Choreographic Rules of Flow in Square Dancing

by Lynette Bellini

Caveat

These are my rules of flow in square dancing. They are the result of thinking about how to program a computer to write reasonable square dance choreography. I expect no one to agree with these rules 100%; in fact, I personally break every one of them some percentage of the time.

Points of Rotation

In order to have a method of discussing the various motions encountered in square dance choreography, I have identified several points of rotation:

• A single dancer: the point of rotation is about the center of a single dancer, as in the call roll.
• Two dancers : the point of rotation is about a point between two dancers.
• Four dancers : the point of rotation is about a point in the center of four dancers.
• Center of the square : the point of rotation is about the center point of the square.

There are multiple ways to pair dancers; swing and slip are both examples of the two dancer point of rotation, but they are different. The same thing applies for the four dancer situations: from waves, lockit and split counter rotate operate around different points, but they are each four dancers large.

Rules

1. The point of rotation must be different on every call for every dancer.

2. No dancer who has a lateral motion (leads on walk and dodge) should receive a call that moves them in the direction opposite to that lateral motion.

3. No dancer should travel continuously in one direction (clockwise or counterclockwise), whether or not their point of rotation is constantly changing.

4. The direction of rotation should not be abruptly changed. The smaller the point of rotation, the more incorrect it is to change the direction of rotation (e.g. 1/4 right, then 1/4 left: the point of rotation is a single dancer and therefore this pair of calls has incredibly bad flow).

Bonus rules (rules for writing choreography, but not flow rules):

1. Change the shape of the overall formation as frequently as possible.

2. Change the focus of attention as frequently as possible: from a wave to a box, to the 8 dancer setup, to two dancers, etc.

Lynette Bellini
January 11, 1996