of doing each movement correctly. It places the emphasis on smoothness in dancing. It will offer dancing for sheer enjoyment — which should appeal to thousands. Its key is comfortable dancing in the proper spirit.
Let’s Get Away From "Level": This is not a low-level program, any more than the full-basics program (which we’ll be discussing next month) is a high-level program. This is a program of choice. Unless we offer a choice to those who wish to dance less frequently, and spend less time in learning to square dance, we are turning our backs on our greatest potential. We are depriving many of a place in this activity and will lose many of those dancers we already have.
There will be degrees of ability shown by dancers in this concept of Square Dancing, just as there are in others. Until a new dancer has danced awhile, his reaction time will be slow and uneven, and for that reason the dances he does will need to be simple. When, through practice, he has learned to react automatically to the commands, he will be able to dance more complicated patterns and move at a more normal pace.
After he has danced for some time, he can become a smooth dancer. He will be able to follow the difficult traffic patterns effortlessly and without the necessity of a walk-through. This he will he accomplishing as a genuine challenge, using in-depth, the movements carefully tested and selected for this program.
Here’s The "Plan": We propose a program that utilizes 50 basics. These can be taught, under normal conditions, in approximately twenty-five hours, allowing for sufficient drill, review and enjoyment. An ideal course is one featuring ten learning meetings—one each week. During the testing period, we found the following to be a good formula: the first three meetings lasted two hours each; the next three sessions ran a tip longer, or two hours and fifteen minutes; the final four meetings eventually stretched to two hours and 45 minutes. On our basics chart we suggest a logical and proven order of teaching these basics. We have divided the material into nine meeting periods, with a tenth session provided for extra drill and "stretch," to be used by the instructor as needed.
These are not "cram" lessons. We find that, on the first night, it is quite normal to introduce quite a few of the foundation terms. From the second lesson on, each evening is divided into (1) warmup and review; (2) introduction of the new material; (3) the blending of the just learned material with movements presented earlier.
Each new basic is presented in a manner that will allow it to be quickly and permanently understood and retained. The movement is introduced, then it is drilled, using a variety of figures. Then it is reviewed. Finally, it is smoothed out, with tips on styling being added.
There are many important facets to cover when introducing a slightly different concept. For one thing, to be a success, this program depends upon the most capable, well-trained, experienced caller-teachers available within each area. In addition, it depends upon the support of a square dance community whose club and association members, callers and teachers, understand and sustain this concept without falling victim to the temptation of changing ("improving") it before seeing its many advantages and giving the plan a fair trial.
In our testing of a program that progresses steadily from the beginning, we found it highly advisable to allow new enrollment only on the first and second nights. By the end of the second night, the class is closed. But, and here is the beauty of it, a new class recruited by members of the present class, will start in two and a half months, just as soon as the present one finishes its tenth meeting.
Teaching Helps Needed: We offer the program in its present form as a place to start. By mid-January, we will have a "first-step" textbook ready for distribution. In it will be presented each movement on the basic list with teaching helps, suggestions for presentation, methods of avoiding "danger spots" and dance material and calls that can be used with the program.
There are other groups doing research on this and similar programs. These will be brought to your attention. The Edwards Record Service of Parkridge, Illinois; Bob Dawson’s, "Fun For Everyone" and other plans, are making extremely noteworthy contributions in the same direction.
A Time For Thinking: We recommend that the next nine months be used as a time for study and good, clear thinking. We advocate strongly that groups hold off on activating this plan until the fall season of 1969. In the meantime, let’s look upon this as an opportunity for strengthening square dancing, and let’s call this our "Period of the Big Yes." We offer this in the form of a "new concept," and as such, it needs study to determine its place in your community.
This is not a case of simply going out and starting a "new class program," recruiting prospective dancers for a ten-weeks’ class, etc. It is planning in detail a complete program, which will take form in the following four steps:
(1) Education and Understanding — the present square dance public must become aware of what this is before the program starts. It is a different program. We need to ask present dancers, dancer leaders and caller-teachers three questions: "Do you feel that the present program of square dancing that we have today, is filling the needs of all the people who might want to enjoy square dancing?" "Are the existing clubs and classes in this area as healthy in size and purpose as they could be?" "Would you support a program such as this and allow it equal emphasis in your community, encouraging it to grow and prosper even if it meant these dancers might never join with you on your particular plateau of dancing?"
One point we all need to understand is that a healthy, prosperous activity is attractive to others. When you have full-to-capacity groups with waiting lists, you will have even more people waiting to come in. When you have small classes, and poorly attended clubs, the non-dancing public will not tend to be attracted. Apathy breeds disinterest.
(2) Recruiting for New Members — There is no true precedence for such a program, so we must start from the beginning. This may not be as difficult as it sounds, for new dancers coming in to any existing square dance learning program, often are surprised, (and sometimes discouraged) to learn that class days are to last for nine months or more. Telling them that ten lessons is the extent of the learning period, will, in all probability be quite acceptable to the newcomer.
This could be a great selling point to use in enticing prospective members. Selling the idea of a recreation that requires only a limited amount of time to comprehend, while promising maximum enjoyment, with places to dance after the learning period, are all plus factors.
In addition, it would seem that those who have had to drop out of the activity, would be excellent prospects for this new plateau. Perhaps this program will appeal to many who, although already square dancers, have felt that they couldn’t keep up with the time requirements. Letters, phone calls and personal visits would sell them on the fact that this new concept is for them. The ten-week program could easily be announced well in advance, so that those with an interrupted past square dance experience could pick up the instructions and join the group as it reaches a pre-determined point along the way.
The people we have been missing in the square dance picture in recent years, the professional people such as doctors, lawyers, architects, and young parents whose families demand a fair share of their time — are all great prospects for this program. Publicity notices aimed at them should bring results. It will take time and educating to convince the public that we mean what we say, and that this is actually a different and separate square dance program, requiring relatively little involvement.
In our testing periods, we discovered that one-night stands (Exciter Dances), were a natural for recruiting. In the March, 1969 issue of Sets in Order, the Gold Ribbon Report will be offering a complete "One-night Stand" program.
(3) The Learning Club — This will undoubtedly prove to be a key point in the success of this program. The advantages of considering the class group as a "Club" are many. For one thing, it indoctrinates the new dancer in the spirit of the activity. It instills a feeling of "belonging." It helps to develop, to a degree, the small responsibilities that build a correct square dance attitude. Any group, large or small, will have those who learn quickly and those who don’t learn quickly at all. Within the club structure, the group will seek its own level and face many of its own problems as opportunities for progress. By the end of ten weeks the club should have assimilated the natural ingredients necessary for continuing on as a square dance entity.
(4) What Comes Next? — As we have said, the natural evolution, particularly in the beginning, will be the learners’ club that continues on as a club entity in this fundamental square dance program. As the program continues, it may be that, within an area, there will be several of these Basic Square Dance Clubs, each one meeting on a different night. After the tenth night, those completing a Learners’ Club, may select the night and location most convenient for them and continue on as a part of that club or group. The beauty of this will be the fact that these clubs will be featuring basic language, initially introduced in the learning period. The only "new" elements, may be some of the traffic patterns which can be picked up quite rapidly with walkthroughs and other methods devised by the callers as the program develops.
It will be interesting to note that those presently enjoying a full-basics program, today or in the future, may find it enjoyable to dance regularly or on occasion, with one of these basic Square Dance groups. However, the reverse will not hold true. Those trained in this new program will not have additional basics added. This point is of paramount importance to the success of the program, and it needs to be understood and appreciated by others. It is a complete program for those who select it.
The value that this program lends to the full, overall square dance picture, should be obvious. It affords a person a place to dance, and allows him to remain active in square dancing if (1) he doesn’t desire the full program for one reason or another, (2) if he has dropped out, or is about to drop out of square dancing, and (3) if he wants to try the activity on a little less time consuming and thought demanding plateau.
Not to be overlooked is the very great possibility that, at the completion of the initial ten weeks, or after a person has taken part in one of the basic square dance club programs, he may decide that he wants more. In that case, a program will have to be worked out to make available for those desiring it, another course of lessons covering the additional basics necessary to dance at the different plateau. We will be talking more about this next month, when we cover the extended, full-basics program.
This then, is the fundamental, or basic program we shall refer to as SQUARE DANCING. While it is not difficult to understand, and while its needs are obvious, we will continue to discuss it in coming issues, so great is its importance to the whole of the ever-developing square dance activity.
From the Western Square Dancing Web page. Copyright notice.
Maintained by Tom Dillander - -