The International Square Dance Magazine

Patrick Demerath

Program Problems and Dancer Solutions

The American Callers’ Association in its attempt to be of service to all callers, dancers and associations provided current, timely, and effective information on new dancer recruitment, winning ways to retain club dancers, and pitfalls to drive square dancers away for most of 2000-2015. ACA really appreciate the positive comments, encouragement to continue, and contributions from callers and dancers all over the country and from abroad to continue these initiatives. American Callers will continue to provide information that will help the square dance community recruit, retain and retrieve square dancers as well as encourage dancers to speak out on the cumbersome dance programs.

This month’s Viewpoint discusses the thoughts of several callers and dancers on the decline of square dancing. Many of the callers and dancers view the decline in the number of square dancers is due to the existence of segregating programs and too many calls for new dancers to learn, which result in new dancers leaving the activity. Another result is that “potential” new dancers decline invitations to attend a student open house, or they attend one open house and have a good time, then learn of the requirements and never return. This bombshell hits the students square in the teeth. Lessons last almost a full year! The one year commitment is too much for a potential new dancer to continue, and they drop out of the square dance lessons. Marketing Research indicates that many of the baby boomers, tweens and teens and even some seniors are not willing to commit to long periods of lessons.

It may be argued that the formal dance programs have caused square dancing to create splinter groups, which segregate the dancers and shrink the size of dances. The American Callers International One-Floor program may wake up the square dancing community and unite the vast majority of dancers into dancing together. One caller sums it up in a very interesting way by looking at how square dancing existed 30 years ago: “FEW CALLS/LOTS OF DANCERS; MANY CALLS/FEWER DANCERS AND FINALLY MANY PROGRAMS/TOO FEW DANCERS IN ANY ONE PROGRAM. TODAY THE VAST MAJORITY OF DANCERS CAN ENJOY THE INTERNATIONAL”ONE-FLOOR PROGRAM.”

The American Callers Association maintains that the shorter the lesson and dance program and the shorter the learning curve the sooner the new dancers are assimilated willingly into square dancing “THE MORE DANCERS, THE LARGER THE ACTIVITY. THE LARGER THE ACTIVITY, THE MORE FUN, WHICH LEADS TO MORE DANCERS ALL OVER AGAIN.” Callers themselves and national, state, and local callers’ associations must simplify and shorten the number of calls and the number of lessons.

Marketing research on demographic age groups clearly show that members of the younger Baby Boomers, Tweens and Teens, Generation X and Generation Y will not commit to square dance lessons much past three months of one night a week.

 In higher education, colleges and universities are learning that adult students will commit to a college degree if they are presented shorter terms than the typical 16 week classes. The adult students prefer courses that are 7-8 weeks and are one night a week. Colleges and universities who offer accelerated courses are prospering in revenues and the number of students.

When the square dance program are eliminated and/or cut and paired down to as few as three lessons, callers will have to also adapt by becoming more skilled and creative in their calling because the more calls the less creative are the callers’ dances. This is the same in marketing theory when one looks at the differences between Market Skimming and Market Penetration.

The American Callers’ Association continues to work on reducing its program to allow for more dancers to successfully complete the lessons and stay in square dancing after graduation. The American Caller’s Association is willing to work with all national, state and local caller associations to develop a simplified one-floor dance program.

Any individual, club, caller, or association who wishes to communicate his/her opinions on this subject is encouraged to contact the American Callers’ Association at  or Dr. Patrick Demerath at

Until Next Time, Happy Dancing!

Fun set to music!