Response to “Why At My Club?” by Roy Gotta published in the April 1994 issue of American Square Dance magazine

This letter to the editor helps us think about how brave Roy Gotta was to publish his article in a national magazine as early as he did.

Dear Editor:

Okay, let’s cut to the chase about gays in square dancing. This could also apply to the other minorities mentioned. The objection to dancing with any vocal minority is not an objection to the distinguishing characteristics that sets that minority apart. The objection is to the flaunting, taunting and rudeness that some of these individuals seem to feel they must exhibit concerning their minority orientation.

Of course homosexuals have been square dancing with heterosexuals, probably from the very beginning, and heterosexuals never knew the difference. And that, Mr. Gotta (and ladies and gentlemen in square dancing) is precisely the point! We didn’t know the difference because the difference was not being flaunted in our faces.

A square dance is not a political platform from which to launch your particular social or political agenda. There is history and tradition in square dancing, and there are rules and codes of dress and conduct. We don’t allow drunk people to impose their “rules” on us. If we define “Friendship Set to Music” in terms of every special interest group out there being allowed to demand we accept all their friends, rules and music without regard to our own, then square dancing is doomed. Mr. Gotta needs to review the 10 Commandments of Square Dancing and be reminded that they apply to the minorities as well as to the majority.

Happy square dancing,

Larry L. Dunn, DDS

Waycross, GA


“Why At My Club?” By Roy Gotta reprinted from the February 1994 issue of American Square Dance Magazine.

Now that gay and lesbian square dancers can comfortably dance in many venues, we tend to forget that this was not always the case.

Roy Gotta’s article appeared in the February 1994 issue of the national square dance magazine, “American Square Dance”. It was reprinted in “Times Squares” in April 1994. Next time you see Roy Gotta, thank him for his early and enduring support. A critical letter to the editor in the next month’s issue will be published here next week.

Stay tuned for one reader’s response.

“Why do they have to dance at our club? Why can’t they deep to themselves? I don’t mind if they want to square dance, as long as they stay in their own clubs. This used to be a nice family club. If you let one or two in then, before you know it, your club will be taken over by them.”

Do the above statements sound familiar? Have you heard any of them recently at your club or another club where you were dancing? Well, these statements were overheard back in the late 1950’s when my father-in-law had the nerve (or was it the courage) to bring a Jewish couple to a square dance club.

Is there any difference between this and the current uproar over “allowing” gays and lesbians to dance at straight clubs and festivals? I think not. Is there any difference between this and the same uproar in the sixties when Blacks entered the square dance picture? I think not. Prejudice and hatred are the same whenever and wherever they appear. I know of one major square dance festival that has actually had meetings to discuss “the problem”.

Before I discuss attitude, let’s take a look at a couple of facts. Barring gays and lesbians from your club or dance, or segregating them at said affairs, is illegal! It is discrimination! Also, you have been dancing with gay and lesbian square dancers for many years. You just didn’t know it! Gay and lesbian dancers have been coupling up and dancing as “traditionally correct” couples. If you are concerned about coming into contact with gays, keep in mind that a week doesn’t go by that you probably have contact with a gay individual outside of the square dance activity.

I have heard the argument that “I can’t dance in a square with same sex couples.” Two things come to mind when I hear this. One, this person probably didn’t say anything in the past when two women were dancing together, and two, this person is a very poor dancer. Some men are uncomfortable swinging other men. This is not a problem if you just say so up front. It is no different than not swinging someone of either sex who has a physical problem.

Let’s suppose for a moment that your club decides to break the law and ban gay and lesbian dancers from dancing as same sex couples at your dances. Do you now follow the same rules for the two senior ladies who have been dancing together at your club for the last 2 years? How do you know for sure that they are not lesbians? And how about the times when I have jumped into a square to be the needed 8th body? Since that 8th position was the “girl’s” part, do seven people have to sit down, because the rules prohibit same sex couples? Does my 84-year-old mother-in-law have to give up the activity she has been doing for over 40 years because she dances mostly the “boy’s” position?

Finally, whatever happened to “Friendship Set to Music?” Does this mean only my friends, by my rules, and to my music? It is not easy to change one’s attitudes and feelings. It is similarly not easy to accept lifestyles and customs that are radically different than your own. Remember, you are not being asked to accept, condone or embrace anyone else’s lifestyle. However, you are being asked to not deny anyone the right to enjoy their chosen form of recreation. After all, that’s all square dancing is, recreation. It happens to be recreation that involves interaction and interdependence on at least 7 other people. If your prejudices are so great that you cannot even dance in the same square with a person who believes or lives differently than yourself, then perhaps you should be looking for another form of recreation.


“Don’t Cry Over Broken Squares … Fix Them! Part 4” by Allan Hurst reprinted from the May 2004 issue of Times Squared

Click here for previous part.

The Last Resort

Finally, there’s the method of last resort, which I’ve often heard termed “find a hole and fill it”. If you get totally lost during a sequence and can’t possible remember any of the other methods outlined in this article, you always have the option of standing back until the dust settles, then dashing into the only empty spot in the formation. (Hint: If you know who you image dancer is, you can dash into that spot much more quickly!) People may laugh at you for a moment, but at least your square will keep going.

Don’t Ignore the Caller

If your square breaks down, and the caller starts calling specifically to your square (“Just that square, make waves with girls on the ends…”), don’t freak out, don’t argue with the caller, just do what he or she says.

I’ve observed a number of callers having fun with a floor by giving a broken-down square specific instruction, then have the rest of the floor do something different, until finally all of the squares converge. (“In that square only, swing through; everyone else, centers trade…”)

What to Do Next?

Don’t wait until your square breaks down to start practicing some of the techniques in this article. Make a note of your image dancer each time you square up, and periodically notice where he or she is during the top. Once in a while, glance over at another square to see where your mirror dancer is. Start being aware of where the girls are ad where the boy are in your square. You’ll eventually find you can fix a broken square nearly automatically.

The Point is … to Have Fun

One of the unbreakable rules of square dancing is, sooner or later, you’re going to dance in a square that breaks down. Regardless of which of the above techniques you decide to use (or not use), the most important thig is to have fun.

When your square breaks down, don’t get mad, and don’t place blame. Just keep moving, keep on dancing, and keep your sense of humor intact. Some of the most fun squares I’ve ever danced in were broken down during most of the tip, but we were all laughing so hard, we had a great time anyway!

“Don’t Cry Over Broken Squares … Fix Them! Part 3” by Allan Hurst reprinted from the May 2004 issue of Times Squared

Click here for the previous part and here for the next part.

Symmetry and Image Dancers

In his book, The Extemporaneous Caller, Bill Davis defines the concept of “Image Dancers,” which are dancers who are diametrically opposite across the set from each other, and at the dame distance from the flagpole center of the square. Image dancers will always be the same dance genders (e.g. two girls or two boys.) Many people refer to image dancers as “mirror dancers” or “mirror opposites.”

Assuming all called choreography in a given sequence is symmetric in nature, all image dancers will always remain symmetric, and at the same distance from the flagpole center of the square. It doesn’t matter what the formation is.

A formation is considered symmetric if both of the following conditions apply: (A) A line from any dancer through the flagpole center of the square intersects a dancer at the same distance from the center on the other side. (B) Any two image dancers are facing the same direction (e.g., clockwise, counterclockwise, in, out, etc.) relative to the flagpole center of the square.

Using Your Image Dancer to Recover

Now that you know what an image dancer is, you can easily use this concept to review your part of a broken square.

If you’re dancing in a square and suddenly don’t know where you should go or are uncertain that you ended up in the correct spot, just look across the flagpole center of the square. Is that your image dancer? If so, you’re probably OK (unless both of you made the same mistake, in which case there’s nothing more you can do.) If it’s not your image dancer, move into the position in your half of the square that corresponds to your image dancer.

Speaking frankly, this method will only work if you have an image dancer that you know dances at least as well as you do. If you think you image dancer is weaker that you, this method probably won’t work.

Using Your Mirror Dancer to Recover

If you have a weak image dancer, don’t give up – there is still hope!

It’s always a good idea when squaring up to make a mental not of your partner, your corner, and your image dancer. (This is one of the reasons many callers often deliberately draw your attention to those people at the beginning of a tip – for example “Bow to your partner, Yellow rock your corner…”) Let’s add one more person to that list: your “mirror dancer” in another square.

When you square up, after you figure out who’s who in your square, make a point of finding another nearby square, and make a mental note of who in that square is dancing in your position. If you’re the #2 girl in your square, not down the #2 girl in the square next to you. All you have to remember is the person dancing the same position as you.

If you find yourself losing track during a complex sequence, take a quick glance at the other square, and wee where your mirror dancer is. I’ve observed this technique being used frequently in Advance and Challenge dancing, where I’ve heard it termed “checkpointing.” If you get lost, this may be the fastest way for you to get back into the correct position.

Please note: checkpointing, or using your mirror dancer, is not a substitute for knowing dance calls! This is a technique I suggest using on y during complex or unfamiliar choreography, where you think you’re doing the calls correctly, but perhaps missed a call or part of a call and got confused.

“Don’t Cry Over Broken Squares … Fix Them! Part 2” by Allan Hurst reprinted from the May 2004 issue of Times Squared

Click here for the previous part and here for the next part.

Callerlab Recovery

Callerlab’s suggested method of recovery is for everyone in the broken square to return to their home (starting_ positions, and the heads slide right to form lines facing side walls. The caller will either pick up the facing lines (often using the hint, “Lines forward and back.”) and keep going or resolve the sequence quickly, in which case the heads just slide back to their starting position.

If any of the techniques in this article don’t work for you, use this method as your fallback. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s standard and any experienced caller will recognize what’s going on immediately.

“Half-Broken” Square Recovery

If only one-half of your squares is broken (for example, during a “spin the top” involving both sides of the square), here’s a good “just keep moving” strategy. If you’re in the broken half of the square, make up a formation that look like the unbroken half of the squares, make a right-handwave with boys on the end. It doesn’t matter if the right boy is on the right end. The objective at this point is to keep your square moving to the end of the sequence!

If you’re in the unbroken half of the square and the other people are having a hard time recovering, you might want to quietly tell the other people what formation you’re in, and where the boys and girls are. For example, “Psst! Make a right-hand wave with boys on the end!”

Caller Directed Square Recovery

Often, a caller will notice something’s not right in one or more squares, and will cue the dancers so they know what formation they should be in. For example: “You’re got right-hand waves, boys on the end…” or “Centers, who are facing”. In such cases, if you’re lost, and the caller cues you to what formation you should be in, just get into that formation, whether or not you’re in the correct place for successful resolution.

Those are the basic methods for resolving broken squares, and require a fairly minimal amount of practice. However, these methods just keep the squares moving … you still have to scurry back into the correct place at the end of the sequence. How do you actually FIX the square mid-sequence? Let’s move onto some more advanced methods and find out.

“Don’t Cry Over Broken Squares … Fix Them! Part 1” by Allan Hurst reprinted from the May 2004 issue of Times Squared

This is a great four part article about fixing broken down squares. Maybe we can implement more them in our dancing.

It’s one of the ultimate cultural taboos in square dancing: don’t talk about broken-down squares. It doesn’t matter if you’re a caller or a dancer; there seems to be some unwritten rule that it’s bad manners to discuss how squares break down and how to fix them. If you’re a dancer … have you ever watched another square on the dance floor break down, and saw them recover, and then wonder how they did it? This article gives dancers some basic tools to use in recovering a crashed square. Although this article is targeted at dancers, caller may want to consider teaching or reviewing some of these techniques.

In the real world, all squares break down sooner or later. (if you’re a dancer whose squares never break down, you probably only dance with 7 phantoms.) Perhaps you’re new to dancing a given level and haven’t yet developed confidence. Perhaps there are a few “nightmare calls” that you just aren’t get the hang of yet. In any event, for whatever reason, broken squares always happen, at every dance, at every class, and at every level.

In general, some of those concepts aren’t taught until Advanced or higher levels, because some dancers may rely on these tolls more than learning the dance level. Please keep in mind, these tools are intended for use by dancers only in conjunction with already knowing their current dance level well. If dancers don’t know their calls, none of these recovery techniques will help.

For the purposes of discussion, let’s assume a broken square is the result of two (or more) dancers swapping places by accident in a tip in which the caller is using fairly straightforward, symmetric choreography. (Sorry, asymmetric choreo fans!)

More Than One Way to Recover

There are several techniques available for recovering a “crashed” square. We’ll go through them in approximate order of simplicity, from easiest to most complex.

Remember, the point of all of these methods is to allow the square to keep on dancing, even if a dancer has to scurry back into their correct home position at the end of the sequence.


Japanese Square Dancers are Visiting Times Squares!

Dancers from Fujilina, an international group connecting square dancers from Mt. Fuji and North Carolina, will be in New York City as they dance their way from Japan to the American south. And they are eager to dance with us.

It’s always fun to dance with international visitors. Especially these because they are bringing their own callers. Come out and dance Mainstream and Plus with A2 star tips on Sunday night, October 20th from 6:30-9:30 PM.

If you are volunteering as an angel or are registered for our Mainstream Blitz class on Sunday afternoon this is a great opportunity because you’ll already be at PS3.

Hope to see you there!