Cowboy Dances

A collection of Traditional Western Square Dances By Lloyd Shaw

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sense, that is a spatial sense of moving and interrelated pat­tern. We all recognize the presence or absence of a color sense or a sense of smell or a sense of taste. We would not expect a person without an "ear" or a sense of tone to par­ticipate in group singing, or a "color blind" person to exe­cute a painting. And yet I am convinced that though psy­chologists have never recognized it, there are as many people who lack a "spatial," a "geometric" sense as there are those who lack a sense of color or of tone. And we find that they are never able to learn howT to square dance. In spite of an otherwise high order of intelligence and in spite of endless instruction, the pattern means nothing to them and they are forever running oif in the wrong direction. It goes without saying that an infallible spatial or geometric sense is essen­tial to any good caller.
Then he should be a natural teacher, which so many of the old professional callers, alas, are not. By natural teacher, I mean, he must not only be able to make his ideas perfectly clear, but if the beginner does not understand one way he must be able to explain in another and another until it all comes clear. This means that he must not only be able to analyze every detail of the dance, but he must be able instantly to analyze the difficulty that stands in the way of the beginner.
Not only is this clear-headedness essential in teaching the dance, but it is very necessary in the midst of the calling. He will see the whole pattern weaving itself out before him on the floor. Here a set of more experienced dancers may be running ahead of his call. There an especially slow set is falling farther and farther behind. He must keep them to­gether. He must put more command in his voice, and make the fast ones wait and the slow ones catch up. (In extreme cases he has to stop the dance and beg the fast ones to wait for the call, and the slow ones to follow the call even if they have to leave out a section in which they have bogged down. Everyone must follow the call on the instant or it will be bedlam.) Ten or twenty sets on a floor all moving exactly to the call is a sight to be remembered.
Always there will be distractions. Someone always wants to talk to the caller in the very middle of his call. And even though he does not listen he is severely distracted. Fast sets, slow sets, new arrivals, little accidents, all tend to distract him. But he must keep his eye on that unfolding

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