“Why Mainstream?” by Sheldon Green printed in the June 1994 issue of Times Squared

Even before the turn of the last century, dancers were worried about rushing through each dance level and lower the quality of dancing for the whole club.

The gay clubs are nearly unique in dancing multiple levels. Most straight clubs (and a few of the gay ones) dance only a single level; if you want to dance MS you dance with club A and if you want to dance Plus you dance with club B. Fitting tips at various levels into an evening of dancing creates problems that we have been trying to overcome for years with only moderate success. The most obvious problem is that dancers who do not dance the highest level offered cannot dance every tip. Trying to deal with MS and Plus as bad enough, but adding Advanced and Challenge made it virtually impossible, and a decision was made by the Times Squares a few years ago to limit each dance (with few exception) to no more than two levels. There has been much discussion recently among the different IAGSDC clubs about how the problem of dancing multiple levels could best be solve, but good solutions have not been forthcoming.

A corollary problem with our current system is that it puts (undue_ pressure on new MS dancers to learn Plus as quickly as possible. And learning a new level before adequately mastering the previous level leads to poor dancing skills. It is possible to make the choreography at each level very challenging; many of Times Squares’ current Advanced dancers would be hard pressed to keep up with some of the Basic records to which the club used to regularly dance. The general decline of dance skills with the IAGSDC clubs, not just the Times Squares) has been noted for several years among our own members, gay and straight callers, and the straight square dance community, sometimes in embarrassingly public forums.

It is not just the IAGSDC clubs which have suffered from a decline in dance skills. A glance at any of the square dance magazines or the Callerlab newsletter tells the same story; dancers are rushed to higher levels before they are ready. In some areas of the country there really is no MS dancing and new MS dancers are rushed through Plus immediately after beginner classes. Similar complaints about Advanced and Challenge are voiced in the magazines geared to dancers at those levels.