Western Square Dancing was developed from traditional square dancing in the 1930s, and it continues to change, adding new calls and styles. It became popular in the 1950s and remains popular today. Western Square Dancing currently uses 99 movements; dancers need to know all of them to participate fully in most dances. At Sylvan Squares, we distinguish between the Mainstream and Plus levels (described below) and alternate the two during our dances to give more dancers, especially our students, additional chances to join in the fun of square dancing before they’ve learned all 99 calls. There is not a certain set of calls that goes with a certain song. The caller is expected to be creative and come up with innovative arrangements of calls, using only the Mainstream calls or all 99 standard calls the dancers have learned.
Western Square Dancing is done at two major levels, Mainstream and Plus. In order for dancers to become fully active in Western Square Dancing, they need to complete a series of classes, which meets once a week and usually lasts about 4 or 5 months. During the classes, new dancers learn the 68 Mainstream movements. Once these are learned, a dancer can participate in a Mainstream dance anywhere in the world, as the language (English) and calls are standardized across the globe.
Beyond Mainstream, there are 31 Plus movements, most of which are a combination of Mainstream movements. Once dancers learn these movements, they can participate in any Plus level square dance, which comprises the vast majority of dance all across the world. A small percentage of square dancers go on to master calls at higher levels; indeed, there are hundreds of calls.
Below is a demonstration of western square dancing at Sylvan Squares called by Marty Northrup.
Western Square Dancing is not just for adults---teenagers do it, too!!!
Below is a video of teenagers at a western square dance competition.