Stanford Quads

Square Dance Club

About Festivals

by Charleen Bunjiovianna, March 5, 1995

Local dances are fun, but you might want to try a weekend festival (see the ads in the back half of The Prompter for examples--Ed). My partner and I went "festival-happy" when I was learning to dance Plus, so I can give you a pretty good idea of what goes on in general.

Festivals are typically sponsored by regional square dance organizations. In our area, that's the Santa Clara Valley Square Dance Association (SCVSDA) which puts on Jubilee in October of each year (threatened with cancellation this year--Ed.). Quite a few South Bay clubs are members of SCVSDA. Quads is not. Ask a club member if you really want to know why.

For those of you with RVs, tent trailers or tents, there is almost always camping space available on the festival grounds, usually right next to a dance hall. Those of us less fortunate make do with motel accommodations.

Traditional square dance attire is almost always required at all festival dance sessions (note that for women, this now includes "prairie skirts" Ed.). There are some festivals where you won't be allowed to enter unless you're dressed properly. Men, be advised that in some areas you won't be allowed to wear a hat indoors. I have even heard of places where jeans are considered inappropriate attire for men, but thankfully, have yet to run into them.

Festival dancing is often done in huge drafty exhibition halls with concrete floors. Bring a jacket. It's not a bad idea to bring an additional pair of shoes, too, since you don't know in advance how slick the floor will be. More than once I've found myself slipping sideways during a promenade. And falling on a concrete floor is No Fun.

Watch out for spilled liquids on the dance floor. Seating at some festivals can be inadequate, which is annoying when you're tired and your feet hurt. Pamper your feet, and don't feel that you have to dance every tip in order to get your money's worth.

When you square up, it's considered rude to go past an incomplete square to get to one you might think more desirable. Once you've gotten to your square, introduce yourself to your corner. If you're feeling uncertain or inexperienced at this level, you can say so and often your corner will help you out. You needn't introduce yourself to everyone in the square, but it's nice to make eye contact. In some areas, all four men shake hands while the women wave demurely at each other. (For some reason, thank yous afterwards are done the same way, and a man may be a little startled if a woman shakes his hand.)

Sooner or later you'll be in a square with one or more people who seem hopelessly incompetent, so much so that they threaten to drag the square down with them. The best guidelines I've heard of for such situations are as follows:

  • Keep dancing, even if someone isn't where you expect them to be for a Trade or a Swing Thru. Pretend they're there. Often, the confused dancer can fall back into place a few calls later. Stopping is a bad idea.

  • Keep smiling. Getting angry is counterproductive, and hey, we all make mistakes.

  • Smile and thank everyone afterwards, even the incompetent, and if you can phrase it in a casual helpful manner, offer to review one or two calls the dancer was having trouble with. People often appreciate this if it's done in a non-threatening way.

Festival dancing is lots of fun. You get to sharpen your skills dancing to nationally-known callers, meet new people, browse the traveling square dance shops, and see the local color.

Last updated Wednesday 8 August 2007