This page contains a number of "caller games" or exercises that can be used at caller association training sessions, or caller's schools to help improve a square dance caller's skills. These exercises differ from other exercises, in that the goal is for the caller to keep the dancers moving using material they know and feel comfortable with, rather than putting a mental strain on the caller by asking them to accomplish formations and figures they may rarely use (for example "dance the dancers into any wave where some or all can do a swing thru" instead of "Move the dancers through all 6 arrangements of the right handed wave formation"). A number of the games use "call decks", decks of cards where each card has the name of a call. Each deck contains the cards for a different square dance program. Formatted PDF files for creating such decks are available here ( Basic Program Deck (white). Mainstream Program Deck (orange). Plus Deck (fuchsia). ABC Deck (yellow). One Floor Deck (light green). ) Putting each deck on the suggested colored card stock makes it easier to merge and later sort the decks. Staples has multicolored card stock, 65pound letter size. Printing should be two sided(duplex), grayscale, and the last page of each deck is marked with boxes to aid in cutting the cards apart.
1) Shuffle the Deck
In this game the leader takes one or more of the call decks and shuffles the cards and places them face down. Then starting with a static square, the caller (or the leader) turns up the top card and the caller dances the square to a point where that call is used. While this is happening the next card is turned up and the minute the first call is used the caller must dance the square to a place where the 2nd call is used. This continues until the tip is over. The goal here is not to ever resolve the square but to keep the dancers moving smoothly with good flow using only the calls in the program whose decks are being used. During the dance the dancers can be brought back to a static square formation but the dancers do not need to be with their original partners, but the men do need to be in sequence.
2) Call Emphasis
The call decks containing the specified program calls are shuffled. Then the top two calls are selected. The caller must call a patter call which showcases those two calls using standard applications and resolving the square periodically.
3) Random Resolve
In this game the "leader" will dance the dancers into a formation and then hand the calling over to the caller to resolve the square. The goal is to keep the dancers moving with good flow.
4) Quick Resolve
The caller will dance the dancers through a number of calls until at a random point the leader will give a signal (like tapping a water glass with a metal object, or ringing a bell) and the caller must resolve the square as quickly as possible.
5) Speedy Lines
The caller will dance the dancers through a number of calls until at a random point the leader will give a signal(as above) and the caller must create normal lines as quickly as possible and then continue calling.
6) DBD Call Emphasis
The call deck will be shuffled and the top card turned over. The caller must call a tip using that call from the widest variety of valid positions that they can.
7) Music Pot Luck
The leader will provide some music for a patter call that is a little different than the normal square dance music.
Two callers will do a singing call where the callers alternate calling each figure. Callers may harmonize on the chorus as appropriate.
9) Blind Calling
To test the caller's sense of timing, the caller will call a patter tip with their back to the dancers. The goal is to keep the dancers dancing smoothly by knowing how long each call takes instead of by watching the dancers.
10) First Beat
The caller will call a well phrased singing call giving the dancers the first beat of each figure and then, after that, as often as possible. Some of the traditional classics are best for trying this such as the Grand Square by Sets In Order.
11) Short Break
Sometimes dancers take longer to complete a figure in a singing call and it extends into the break. Thus the caller must call a shorter break to get back into sync with the song. In this game the caller will supply a singing call record where they can identify in the music the starting place of the figures. The leader will then wait a random number of beats (say 8 or 16 beats) into the figure and then call out "break". The caller must then call a short timed break figure that will end in time for the next figure to be called at its normal place in the music. If the caller accomplishes the task appropriately, the task may be repeated 7 times for a standard singing call.
12) Short Figure
Some dancers take longer to do a call than others, especially calling to seniors. In these cases the caller can shorten the figure so all squares will succeed. In this game the dancers will take slightly longer time to do some part of a figure, typically a square thru (2 extra beats), or promenade half (2 extra beats), or a do sa do (8 beats instead of 6) as indicated by the leader. The caller's goal is to shorten the remaining figure such that the dancers complete the figure at the right spot in the music, or slightly ahead. If they don't succeed in shortening the figure then they should shorten the next break (see Short Break above).
13) Seven Figures
The caller will supply a singing call record and instead of calling the normal break-figure-fig-brk-fig-fig-brk will call 7 singing call timed figures in a row but each one should be different. Instead of changing partners each time (swing corner and prom) you will do an allemande left and promenade original partner. The purpose is to show that the caller knows a variety of singing call figures that can be substituted at any time. This skill is often needed if a caller is calling a singing call figure that the dancers are unable to do. This game can be made harder by calling 7 figures all starting with the same call like "Square Thru" or "Heads/Sides Promenade 1/2" or "All 4 ladies chain". The music supplied should be a piece making it easy to determine the start of each section.l
14) Seven Breaks
The caller will supply a singing call record and instead of calling the normal break-figure-fig-brk-fig-fig-brk will call 7 break timed figures in a row but each one different. The purpose is to show that the caller has a variety of breaks in their repertoire. Callers often need to dynamically change the breaks in a singing call when the dancers have trouble dancing the break the caller first used. This game can be made harder by calling 7 breaks all starting with Allemande Left in Alamo Style, 4 Ladies Chain, Allemande Left to an Allemande Thar or some other call. The music supplied should be a piece making it easy to determine the start of each section.
In order to help callers learn, after each tip dancers may provide anonymous feedback by filling out a caller feedback form which is then given to the caller. Using this form, feedback providers are encouraged to be positive not critical. Select several areas in which a caller does best, not in comparison to others but in comparison with other things that caller does. Then select one area in which the caller might improve and make a positive suggestion on how to improve. Remember since this is a training session the callers are encouraged to try things that are new to them which they may find hard. Thus they are not expected to give their best performance as they would when using only safe material. Providing feedback is a tricky business and the instructions on the back of the form should be followed.