Tony Parkes

Square Dance Calling


An Old Art for a New Century (2021)


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SKU: PB-2220 Category: Tags: , ,


Internationally known square and contra leader Tony Parkes “pays it forward” and reveals the secrets learned over half a century of teaching and calling.

This is the first book-length treatment of traditional calling in many years. Not just a rehash of prior works, it includes many thoughts on the activity that have never appeared in print before. Every aspect of the caller’s art is dealt with clearly and thoroughly, including:

  • A bird’s eye view of square dance history
  • An in-depth discussion of the basic movements
  • Call charts for over 50 figures and breaks
  • A section on creating new singing squares
  • A glossary of over 600 dance terms
  • Suggested tunes for patter and singing calls
  • Recommended books and recordings, with capsule reviews

Table of Contents

Part One: Theory

  • Starting Out (self-assessment, practicing, first gigs)
  • History (from 1651 to today: roots and branches, regional styles, cross-currents and convergence)
  • Philosophy (motivation, leadership, professionalism, ethics, tolerance, pitfalls)

Part Two: Delivery

  • Musical Structure (rhythm, timing, phrasing)
  • Dance Structure (terminology, types of square, constructing a sequence)
  • Wording (placing the calls in the music, placing the key words in the call)
  • Voice Technique (musicality, projection, diction, mic technique, care of the voice)
  • Calling Breaks (types of break, teaching, improvising, 16 sample breaks)
  • Patter (vs. prompting and singing, types of patter, 70 sample rhymes)
  • Programming (assessing material, pacing, calling a guest set or a whole evening)
  • Teaching (walkthroughs, demos, use of music, 30 basics in a suggested order)
  • Working with Music (tune types, band styles, finding a band, using recordings)
  • Different Groups (first-timers, children, contra dancers, gender-free, modern square dancers)
  • Exploring (for the adventurous – adapting dances, writing your own, ad-libbing or “hashing”)

Part Three: Material

  • Basic Movements (22 basics in depth, with variations, teaching techniques, historical notes)
  • Circles (notes on mixers, grand march, progressives, southern sets; 5 call charts)
  • Easy Squares (call charts for 7 practically bomb-proof dances)
  • The Middle Ground (call charts for 13 squares suitable for mixed groups)
  • Visiting Squares (call charts for 8 easy-to-middling traditional figures)
  • Singing Calls (how to combine figures and tunes; 7 call charts)
  • Fancy Figures (call charts for 5 squares for seasoned dancers)
  • Silly Stuff (descriptions of 10 unusual dances, with variations)
  • Them’s the Breaks (call charts for 3 classic and 8 improvised breaks)

Resources: reviews of 90 books, many available online, plus recordings with and without calls, videos, magazines, organizations, events, informational websites, suggested tunes for patter and singing calls