A New Approach to Teaching MWSD
with the SSD
Last updated July 2021.
Last updated July 2021.
It should be fun, and feel like Dancing
The teaching order is determined by the positions from which the moves are done
Certain moves from later programs are taught early as they help in teaching some of the Mainstream moves
Moves are taught in sets of 4 people for as long as possible
Moves are taught from all positions and in both hands, if not at the same time then close together
The definitions are constantly emphasised
Circle moves (e.g. Allemande Thar) are left to last
My local club had 16 people start a beginners course, and by the end they had 4 left. This didn't seem right to me, so I looked at the way it was taught - in particular I looked at what people find easy to learn, and what they find difficult, what sort of environment helps people learn, and what things can cause them not to learn, or not to come back.
Whilst there is huge variety and everyone learns differently, there were some common factors.
In my experience the thing that causes beginners most problems is what formation the move is done from and who they’re doing it with (essentially the same thing, since one determines the other).
This approach teaches the moves in fixed sets of 4 people. This eliminates the things that cause beginners most problems: what formation is it done in (it’s the one you’re in), who’s my partner (it’s the person next to you) and who am I doing the move with (it’s the 4 people in your set).
In terms of the environment, I found five things to be important:
People to want / be prepared to learn (marketing & selling)
An approach that builds on knowledge, reinforces learning, and doesn’t introduce too much new stuff at once
It to feel like dancing (so people are having fun)
The right atmosphere (no fear, social occasion, respected workshop leader)
A sense of achievement and learning that is recognised by the dancers (and reinforced by the workshop leader)
Rather than teach in Squares, I teach as much as I can in two couple sets, using a Contra Dance formation known as Becket. There is more detail about this including the extensive benefits here: http://barndancecaller.net/ContrainSD.html
This formation can extend to "Grand" sets
where all the two couple sets become part of a single set - for
example with 6 couples after a pass the ocean, moves such as
Ferris Wheel, Wheel and Deal, all 8 Circulate, Couples Circulate, Spin
Chain Thru, Column Circulate, Grand Swing Through, Trade By can all be
done - and without a square in sight.
This formation can extend to "Grand" sets where all the two couple sets become part of a single set - for example with 6 couples after a pass the ocean, moves such as Ferris Wheel, Wheel and Deal, all 8 Circulate, Couples Circulate, Spin Chain Thru, Column Circulate, Grand Swing Through, Trade By can all be done - and without a square in sight.
In order to limit the number of new concepts at the beginning, moves are taught in one fixed formation at a time, and only when that has been exhausted is a new formation introduced. The first formation is facing couples, the next is Couples facing out, then box circulate and so on. I have deliberately left “whole square” moves such as Thar until last because I believe that introducing a formation that cannot be built on at the beginning is counter-productive. All the main 4 person formations can be seen as extensions of the others, whereas a square bears no relation whatsoever to the other formations.
The full teaching order is:
|1||Facing couples||Ladies chain|
|Box the Gnat|
|2||Couples facing out||Pass Thru|
|Passing Rule||Partner Trade (Couple)|
|U turn back|
|3||Box||Ladies / Gents U turn back|
|L & R Handed||Box Circulate|
|Partner Trade (Wave)|
|4||Transitions: FC & Box||Run|
|5||Changing Direction by 90 deg||Touch a Quarter|
|Slide Thru (normal and 1/2 sashayed)|
|Sweep a Quarter|
|Facing Couples Rule||(L) Swing Thru|
|Ocean Wave Rule||Trades|
|L & R Handed|
|Centres / ends|
|7||Transitions - Ocean Waves||Cast off 3/4|
|Same Position Rule||Chain down the Line|
|Step to a Wave (Extend)|
|Pass the Ocean|
|8||Transitions - Ocean Waves||Half Tag|
|9||Two Faced Lines||Veer|
|Tag the Line, Face L/R|
|Run (from wave)|
|Bend the Line|
|10||Two Faced Lines||Veer|
|Tag the Line (1/2 or Face In/Out)|
|Chain down the Line|
|Wheel And Deal|
|R&L Thru & 1/4 more|
|Moves requiring at least 8 people|
|12||Squares||Heads Lead Right|
|Heads / Sides||Split 2|
|Circle to a Line|
|Separate, go round 1 ( or 2)|
|13||Columns, Facing Couples||Trade By|
|Leaders / Trailers||Double Pass Thru|
|Insides / Outsides||Centres / ends|
|U Turn Back|
|14||8CT, (C)DPT||Put Centres In|
|First couple go Left / Right|
|15||Columns, Miniwaves||Circulate (all / split/ centres)|
|16||General Lines||Wheel And Deal|
|As Couples||Wheel And Deal (LFO)|
|Sweep 1/4||Ferris Wheel|
|Tag the Line (then face In/Out)|
|Circulate (all / split/ centres/ends)|
|Tag the Line (then face In/Out)|
|18||Tidal Lines||Centres / ends|
|19||Quarter Tag||Centres / ends|
|20||3&1 and Inverted Lines||Run|
|21||Completing the Circle||Alamo Style|
|Ladies in, Men Sashay|
This is not definitive, and sections such as Half Sashayed, Same Sex Couples and Changing Direction can be interspersed anywhere. The important bits are having Facing couples – Box Circulate – Lines in that order.
Speed practice: One of the things the dancers don't get directly
from this approach is any early sense of full dance speed or flow.
Occassionaly I will chose 4 dancers, and take them through a sequence
called at speed, and with a few stacked calls. I select the
dancers according to ability so that the better ones get a chance to
really "go for it" without being held up by the less able.
Speed practice: One of the things the dancers don't get directly from this approach is any early sense of full dance speed or flow. Occassionaly I will chose 4 dancers, and take them through a sequence called at speed, and with a few stacked calls. I select the dancers according to ability so that the better ones get a chance to really "go for it" without being held up by the less able.