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The primary resources for learning to square dance are the classes offered by area clubs. Typically, a club will start a new class once per year.

Most classes start in the fall, but some start in January, and there may be others at other times. Most clubs begin their class seasons with one or more introductory nights when new students can join. In many cases these nights are free, and you are welcome to come just to find out what square dancing is about, with no obligation.

Generally, new dancers must start a class at the beginning. However, if you have square danced previously (e.g., if you are returning to square dancing after a number of years), you will in many cases be able to join a class in the middle of the season. Check with the specific club for more information.

To find a class that fits your needs, consult the class listings page.

Newer-Dancer Hoedowns

In addition to dancing at their own club (in most cases one night per week), most square dancers enjoy larger events called hoedowns. At these events (and other special dances, including multi-day festivals and conventions), dancers have an opportunity to meet people from other clubs and to dance to callers with varying styles.

To give beginners a chance to dance with other beginners from around the area, various clubs sponsor newer-dancer hoedowns. These dances are designed for people who are currently taking a class. The ones early in the season will use only calls taught early in the class, ones later in the season will use more calls.

For a list of upcoming newer-dancer hoedowns see the calendar pages.

Programs (Levels)


Square dance calls are grouped into programs (sometimes called levels) to allow dancers to know what calls to expect at a dance -- and to allow the caller to know what calls the dancers will be able to do! The advertisement for a hoedown will normally indicate what program will be called.

Most classes for beginners will teach either the Mainstream program or the Plus program. Each higher level program includes all the previous ones. So, for example, if you are taking a class for beginners that teaches the Plus program, you will also be learning how to dance all of the calls of the Basic and Mainstream programs, and you will be able to dance at events advertised as Basic or Mainstream as well as those advertised as Plus.

Calls Taught in Local Classes

Lists of the calls taught so far in some local classes can be found on the following pages. The calls are listed by the date when they were introduced, and each one has a link to a description. If you are taking one of these classes, you can use these lists to review the calls that you learned recently or that were taught when you missed a class. Although all of these classes aim to each all the calls of Basic, Mainstream, and Plus, they don't teach them in the same order. The following chart shows which calls have bee taught in each class. You could use it to see whether it makes sense, if you are taking one class, to visit another class, or to start attending another class for supplementary practice/review.

Official Call Lists and Definitions

The official definitions of square dance calls are maintained by Callerlab, the international association of square dance callers. Reading the definitions is not a substitute for learning by actually doing the calls, but they can be very helpful if you want to review what you have learned or if you have a question about the precise meaning of a call.

The definitions are available in PDF files suitable for printing:
Definitions of Calls
Basic Program
Mainstream Program
Plus Program

Also available are simple lists of the calls. You may find it helpful to print these out to use as a checklist, or as a place to take notes on questions that you may want to ask the caller or experienced dancers. (If you are taking a Plus class, you will want to print out all three of these lists.)

Lists of Calls
Basic Program
Mainstream Program
Plus Program

Animations and Video

Various people have created lists of calls with illustrations. These pictures or diagrams can help you see how the dancers interact.

There are also video clips which illustrate many of the calls.

Note that these presentations may include abbreviated/incomplete definitions which apply only to the specific cases being illustrated. For the actual definition, consult one of the references mentioned above.

Further Reading...

Selected articles from various sources on topics likely to be of interest to new dancers:

(c) 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 Santa Clara Valley Square Dancers Association Email the Web Master

Last Updated 8 November 2018