SCVSDA General Dance Program - frequently asked questions
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General Dance Program
Frequently Asked Questions
Last updated: 26 August 2014
Table of Contents
- General Questions
- Questions Concerning the List
- Questions Concerning the Dances
- Questions Concerning Classes
What is the SCVSDA General Dance Program?
The General Dance Program (GDP) is a way that SCVSDA is supporting the growth of the local square dance community, by encouraging dancers who have not yet learned Plus, dancers who already know Plus, and dancers who may not be interested in learning Plus, to dance together on a regular basis.
Is GDP a dance level or a series of dances?
The SCVSDA General Dance Program is both a dance level and a series of dances. The dances will be called at this level, and the level was designed to be used at these dances.
Where did this project come from?
This project came out of a concern that it is difficult for many people to become square dancers in an environment where Plus is the smallest program for which there are regularly scheduled dances. With new dancers having to learn Plus in a single season, some people never achieve the ability to dance well enough to enjoy a Plus hoedown, either because the teaching rate is too intense for them so they don't learn the calls well, or because something interrupts their class participation and they never finish.
Has this project been formally approved or endorsed by SCVSDA?
This project was proposed to the SCVSDA Delegates in August 2013. A planning committee worked on the idea for the next three months to develop the details. The Delegates approved going ahead with the project at their November 2013 meeting.
What is the goal of this project?
The goal of the SCVSDA General Dance Program is to grow the square dance community in this area by making it easier for new people to become square dancers. Success in this will mean both more square dancers overall and more dancers enjoying a level of dancing that fits their personal abilities and interests -- including, over time, more dancers dancing Plus and higher levels.
Why is this program called "general"?
With respect to the dances, the term "general" is intended to convey the idea of inclusion, that everybody in the local square dance community is welcome, and so these dances can serve as a place for all square dancers to get together -- as opposed to dances that serve only dancers who dance Plus, Advanced, or Challenge, or dances that serve some other specific purpose. With respect to the level, the term is intended to convey the idea of commonality -- it is a list of calls that all square dancers share in common, used in ways with which all square dancers can be expected to be familiar.
Questions Concerning the List
Is GDP a dance level like Mainstream or Plus?
Yes, it is a dance level like Mainstream and Plus, consisting of a set of calls that dancers are expected to know when they come to a dance.
Is GDP intended to serve as a new "entry level"?
Yes, GDP is intended to serve as a level that new dancers can achieve by taking their first class, which will then enable them to dance on an ongoing basis -- after which they may want to learn more but do not have to learn more.
How is this different from square dance activities like "ABC" and CALLERLAB's Community Dance Program?
ABC and CDP are intended to provide a square dancing experience for people who make no commitment on an ongoing basis. Rather than teaching a set of calls which people are then expected to know when they go to a dance, these activities have people learning what they need to know as part of a single dance session. GDP, by contrast, is intended to be used in the same way as programs like Basic, Mainstream, and Plus, by people who are interested in making a commitment to square dancing as an ongoing activity.
How "big" is the GDP list?
GDP is designed to be about "half the size of Plus", in the sense of requiring about half the time and effort to learn. This size was chosen so that it can serve as a mid-point level for people who will eventually learn Plus, while still having enough variety to be interesting to people who don't want to learn Plus.
How is this different from the way Mainstream is used in some areas, where only some dancers go on to learn Plus?
The principle is the same. The main difference is the size of the list. GDP is significantly smaller than Mainstream, so it will be easier for people to learn.
How does GDP compare with lists like "Club Level 50" and the American Callers Association "One Floor" program?
There have been a number of other lists developed and used in various geographic areas to address the same problem which motivated the development of GDP. They all share certain characteristics -- specifically, they are smaller than the list which otherwise would by default serve as the "entry level" for that area, and they achieve this smaller size by focusing on the more popular calls. But there is a great deal of variation among them in size and which particular calls they include.
Why didn't SCVSDA adopt one of those existing lists?
The planning committee examined these lists and decided that none of them was a good enough fit for what we want to accomplish, in an area like ours where Plus is currently the dominant level. Some of them were designed as a smaller entry level for areas where Mainstream is dominant, so they don't include any Plus calls at all. Some of them are also larger than our target of "half the size of Plus". No existing list that we could find met both of our essential criteria -- to include some of the most popular Plus calls while still taking only about half as long to learn as Plus.
How did the committee choose the calls to include in GDP?
The committee started by examining other lists, and found that none of them met our criteria. But we did find one list being promoted as a subset of Mainstream that was smaller than our target. This was the "Experimental Condensed Teaching Order", which was developed by a CALLERLAB committee earlier in 2013. We used that list as a base, and made modifications which we saw as making it more appropriate for use in our area where Plus is dominant. This included adding a number of Plus calls, but we made other modifications as well. Factors that affected the choice of calls included frequency of use, ease of learning, choreographic utility, and the degree to which they bring variety to the program as a whole.
Where do the definitions for GDP calls come from?
All calls in the GDP list are defined by CALLERLAB. Although GDP does not necessarily make use of all of the variations defined by CALLERLAB, GDP usages will always be consistent with them. The definitions themselves can be found in the CALLERLAB program documents that cover Basic, Mainstream, and Plus.
So what exactly is included in the GDP list?
The current version of the GDP list can be found at
Is GDP intended as a "club level"?
SCVSDA will be sponsoring dances at this level. SCVSDA is not advocating that any existing clubs switch to this level, or that new clubs be formed that dance this level at their weekly sessions. A club could do that, which would make GDP a "club level", but that is not specifically a goal of this project.
Is the inclusion of some Plus calls intended to push people to learn Plus?
No, the fact that GDP includes some Plus calls is not intended to push people to learn Plus faster than they otherwise would, or to learn Plus at all. If anything, the opposite is the case. By providing a way for dancers to dance a small but "fun" level on an ongoing basis, at dances attended by a mix of dancers who dance various levels, GDP should reduce the pressure for dancers to learn Plus. Dancers who want to pause for a while before learning Plus will have a place to dance as along as they like. Dancers who aren't really interested in Plus but simply want to be able to dance occasionally with their friends who know Plus won't feel compelled to learn Plus for that reason alone.
Could organizations other than SCVSDA sponsor dances using this level?
Yes, any organization could sponsor a hoedown or similar special dance at the GDP level. We would welcome this, as a way to increase dancing opportunities for all who have learned this level. But to avoid confusion, dances should not be publicized using the terms "GDP" or "General Dance Program" unless the caller has agreed to call within the GDP list and calling guidelines.
Questions Concerning the Dances
Who will be able to attend the GDP dances?
All dancers who know the calls of the GDP list will be welcome at GDP dances. This includes current Plus (or higher) dancers, new dancers who have taken a class that specifically teaches GDP, and new dancers in a Plus class which has reached the point where all calls from the GDP list have been taught.
How often will GDP dances be held?
GDP dances will be scheduled at least once per month. This is to ensure that everyone who has learned the calls of the GDP list will have a chance to dance on a continuing basis, and so that new dancers who have just learned these calls won't need to wait more than a few weeks before becoming part of the general community of square dancers.
What level of difficulty will dancers find at a GDP dance?
Callers for GDP dances will call according to guidelines intended to make the average dancer who knows the GDP calls successful at the dance. These will not be "newer dancer" or "student" dances, so dancers who have just learned to dance may find them more challenging than dancers who have more experience, but neither will they be targeted specifically to experienced dancers or to those who are "puzzle-oriented". Generally speaking, the usage of the calls will be limited to a level similar to what CALLERLAB refers to as "standard applications". GDP dances will not be "APD" or "DBD". As at any dance, the caller might make some use of additional variations, but these would not make up a significant portion of any one dance and would be explained or workshopped as necessary -- nobody would be expected to already be familiar with them before coming to a GDP dance.
Will traditional square dance attire be required at GDP dances?
No, GDP dances will not require any particular style of dress.
Will solo dancers be welcome at GDP dances?
Yes, dancers will be welcome to come to GDP dances with or without a partner, and a solo rotation will be provided.
Will GDP dances include star tips or rounds?
No, GDP dances are intended to provide a dancing opportunity for everyone to participate on the basis of the dance skills that they have in common, so these activities will not be included. Nobody will be required to know anything beyond the GDP level to enjoy the entire event.
Who will sponsor and run the GDP dances?
SCVSDA will sponsor a series of GDP dances, which will be run by an SCVSDA committee. If other groups want to sponsor dances making use of the GDP level, it will be up to them decide who should should run them.
How will GDP dances be different from "newer dancer hoedowns"?
Newer dancer hoedowns are scheduled to meet the needs of classes that start at a particular time of year, and assume knowledge of different calls from hoedown to hoedown. In contrast, GDP dances will be scheduled on a continuous basis throughout the year, and assume knowledge of the same set of calls for every dance.
Are GDP dances intended to replace newer dancer hoedowns?
No, we expect newer dancer hoedowns will continue to be scheduled. GDP dances will not serve the purpose of newer dancer hoedowns for students in the early months of a Plus class, because they won't yet know all of the GDP calls. Students in some Plus classes will be able to make use of GDP dances as if they were additional newer dancer hoedowns, once their class has introduced all the calls of the GDP list.
Are GDP dances intended to replace Plus hoedowns?
No, GDP dances are not intended to replace Plus hoedowns. GDP dances will be scheduled in addition to the Plus hoedowns currently sponsored by clubs and by caller and/or dancer associations. GDP dances will welcome Plus dancers as well as dancers who don't know Plus, and Plus dancers will be able to attend both the GDP dances and Plus dances.
Are GDP dances intended to replace Whing Dings?
No, GDP dances are not intended to replace Whing Dings. Whing Dings will continue as Plus dances, co-sponsored by SCVSDA and SCVCA, run by a separate SCVSDA committee, and called by SCVCA member callers. Changing anything about Whing Dings would be decided by the Whing Ding Committee or SCVSDA Delegates, separately from management of GDP.
Questions Concerning Classes
How long will it take to teach GDP to a new dancer?
There is no one answer to that, because different people can learn at different rates and different class formats allow for different amounts of instruction and practice. But for any given style of class and mix of students, it should be possible for them to learn enough to participate in their first GDP dance in about half the time as it now takes for a new person to learn enough to participate in their first Plus dance.
How can GDP help groups to keep more dancers who can't learn as quickly?
Groups can accommodate dancers who learn more slowly by offering a class that teaches fewer calls each week, and that devotes more of each session to practice time. For example, instead of trying to teach everybody Plus in 10 months, a group would have the option of allocating a similar amount of time to just teaching GDP, and then letting those people continue to get additional practice by attending GDP dances.
How can GDP help groups retain new dancers who can't attend class regularly?
Groups can accommodate dancers who have trouble coming every week by teaching fewer calls per week and devoting more time to review, so that students who miss a class would both have less to catch up on and more help in doing it. In addition, groups whose goal is that everybody should learn Plus could still, by structuring their class so that students have learned GDP at about halfway through, make it much easier for people whose learning is interrupted by a long illness or travel to resume their learning. Students who have already reached the GDP point would only have to restart their learning at that point, either in the same class or another class, and in the meantime they would be able to keep up their skills by attending GDP dances.
How can GDP enable groups to recruit students more frequently?
Groups will have the option of starting GDP classes more frequently because, for any given teaching rate and style, such classes would be significantly shorter. For example, a group that is currently teaching new dancers Plus in about ten months could teach new dancers GDP in about five months.
What is the teaching order for GDP?
GDP specifies a list of calls that new dancers must learn, but it does not require that those calls be taught in any particular order. The sponsor or caller for a GDP class may choose or design any teaching order that they think would work well for their particular combination of class time, teaching style, and mix of students.
What changes will have to be made in current classes that teach all the way to Plus?
The introduction of GDP does not require any club to make any changes to the way they currently teach classes. New dancers in a class that teaches all the way to Plus can simply start attending GDP dances at whatever point that class has introduced all the calls from the GDP list. Sponsors of Plus classes may choose to make adjustments to their teaching order so new dancers are ready to dance GDP earlier, but that is entirely their decision.
If classes are teaching GDP, how will dancers who want to go on learn Plus?
A variety of approaches can be used and co-exist without interfering with each other. Clubs or callers could sponsor classes specifically for GDP dancers, to teach them Plus. GDP dancers could join a class intended to teach Plus to beginners, either at the beginning or part way through. Plus clubs could invite GDP dancers to join them for weekly workshops that combine GDP level dancing with progressive workshopping of the additional calls.
Is GDP compatible with the "multi-cycle" approach for class scheduling?
Yes, GDP would fit well with a multi-cycle approach. For example, a group could start a new class twice a year, teaching GDP to beginners during the first part of the evening and teaching Plus to dancers who already know GDP in the second part of the evening.
Would it be possible to teach GDP with a "blast class"?
Yes, it would be easier to teach GDP than Plus using the blast class format, because there are fewer calls, so fewer days or weekends would be required. This would make it easier to find times to hold the sessions which fit the prospective dancers' schedules.
How hard would it be for somebody who already knows Mainstream to learn GDP?
It would be relatively easy for somebody who already knows Mainstream to learn GDP, because they would only need to learn seven additional calls. It would be harder for somebody who already knows GDP to learn Mainstream, because GDP is a significantly smaller list than Mainstream. For details of what would be involved, see the Mainstream conversion page.
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