Dave Smith - Square Dance Caller - South Lyon, Michigan
Frequently Asked Questions:
Should we have a meal before the Square
I've found that if you have a heavy meal right before a square dance, you generally get participants
who are not very enthusiastic or comfortable participants. They are weighed down by the heavy meal, feel lethargic and
gassy, and generally not much like dancing, and a lot more like sitting around. I've found that this is often a
popular format with adults (having the meal first and then the dance). While this is an understandably attractive option,
it is not a very good one for a square dance as people with a full belly are not likely to be able to fully engage or fully
enjoy the square dancing. So what I would suggest is:
a. Advertise the dance in such a way so it
is understood that a whole meal will not be provided (so people don't come hungry) and then provide light appetizers and beverages
for people to snack on along the side of the hall. In this case, there is not a need to set up tables for everyone to
b. Provide a dinner first, but keep it very light. Don't serve large portions of meat or cheesy dishes
which will bog people down for several hour afterwards. Some great options are salad, soup, bread, spaghetti, baked
potatoes, and vegetables. Hold off on the desert until after most (or all) of the square dancing is over with.
DJ Service: I am not a DJ. I can play a limitted selection of country music before the
dance and during breaks. If you need me to make announcements, or you need to use the microphone for an
announcement, that is fine too. You will not need a DJ for a square dance party. I have enough country music
to play in between dances. If you are having a dinner before the dance, I do not usually arrive early to play music
for the hour or so while the group eats. I usually arrive 1/2 hour before the actual dance start time to set up, and
will be ready to go by the dance start time. So if Dinner starts at 6pm, and the dance starts at 7:30pm, I would get
there at 7:00pm to set up and be ready to go by 7:30pm. If you want to have music playing while eating dinner, I suggest
using a CD boombox.
How long do the parties last?
The range is one to three hours. (for high school
or college student groups or singles groups, I'm happy to do up to 4 hours at no extra charge) You need to gage how long your
group will want to dance, how many breaks you want to take, how energetic the group is, etc. The average square dance
party is about 2.5 hours. The cost to hire a caller is not based on the length of the dance but on the night
and relative demand.
What is the difference between a square dance, a hoedown, and
a barn dance?
There is no difference, they are all ways of saying the same
thing. All of these are good titles to market your dance, and I highly suggest using one of these as a description of
your dance in the invitation or flyer.
Can kids participate?
If they are paired with their parents, this works fine. Another
great idea that works well is to have teenagers dance with elementary age kids. (e.g. a teen dance group could
sponsor a square dance and invite elementary age dancers to participate. This would usually be an all girls
event.) Over age 12, they can be paired with each other without problem. Young kids paired with other young kids
generally does not work well. They tend to just run off after a while.
Is square dancing mainly for older people?
Club dancing is often done by older people, but most of my clients are not elderly.
I do quite a few college groups, I've done high school age groups, many family dances with kids and their parents, and many
groups of young adults. I also get some groups that are older, and it works fine. As long as you can walk well,
you can square dance. Of course, younger people have more energy and can dance
more - so I've always thought the best dances are those for HS/college age groups. They just have the most fun.
Should I hire a DJ too?
No! There is never a need to hire a DJ in addition to
a square dance caller. One of the major mistakes party planners make is planning to many activities, and therefore doing
none of them justice. Plan on the square dance taking up a minimum of a two hour block of the party without interuptions
(except breaks). I generally don't accept engagements where a DJ will also be present because they don't usually work
What about having other
events at the same time, for variety?
I've called at dances where they have
Bingo going in one room, hayrides out back, games, a bonfire, etc. I'll say right now that this is not a conducive situation
to having a good barn dance. If you are doing these activities, schedule them before or after the dance, not so they
occur halfway through the dance, during the dance, or during the breaks. It pulls people in to many different directions
and leads to a chaotic party, and not enough people dancing at one time to make it good.
Does a square dance make a good surprise party?
No. It is always best to tell your guests that they are coming
to a country hoedown, a square dance, or a barn dance. To surprise them with this is asking for a low participation
rate, as they will not be mentally prepared to get out on the floor and try it.
Do you bring a demonstration group?
No. This is neither desirable or necessary. Your
group will be dancing within a few minutes of getting on the floor. The instructions are given in an easy and fun way,
so that no complication can arise. If you're group is only interested in watching square dancing and not participating,
then I am not the caller to hire.
if you are interested in having a group come to a nursing home and dance for them, I may be able to help organize this.
The price would be about the same as to hire me to call for an evening.
Will we do the Virginia Reel?
Yes - always. The Virginia Reel is the oldest and most
loved of all American square dances and no square dance party would be complete without it.
What is your goal as a caller?
The most important thing to me is that everyone has great fun. Nobody goes to a square
dance party to learn to be a great square dancer, or to learn the "correct" way to do the dances. Rather they go to
dance, to socialize, and to try something new. If you want to learn the fine points of square dancing, take one
of the many year long classes which are offered by local clubs. If you want to have a great time square dancing for
just one night - hire me.
How many people do I need for a square dance? What's the maximum?
Eight people would be the minimum for one square. It's usually best to aim for at
least 3 squares (24 people), as a smaller event may lack some energy. The maximum would be around 150 people, as
that's about the max my sound system can effectively cover. The average event I call has about 50-100 people
at it, but I've done many events with 150, and quite a few with only 25 people. I provide the same high quality program
to a small group as I do to a big group, so feel free to hire me for any event, big or small.
What about alcohol?
I am fine with the moderate consumption (2 or 3 drinks) of alcohol at square dance parties.
It often loosens peoples inhibitions (self conciousness) to dancing, and can make the evening a little more fun. To much
alcohol obviously makes people lethargic and they won't feel like dancing. Check with your rental facility to make sure
you are allowed to consume alcohol there.
Where does the caller you set up?
Please have a sturdy
table set up along one of the walls of the dance hall (not in the center), with plenty of room on either side for speakers
to be set up, about 25 feet on either side of the table), and an extension cord running to the table for the caller to set
having a dance outdoors?
a bad idea - don't do it. It's usually to hot or to cold for comfortable dancing. Humidity can also be a factor.
Often it will rain or threaten to. People can sprain their ankle on uneven surfaces. I've done lots of outside
dances, and I highly discourage this option, as it usually doesn't work well.
Why do you only give discounts to college/high school groups, singles groups and daddy
certain types of dances, which I've found from experience, just work better than others and are much more fun for me to call.
The dancers get into it more and really enjoy it more at these types of events, and as a caller, I get more joy out of calling
to very enthusiastic groups. So naturally, I am willing to give a significant discount to groups that have proven over
time to be the best suited to square dancing. I like to have successful dances, where everyone dances and has
a great time. When that happens - I enjoy it too. It is no longer work - just a joy to be a part of.
College/High School ($50 discount)groups
just have a lot of energy and are just at that point in life where they can best appreciate, but perhaps least afford, a square
dance. Young people love to dance, have the energy and the fitness for it, and are frankly able to enjoy square dancing much
more than their older counterparts.
Singles ($50 discount) groups, of any age, surprisingly have much the same energy and
enthusiasm for dancing that student groups do.
Daddy daughter dances ($50 discount) are a great tradition in our country, and I think
should be encouraged. Daddy daughter dances always work out very nicely. They
are easy to market and always get very good attendance compared to other variations.
Family Dances with parents partnered with
kids. ($30 discount) These work well as a school event. Each kid should have an adult partner.
This allows a wide variety of simple square dances to be quickly taught and danced, and ensures a good time for both parents