American Square Dances

Last updated:  October, 2020

American Square Dances usually comprise two alternating parts:  the distinctive main figure, unique to each dance and repeated by each couple in turn…  and the ‘break’ or ‘chorus’, a formulaic combination - elements of which can be repeated from dance-to-dance, e.g. ‘Allemande your corner by the left, Right-Left Grand’, ‘You swing mine (partner), I’ll swing yours’ or ‘Promenade around the ring’…
  … and ‘calling’ employs a characteristic, rhyming ‘patter’.

Danced to reels - usually multiples of 16 bars, and played in Bluegrass-style.

Texas Star

(A ‘breakdown’ style of square dance.)

Watch at:  ‘Called’ by Phil Jamison.

All hold hands and circle left, “Circle of eight”, “other way back - and don’t be slow”/“Don’t be late”.  (16 beats)

“Swing your partner high & swing her low” or “Everybody home and swing”.  (8 beats)

“Promenade (with a heel & a toe)” Ccw. until you're home.  (16 beats)

    * * *
Main Figure (44 bars)
“All four ladies go…  in to the middle” (3 steps and clap neighbors’ hands), ladies reverse out (“and back to the bar”).  (8 beats, 4 bars)

“ …and the gents go in with a r. hand star” (Cw., grip wrists)…  (8 beats)

…then turn back for a l. hand star back.  (8 beats)

Men pass their partner with a slight bow and pick-up the next lady (arm around her waist) “Take the next” (to progress) with r. hand, “right by your side”, continue, circling back to man’s place.  (8 beats)

Men let go l. hand so that couples can wheel around Ccw. (men reverse) 1½ times: “Gents swing out and ladies in”/“Insides out and outsides in - it's once-and-a-half and you’re goin’ ag’in” i.e. ladies r. hand star, men hang-on outside their partner.  (16 beats)

“Break that star, and swing”.  (8 beats)

Promenade (holding hands in front) to the man’s home place (optionally, a few steps from home, the man can raise his r. hand so that the lady can twirl back to place).  (16 beats)

All hold hands and circle left, “Circle left - eight hands around”, “other way back”.  (16 beats)

Repeat the dance a further three times (by going back to:  “All four ladies go… ”).


The Break… (between main figures) or ‘chorus’

‘Rip & Snort’ (Sometimes also used as a finishing ‘trimming’.)

All join hands.  The first man, with his new lady, go ‘Rip & Snort’:  couple 3 make an arch and ‘1’s, still holding hands, pass through it, “First couple down the centre… ”, pulling their adjacent couples through.  Couple 1 separate (only releasing their partner’s hand), round the outside of the set, and meet back home (couple 3 need to ‘unwind’ under their arch together).  Couple 1 rejoin hands;

“‘4’s arch and ‘2’s duck through”/“Couple 2, come on thru’”;

‘1’s arch, “Couple 3 go through that door”;

‘2’s arch, “Couple 4, you know what to do”.  (Total = 4 x 8 beats)

Georgia Rang-Tang

Watch at:

Opener  (c. 32 bars)

Circle left.  (16 beats)

Swing partner.  (8 beats)

Promenade Ccw.  (8 beats)

Put the lady on the left - to swap sides…  (8)

…ladies continue circling Ccw. - men turn back and go the other way around.  When you meet, “Swing your own” - until the next music phrase.

Find another couple…  “Lost and found in the middle of the floor”.  (c. 8 beats - until the next music phrase)

Main Figure (c. 24 bars)
The Georgia Rang Tang figure shares similarities with the Arkansas Traveler figure.

    * * *
(As couple-facing-couple:) Right hand Allemande a half-turn your ‘opposite’ person (“Turn your opposite by the right hand around”),  (6 steps)

l. hand half-turn partner (“Partner by the left hand around”),  (5 steps)

r. hand half-around with opposite,  (6 steps)

l. hand with partner,  (5 steps.  So a total of c. 22 beats/steps so far)

swing your opposite, so “You swing mine, I’ll swing yours… ”

…“and now swing your own”.  (c. 8 + 8 steps, so total = c. 38 steps/beats)

Move-on to the right to the next couple, inner couples move Cw., outers move Ccw..  (c. 10 steps/beats)

Repeat the figure…

Finally: “Promenade that one you know.  You know where and I don’t care…  Take your partner to an easy chair.  That’s all there is from this ol’ square”.

Dip and Dive

As called by Bob Dalsemer at: and

Music:  Need to start very slowly - perhaps for a walkthrough?  Then try:  Mick O’Brien & C O’R - *Rolling in the Ryegrass set  (16 bars in 20s of initially relaxed, but infectious, fiddling).

Form:  square.  (Walk-through a G. R.-T. figure.)

Main Figure (lasts c. 36 bars or c. 50 bars with the G. R.-T.)

    * * *
The first couple lead-out to their right - to couple 2.  The two couples hold hands to make a circle which they half-turn Cw..  Couples 1, 2 and 4 are now in a ‘line of three’ couples across the set - with couple 2 in the middle.  (4 bars)

"Insides arch, outsides under": Couple 2 make a single-handed arch and move forward.  Couple 1, facing towards the line, dive under the arch and then make an arch themselves as they continue forward towards the advancing couple 3.  Couple 2 then turn around with a ‘California Twirl’ or, if desired, the man swaps sides by leading round the back of the lady, she swaps sides half-turning Ccw. ‘into’ him - so that her left arm is wrapped across her waist.  (After the couple has ‘dip’ped through the oncoming arch, the lady then ‘unwrap’s - by rotating Cw. once).  “Insides arch and outsides under, ‘Dip and Dive’, you go like thunder” - cross-over…  and back.  Couple 1 dive into the middle.  (12 bars)

“On you go - it’s on to the next”.  Couple 1 then half-circle left with couple 3  (4 bars), and either: couple 3 make an arch and couple 1 simply dive thru’ (2)  (also “Make a little door and send them through”) or: perform a ‘Georgia Rang-Tang’:  “(Half-) turn your left hand lady by the right hand around”, etc..  (11 bars) and “swing your own”. (3 bars)

Couple 1 then move-on to hold hands with couple 4 and half-circle Cw. - so couples 2, 4 and 1 are in a line of three couples across the set.  (4 bars)

The middle couple (couple 4) make the arch, couple 1, facing the line, dive under the arch - then the three couples Dip ‘n’ Dive - cross… and back.  Couple 1 finally dive ‘home’.  (12 bars)

Fill-in with a short swing.

Include a ‘break’ figure here?

Restart - with couple 2 as the ‘working couple’.

Break figure suggestions:

Long Swing “Now home we go, what ya goin’ do?  You swing your partner or swing your corner and she’ll swing you”.  “Step right back and watch her grin, step right up and swing her ag’in, step right back and watch her smile, step right up and swing her awhile”.

Do-si-do:  “Dance around your corners all…, dance around your partners all… ”.  (8 + 8 steps)

“Allemande left your corner (with your ol' left hand) - then ya' walk straight into a R-L Grand”.  (4 + 12 steps)

“Promenade with your partner - go two-by-two (or just ‘one-step’) - right back home like you used to do”.  (16 steps)

Circle - “All hands up and circle south; put a little moonshine in your mouth…  and find your way back on that same ol’ track”.  (8 + 8 steps)

Kentucky Do-Si-Do

As called by Bob Dalsemer at:

Music: 32-bar: 33s: Brittany Haas - Smith’s Reel, The E-B-E Reel;  32s: Corrina Rose Logston - *Smokey Mountain Rag.

Form:  square.  The caller’s priority should be to keep the working couple progressing smoothly, rather than calling to the music’s phrasing.

Preparation:  Walkthrough the circle, do-si-do, curl round and promenade figures in two, two-couple groups.

Circle left eight steps, “the other way back, single file, ladies in front”;  everybody cross-hand swing partner, corner swing, promenade partner round the ring “promenade them two-by-two”. (8 + c. 12 bars)

    * * *
Main Figure  (c. 36 bars)
First couple lead-out to their right - to the second couple, with whom they hold hands and circle left: “Out to the right and circle of four” (3 bars).  “On to the next, circle of four” (3)…  and “on to the next, circle of four” (3)…  and “bring it on up with a (Kentucky) do-si-do”: “(half-) turn partner by the left and around you go” (3), “opposite right and around you go” (2), partner left (3), opposite right “and one more change and around you go” or “and all four change and on you go” (2), to meet partner by the left. (1)

As they pass back-to-back, the two men (1st and 4th) curl round Ccw. so that they can promenade (holding hands in front) their partner around the other couple (men should be close - shoulder-to-shoulder) and back home.  “Back home you go”.  (4)

Everybody two-handed lean-back with partner and “partner swing” once around (3), everybody pass-by to two-handed lean-back and, “corner swing” (3), pass-back to promenade partner around the ring (6).

Second couple lead-out to the right and circle four… etc..

Third couple go out to the right… etc..

Fourth couple… etc..

Arkansas Traveler

(Known as Georgia Rang-Tang in the eastern USA)

Watch Bill Litchman call at:

Music: 32-bar reel:
33s: Kenny Baker - Smoky Mountain Rag, Art Stamper – Old Arkansas, Bryan Sutton - Kitchen Girl, Brittany Haas - Smith’s Reel, Mark O’Connor - Tennessee Wagoner;  32s: Art Stamper - Miss Spencer’s Reel, Chance McCoy & the Appalachian String Band - Twin Sisters, J. T. Perkins - Bill Cheatum.

Form:  square.

Prep.: Walk thru’ the main figure as two, two-couple groups.

    * * *

Main Figure

Head two couples go forward four steps and back.  4 bars

(Half-)Turn (Allemande) your opposite with the right hand around.  2 bars  (c. 5 steps/counts)

Turn your partner with the left hand around.  3 bars  (c. 5 steps)

‘Opposite’ right hand around.  2 bars  (c. 4 steps)

Back to your own (partner) with a left hand ’round.  2 bars  (c. 4 steps)

Then a Break figure(s) (to progress partners):

Go back to corner:

(Append “swing corner” to align with music.)

Repeat three times…  Same two head men with their new partners go forward and back etc. …

Then repeat the whole sequence with side couples leading.

Bouquet Waltz or Pokey-O

(A ‘progressive pick-up’ style of square dance.)

As called by Bob Dalsemer (based on a Cecil Sharp interpretation) at:

Music:  16-bar:  17s: Ron Block - *Devil in the Strawsack;
32-bar:  33s: Notorious - Door County #2; 32s: Chance McCoy - Indian Ate a Woodchuck; 31s: Notorious - Iowa City/Springfield Girls; 30s: Haas & Molsky - Red Steer;
24-bar:  24s: Jack Devereux - Red Steer, 23.5s: Uncle Earl - Backstep Cindy;
40-bar:  40s: David Holt & Josh Goforth - *Billy Wilson.

Form:  square.
The main figure takes about 40 bars.  ‘Calling’ needs to respond to dancers’ progress rather than music phrasing.

    * * *
Couple 1 step into the middle, Allemande by the left hand once around.  (c. 5 steps)
Lady stays there, man makes a “circle of three” with couple 2 and they circle left, Cw., once around.  (c. 7 steps)

Couple 1 Allemande left (hand) in the middle.  (5)
“Man goes on to couple 3” making a “circle of three”, lady follows-up making a circle of three with couple 2, “Two circles”.  Both circle left (twice) and both circles rotate Ccw. once around each other.  (c. 16)

Couple 1 Allemande left in the middle.  (5)
"Man go on" to couple 4, “lady follow-up” with couple 3, “two circles of three”, both circle left and both circles rotate Ccw. once around.  (c. 16)

Couple 1 Allemande left in the middle.  (5)
"Couple 1 go on" to couple 4 to make a 4-person circle that’s circling left, the other two couples make another 4-person circle that’s also circling left…  both two-couple circles then rotate Ccw. around each other once.  “Four-by-four go round the floor…  four-by-four and you ‘Pokey-o’ - take four in a bunch and round you go”.  (c. 20)

Couple 2 step into the middle and Allemande left.
Lady stays in the middle, man goes on to circle left once with couple 3…  etc..

Include a ‘break’ figure here….

Couple #3 etc.

Couple #4 etc..

Examples of ubiquitous ‘break’ figures

Finally:  “Promenade that one you know.  You know where and I don't care… take your partner to an easy chair.  That’s all there is from this ol’ square”.
Or:  “Promenade around the floor.  That’s all there is… there ain’t no more.”
Or:  “Bow to your partner, bow to your corner too.  There you go, that’s it - we’re through”.

The Rout

(not dissimilar to ‘Chain Double Quadrille’)

As called by Tony Parkes at:
and also at: to Glise de Sherbrooke

Music:  The basic main figure takes 32 bars.  48 bars when the ‘R-L thru'’s are included.
32-bar, starting slowly (44s) - speeding to 31s: Hawktail - *Abbzug, Steamchicken - Old Joe Clarke.  16-bar, 17s: Ron Block - Devil in the Strawstack.

Form:  square.

Note:  The degree of ‘courtesy-turn’ differs (¼ or ¾) between couples - affecting timing.


Head couples bow to partner, then corner.  4-bar intro.

Hold hands, circle left eight steps and then right.  8 bars

    * * *
Main Figure - the basic version omits the four ‘R and L thru'’s (shown below in a maroon, italic font)

Both head couples lead to the couple on their right.  2 bars

“Everybody circle left”.  The head men break their circle to open it out into a line - so, ending with two, longways, two-couple lines facing each other.  3 bars

Into the middle (where the ‘outsides’ clap free hands) and back.  3 bars

Across the set, everybody forward, ‘Right and Left thru'’, finish with a courtesy-turn.  4 bars

With the same two - Chain those ladies across the set/track”.  (Ladies cross, by the r. hand, to the opposite man.)  Finish with a courtesy-turn (or, as a flourish, ladies can finish by twirling Cw. under the man’s left arm as he rotates Ccw.).  4 bars

Facing along the line, two ladies’ chain, finish with a courtesy-turn.  4 bars

With the same two - along the line, everybody ‘Right and left thru'’.  4 bars

Across the set, chain those ladies.  4 bars

Same two - across the set, ‘Right and left thru'’.  4 bars

Along the line, ‘Right and left thru'’.  4 bars

Same two - Along the line, chain those ladies.  4 bars

Courtesy-turn twice around…  “You’ve got your own” and Promenade Ccw. (“around the town”) (end flourish: man raises left arm and lady twirls under it).  8 bars

Then repeat with the side couples leading… (initially, after "side couples out to the right - circle of four", make two, cross-ways lines, etc.).

Hash Break figures:  do-si-do your corners all, left shoulder do-si-do your partner, men r. h. star once around, turn partner left, turn corner right, turn partner left;  ladies r. h. star, ladies l. h. star, do-si-do partner and swing partner.  32 bars

All join hands and circle left and home you go.  8 bars

The Rout - Alternative version (where ladies circulate twice around the set - men go half-way round…  and back)

“Everybody forward”, across the set, R-L thru’.  (4 steps + 4 steps i.e. 4 bars)
Down the line, ladies’ chain.
Across the set, ladies’ chain.
Down the line, everybody R-L thru’.

Across the set, ladies’ chain.
Down the line, R-L thru’.
Across the set, R-L thru’.
Down the line, ladies’ chain…   (8 x 4 bars in total)

Courtesy turn once/twice around and promenade - “around the square”…  or: “we’re homeward bound”.  8 bars

Break:  Do-si-do partner…  Allemande left your corner, R-L Grand.

Down Yonder

Watch at:

Music:  40-bar reel.  Own tune.  38s: Randall Franks, Fairchild & Shuler - Down Yonder.

Form:  Square.  (Break, two main figures, break, two main figures, break.)

(As called by Bob Dalsemer on YouTube.)

Break Figure:
1-6  Face corner, Allemande left twice around…  keep holding l. hands

7-8  then, in a circle - ladies innermost facing out i.e. Alamo-style, while also holding partner’s r. h., balance (pull-in to partner, then lean-back)

9-10  let go left hand only and swing half-around partner to also hold l. h. with the next person (so men circulate Ccw. around the set, ladies go Cw.)

11-12  balance (pull-in to that person, then rock-back)

13-14  then let go r. hand and swing half-around

15-22  repeat bars 7-14 with the last two people

23-26  R-L Grand Chain back home

27-30  meet and do-si-do your partner

31-40  promenade your partner once around the set.

    * * *
Main Figure:

1-8  4 ladies/men chain… and chain back

9-12  walk Cw. round your corner, (final time around: ladies twirl under their l. arm and honour)

13-16  ‘see-saw’ (walk Ccw. around) your partner

17-22  go back and swing your corner

23-30  next corner Allemande left…  into a R-L Grand

31-34  meet and do-si-do the one you just swung

35-40  promenade that lady back home (i.e. half-way round the set).

Singing Call for ‘Down Yonder’


“Turn corner left twice around…   In the Alamo style:
give right hand to your partner and you balance awhile,
turn by the right and you balance, I say,
turn by the left and you balance that way,
turn by the right and you balance once more,
turn left, balance (your own)…

Grand right and left the floor.
You’re going down yonder, until you meet your own,
and then you ‘do-si-do’ your partner boys and promenade home.
You’re raising a fuss and a hullabaloo, but she’s going down yonder with you”.

Main Figure:

“Four ladies/gents chain, turn the opposite man/gal,

now chain ’em back, turn your partner again.

‘Do-si-do’ your corner and ‘see saw’ your own/partner around.

Your corner you swing, you’ve got the world on a string.

You do an Allemande left, and a Grand right and left.

You’re going down yonder, until you meet the one you swung,

and then you ‘do-si-do’ this partner boys and promenade home.

You’re raising a fuss and a hullabaloo, but she’s going down yonder with you”.

Box the Gnat

Watch at:

Form: square.

Prep.:  Walkthrough the main figure (starting at 7th bar) as a circle of eight.

24 bars in total.

Swing partner, (2 bars)
Head couples walk to the middle & back, (4 bars)
With Corner/Opposite, Box the Gnat (holding right hands, lady twirls [Ccw.] under man’s right arm), (2 bars)
Change hands, Swat the Flea (holding left hands, lady twirls [Cw.] under man’s left arm), gets you back to place (2 bars)
Change partner (& hands), Box …, (with partner) (2 bars)
Change partner (& hands), Swat …, (2)
Change partner (& hands), Box …, (2)
Keep the same partner to reverse the direction of travel
Change hands, Swat …, (2)
Change partner (& hands), Box …, (2)
Change partner (& hands), Swat …, (2)
Change partner, Allemande corner. (2)

Then Side couples dance it.

Arcadian (’Cajun) dance

Music tempo: c. 95 beats per minute.

Like so many dances, the chasée forms the basis of Cajun dancing.

Something simple to start: man chasées slightly forward and to the left then chasées right; lady follows him:  she back-chasées right, followed by back-chasée left - anticlockwise around the floor.

Two-Step footwork - in 4/4 time, all shuffle steps, upper body relatively stiff.
The man moves his left foot diagonally left (the lady moves her right foot diagonally back), close the right to the left, move left foot diagonally left, close the right to the left (or slightly behind the left) with a tap (or kick diagonally to the right); change direction, move diagonally right with the right foot, close the left to the right, diagonally right, close left to right with a tap/kick-left. (8 beats)

Lady’s twirl:  man spreads legs, couple two-handed lean back, pull together, then the lady twirls Ccw. under man’s left arm.

A fun variation:  (footwork is simply two-step.)  Starting face-to-face (perhaps after completing a lady’s Ccw. spin), the lady holds the man’s right hand with her left and she rotates half Ccw. to the left of her partner so that she’s standing beside him, facing the same way, on his right, with her left arm wrapped in front of her.  He places his left hand behind his back so that his partner can hold it with her right (wrapped in front of her).  They’re now side-by-side, both holding each other’s hands - right to left.  Still holding his partner’s r. hand, the man then releases his r. hand so that he can twirl once Ccw., passing in front of her.  They end-up side-by-side again - but now he’s on the lady’s right.  She holds her left hand behind her back and he wraps his right in front (across) of him so that he can hold it.  Repeat ad infinitum.

Cajun Music
42s: The Cajun All-Stars - Cousin Lilly, Lost Bayou Ramblers or Lee Benoit - Bosco Stomp;  40s: Lost Bayou Ramblers - Bayou Perdu;  39s: Jesse Lege and Friends - Mamou Hot Step;  36s: The Balfa Brothers - Indian On A Stomp.