Croakers Square

“Anyone have any ideas for our upcoming social?” The chairperson of the Entertainment Committee asks.

No one answers: most of them, like you, are kind of slouching in their seats and wondering how they got suckered into serving on the Entertainment Committee in the first place. Eventually, someone will suggest a pot-luck dinner, or a picnic, or bowling, or game night … and it will finally be decided that the same thing you did last year will work … assuming, of course, that someone doesn’t vote to table the question until the next meeting.

Wanna shake things up a bit? Why not host a square dance?

You can expect a lot of groans when you first present the idea, but persevere: you’ll be the hero when participants start talking about what a fantastic time they had learning the ins and outs of this American institution. And they will.

In terms of a group activity, square dancing has a lot going for it. There’s a lot of partner-switching, so mingling is a given. And there are no uncomfortable silences with a partner you don’t know–you’ll be too busy listening and trying to remember where your feet go next!

“But We Don’t Know How to Square Dance!”

Believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing: it levels the playing field. Unless you have a couple of serious cloggers in your group, chances are everyone is going to be starting at (*ahem*) “square one.”

You will need a caller, however: in the era of smart homes that can “…make decisions without direct interaction from homeowners,” it’s refreshing to engage in an activity that is dependent on interacting with another human being.

Because you want simple dances that people can pick up on quickly, experts recommend looking for a caller who does old-fashioned American square dances rather than the more complex Western styles. American square dance steps are easily taught, which is what you want for a one-night event.

A good caller will charge $200-$400 for a 2-3 hour dance, so you’ll need to budget for that. Most will provide their own music, and many will even bring a portable PA system (you’ll need to supply electricity, though). Talk to the caller about musical preferences beforehand, as square dancing can be done with everything from Americana to British Punk music. The caller should also provide the necessary music licensing (BMI/ASCAP) for public performance of the music.

No specialized clothing is actually required: you can do-si-do, swing your partner, and promenade without having to wear traditional square dance costumes. At the same time, promoting the event as more of a barn-dance or hoedown might encourage people to wear cowboy hats, flannel shirts, or boots.

“But We Don’t Have a Barn!”

That’s fine. While barns are actually cool (and highly functional) places for a square dance, people also use church halls, gyms, or cafeterias. You’ll need a space with about 10-15 feet or so for every dancer. For example, a 20 by 30 foot area equals 600 square feet, which would be adequate for 60 people and ideal for 40 people.

Bare floor is better than carpet. A drinking fountain or bottled water is a must, but all types of refreshments will probably be welcomed, depending on the crowd and the venue. Tables and chairs can be set up for interludes–generally speaking, allow a half-hour or more before and after the event for load-in and tear-down.

Your caller can also answer any questions you might have, but overall it should be an easy and fun experience. Square dancing is possible just about any time or place that people get together. So ditch the time-worn event plans, and getting people excited about square dance–you’ll be doing them a favor.

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