The Guide to IAGSDC Convention Chapter 18
Things to know about dancing at Convention...
Dancing at an IAGSDC® Convention or fly-in can be an exhilarating experience.
Imagine meeting a group of 7 other people for the very first time on a dance floor, and feeling like you've instantly developed 8-way telepathy.
That's what a great square can feel like!
To maximize your chances of dancing in great squares, here are some things to keep in mind.
- Square up as close to the caller as possible. This is one of the most critical pieces of advice for newer dancers ... if you trust only one piece of advice in this article, please trust this one. Uncertain dancers who usually square up in the back of the hall rarely improve their skills over time.
- Another reason to square up right in front of the caller: If you have problems, the caller can more easily see you, and adjust the choreography speed or difficulty accordingly. This goes double for callers you haven't ever heard before.
- Don't be afraid of squaring up with strangers. That's half the fun of attending Conventions and flyins! If you usually dance at home with the same people, you'll improve your dance skills by dancing with strangers. After all, you can still dance with the
people you know at home for 51 other weeks a year!
- If you're a newer dancer, and are shy about squaring up with more experienced dancers ... don't worry about it. Many people you'll meet at Convention are also newer dancers. Dancing with more experienced dancers at Conventions and fly-ins is one of the best ways to sharpen your dance skills. They'll be happy to help!
- If you have a problem with something (e.g., perhaps you don't like being twirled), tell the people in your square before the tip begins. They should be happy to accommodate you.
- It's OK to ask questions about calls, flourishes, sound effects, or fluff that you don't know or didn't understand.
- If you can't hear the caller clearly from your square, don't be afraid to shout, "Louder, please!" or "More voice, please!" until you can hear them clearly. Don't suffer through half (or more!) of a tip before speaking up!
- Wear your club name badge at all times. People like to know who they're dancing with, and it's considered rude in many parts of the world to dance without a name badge.
- Always thank your square. It's considered rude to leave a square without thanking each dancer. Some people hug, some shake hands; it's a matter of personal taste. If you like hugging, consider asking each person you don't know "do you hug?" before having at. Even if they don't hug, they'll be pleased that you asked first.
- Try new callers. If this is your first convention, Michael Pemberton of Chi-Town Squares and DC Lambda Squares suggests dancing at least twice to each caller you don't know. This lets you pick out new favorites for future events. Even if you've been to Convention before ... don't be afraid of dancing to callers you may not have heard previously. (This especially applies when the convention venue bounces between the East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest, each of which has regional favorite callers.)
If you graduate at one level, should you dance in the hall of your graduating level, or hang out in a lower-level hall? Seth Levine of Desert Valley Squares in Phoenix, observes that the level of dance difficulty at conventions and flyins often increases slowly over the course of a weekend, as dancers and callers become more confident with each other and their surroundings.
This means it's to your advantage to start dancing at your highest level on the first day, when choreography will probably be easiest. On the second or third day, if you find yourself needing a break, you can always move down to a lower dance level for a session, then go back to your highest dance level when you've had a mental break.
"Oh my gosh, my square just broke down!"
If you break down the square, you won't "bring shame down upon your home club." Laugh about it now, but one of the most frequent confessions of newer dancers is being scared to death of making a mistake, because then "everyone will think that their club has bad dancers."
Breaking down is a normal part of square dancing, even for experienced dancers and callers. If you think you broke down a square, don't make a big deal about it. Just apologize, re-square-up, and see if you can figure out what happened AFTER the tip is over. (Ask your partner or corner if they know what may have happened.)
- If your square breaks down during a patter call, form normal (boy-girl-boy-girl) facing lines of four, and wait for the caller to pick up your square on the next sequence. The official CALLERLAB procedure is:
- Return to home position as soon as possible.
- Head ladies take their corner's hand and head couples back out to form lines at the sides of the square.
- On the caller's command "EVERYBODY go forward and back", enter into the dance pattern.
- Kate Yule points out this event is sometimes also signaled by the magic words "...up to the middle and back".
- If your square breaks down during a singing call, Danny Lee from The Wilde Bunch in Albuquerque suggests that you quickly re-square-up, and have the girls "rotate" to the next boy in sequence. (Most modern singing calls take each girl to "visit" with each boy in turn.)
- Want a second chance? If your square breaks down during a patter tip, and you're feeling especially feisty, it's OK to yell "Over!" (or "Again?!") at the caller, to ask them to try a specific sequence again. Many callers will be happy to honor "over" requests, especially if multiple squares had problems. Callers are usually just as curious as the dancers to figure out where a sequence "went bad". (Note: "Overs" are strictly at the caller's discretion. Sometimes, some choreography just doesn't work, and isn't worth trying again.)
What's a "Grand March"?
One of the IAGSDC® Convention traditions is a presentation of all of the member clubs. This takes the form of a march, club-by-club, into a ballroom or similar large dance space, as a roster of IAGSDC® clubs is read off. Dancers generally wear their formal club uniforms for the Grand March, although it's not a requirement.
The exact format of the march varies from year to year. Some years, the clubs are presented in alphabetical order, and sometimes in order of founding. The host club for the current convention may be the first or last dancers into the room. In either case, the other IAGSDC® clubs always give the local club(s) a rousing cheer to thank them for hosting.
At the conclusion of the Grand March, the national anthems of all countries hosting IAGSDC® clubs are played and/or sung, speeches are read, announcements are made, and there's an all-together-now dance (generally at Mainstream level).
I've heard some people refer to the Grand March as a bit corny, but ... when you're marching with your club, and there are a thousand other dancers on the floor, all marching with their clubs, and people are cheering each other's clubs as they make entrances ... the Grand March feels pretty darn wonderful. It can be a real thrill to realize that you're part of a much larger group, all of whom share a common interest. (No, not sex. Square dancing.)