Square Dance Tutorial

The GDP Language

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This is an introduction to modern square dancing, viewed as a language. In particular, it covers the General Dance Program, a form of modern square dancing in use in our area. This isn't all there is to square dancing, but it will get you started, so you can actually participate in square dances, and it will serve as a very strong foundation if you want to go further.

Can you learn square dancing from the material in this tutorial? You may be able to learn a good deal of it this way. Square dancing is both a physical and a mental activity. It involves physical movement, and physical interaction with other people, all in the context of music. But it also involves understanding a special language, which the caller uses to direct the action. It is that language that is the focus of this tutorial. To learn the physical part, at some point you will need to actually dance, with actual people.

Different people are comfortable learning about a complex activity in different ways. When they get a new appliance, the first thing that some people do is sit down and read the instruction manual. Other people would prefer that somebody show them at least the basic operations first, and they only make use of the instruction manual when they have a question or want to use a more advanced feature. Some people can't get any useful information out of an instruction manual at all -- they really need somebody to show them everything. And some people just start randomly pushing buttons and turning dials and hope something useful happens!

If you are the sort of person who is comfortable reading an instruction manual, at least sometimes, you may find this tutorial useful. You will need to make your own choices about how to make use of it. Many square dance groups offer in-person, hands-on introductions to the basics of square dancing, either at public events or as part of starting up a formal class. Participating in one of those, even just for an hour, will give you very valuable background information that will make everything in this tutorial much easier to understand.

From there, you may be able to learn quite a bit by just reading. There are even a few people who might be able to just read this whole thing and then start dancing it all. But a better approach for most people will be to make some sort of arrangement to get actual "practice" while they are learning the "theory".

Many square dance clubs offer formal classes -- you can use this tutorial along with that to help you understand what is being taught, or to review what has already been taught. But many clubs start a new class only once per year. If you missed the start of one, you may be able to make use of this tutorial to "catch up" and then take advantage of the remaining class sessions to get the physical practice you need. Or, if you find that you need relatively little physical practice to get the hang of each call, you may be able to find some local square dancers willing to help give you enough practice from time to time that you can learn it all even if there is no formal class going on.

If this sounds at all interesting, please read at least the first few pages. If at any point the idea of learning about square dancing this way sounds much too complicated, just stop. Square dancing may still be a fine activity for you. Most current square dancers did not learn this way. Ask a square dancer you know or search on the web to find a formal, hands-on class. But if you find it interesting, go ahead and keep reading as much as you like.