Square Dance Club
Advice for the new graduate
by Bill van Melle, April 2, 1995
Now that you've graduated, you may be asking yourself, "What do I do now?" The short answer is, "Dance!"
You have just completed a grueling class that has taught you well over one hundred square dance calls (some might even say a gross of calls), some of them moderately complex. Now is the time to reap the rewards of all that hard work. You may not feel like an expert right now (and nobody expects you to be), but if you invest some time dancing now, you'll consolidate what you've learned, and the skills will stay with you for longer. You'll also get to enjoy all that learning, as the calls become second nature and you can actually get caught up in the dancing aspect of this activity, rather than the frenzy of new calls every week.
As a consequence of the modern standardization of square dance levels, you can now dance at any Plus club, hoedown, or festival in the world. Obviously, one of the places you can exercise your newfound skills is here at Quads. For the rest of the year, when class isn't in session, the Stanford Quads continue to meet every Sunday, dancing Plus from 7:00 to 9:00 (with some star tips afterwards); we heartily invite you all to join us.
Another good thing to do is go to hoedowns. There are usually plenty to choose from. You'll find most of these hoedowns significantly easier than the class you've just been through. Quads holds its own hoedown in September--a nice near-term goal for you.
Finally, there are various square dance festivals, both local and afar (see this article). There's one in particular you might want to put on your calendar: The Golden State Roundup happens ever Memorial Day weekend in Oakland. We even cancel Quads that Sunday so you don't have to choose between us and the Roundup.
That's all fine and good, but those of you who hang around to watch the star tips at Quads are no doubt aware that there are levels of square dancing beyond Plus. You may be wondering what you're "supposed" to do about that, when you're "supposed" to go on to Advanced or Challenge dancing.
The short answer is that you're not supposed to do anything. Sure, if you think it would be fun, you can go on to learn more. But most people don't, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. The overwhelming majority of square dance clubs in the world dance Plus or Mainstream. Especially if you enjoy dancing (rather than, say, complex analysis), this is the place to be. When you go to a hoedown, you can kick back and dance your heart (or other body parts) out. Furthermore, once you've danced this level long enough, you can dance it as often or as little as you like. You don't have to feel that you're committed to a major learning experience the same night every week.
Nonetheless, there are some people who believe (and this impression is distressingly widespread) that if you're not dancing the highest level you can that you are somehow inferior. Stay away from these people. Just because you could go on to learn a new level is no reason that you should go on. There are people who keep learning (or trying to learn) the next level of dancing and never get to hang around and enjoy the level they've already learned. Some of these people have the dubious talent of dancing equally clumsily at many different levels. Some invest a huge amount of time learning new levels and then burn out--they keep looking for the next "high", but end up not enjoying any level and quit dancing altogether. This is very sad. Square dancing is supposed to be fun, not some competition to see who can get to the highest level. Remember, learning anything new takes time and energy that you may wish to devote to other activities. If you take the time to actually dance at a level for a while before even thinking about going on to the next, you will end up both dancing better and enjoying it more.
On the other hand, it must be admitted that some Quads members do continue to learn at a furious rate and enjoy doing so. To some extent, Quads seems to attract the very people who enjoy learning furiously. If you're one of those people and you're curious, watch the star tips some time and see whether it looks like fun, enough to make you want to spend time learning more weird and wonderful calls and formations. If it looks like too much work, or not interestingly different, then you probably shouldn't bother with it.
Last updated Wednesday 8 August 2007