Canadian Olde Tyme Square Dance Association

About Us
Square Dance Events
Fiddling Events

Basics, Movements and Calls

A Square Dance 'Set' of dancers is made up of four couples who stand on the sides of an imaginary eight foot square.
The Lady stands on her partner's right.
The First Couple have their backs to the caller.
The Second Couple are on the callers' right, the Third couple is facing the caller, and the Fourth couple is on the callers' left.
First and Third Couples are called "head couples"; the Second and Fourth are "side couples."
The Gent's "corner" or "corner lady" is the lady on his left. The Lady's "corner" or "corner gent" is the man on her right.

A 'Set' also refers to a group of three "changes" or square dance patterns. The first change is usually a visiting pattern danced to a jig, the second change is usually a singing call, and the third is a breakdown danced to a reel.

A traditional evening dance format has been 'two couple dances followed by set of three square dance patterns and repeated to fill the evening.
A different caller calls each change.

Any of the standard tunes, such as "Little Brown Jug", "Turkey in the Straw", or other reel or jig, played in 2/4 or 6/8 time will do. Ideally you would have an old-time fiddler with one or two accompaniment of a piano, guitar, banjo, accordion, drums, bass etc. that would round out the sound.

Every caller has their own way of calling a dance pattern and some add rhyming to add colour or "patter", so the dancers challenge is to listen for the directions within the patter. If you get mixed up, stay in place and wait for the next part of the call.

TRADITIONAL PRIMARY MOVEMENTS: are movements that we are preserving

2 or 4 ladies (or gents) chain

allemande left or right


circle left or right

chasse, half chasse

divide the couple

do si do (left shoulders for corners, right shoulder with partner and opposite)

forward and back

grand chain, grand right and left (reverse)

half promenade, star promenade

hold your holts (don't let go of the hands you are holding)

pass through, double pass through

promenade (varsoviana position - gents right arm over ladies shoulder)

right and left through (and back)


star by the left or right


SECONDARY MOVEMENTS: are those which are not considered traditional but have gained acceptance through years of use.


box the gnat

courtesy turn

grand square, (reverse)

ladies chain 3/4


weave the ring



- All dances using the traditional primary and secondary movements and danced to jigs, reels, hornpipes and breakdowns.


Arch in the Middle and the Ends turn In

Bird in the Cage

Black and Tan

Cut Off Six

Canadian Breakdown

Chase the Lady

Devil to Pay

Dip and Dive

Dive Thru - Pass Thru

Double Pass Through

Duck for the Oyster

Forward Four in Line

Four Ladies Chain Across and Down

Four Poster Bed

Grape Vine Twist

Lady Do-ce-Balinet

Lazy H

Spin the Ends

Right Hand High, Left Hand Low

Take a Peek

Texas Star

Three Ladies Chain

- SINGING CALLS that were in common use before 1954.

Climbing Up the Golden Stairs

Darling Nellie Gray

Farmer Gray

Golden Slippers

Hinkey Dinkey Parley Vous

Hot Time In the Old Town

Jessie Polka Square

Life On the Ocean Wave

Little Brown Jug

Marchin' Thorough Georgia

My Little Girl

Red River Valley

San Antonio Rose

Silver Bells

Spanish Calveliero

The Girl I Left Behind

Wabash Cannonball

Waltz Quadrille