Call of the Month: April, 1992

Formations and Formation Awareness

by Barry Leiba

In this column we often talk about various formations—a call starts from this formation, or a call ends in that formation. Just what are the various formations, and why is it important to know about them?

To answer the second question first, if you understand formations it helps you to be precise about your positioning, it allows you to fix yourself (and possibly the rest of your square) if things get confused, and it gives you a better basis for helping other, perhaps newer dancers when they need help. When you understand the starting and ending formations, then you really know what's going on when you dance a call.

There are only a few basic formation types,with variations among them. A STATIC SQUARE is a formation that resembles a squared-up set—the way the square is when you start a tip. A THAR is a familiar formation; it's what you get when you do an ALLEMANDE THAR. The other two basic formations are LINES and COLUMNS.

When we say LINES in this context, we describe a whole class of formations.

  • FACING LINES (everyone facing in).
  • BACK-TO-BACK LINES (everyone facing out).
  • TWO-FACED LINES (one couple facing each direction). These can be right-handed (with a right hand in the center) or left-handed.
  • INVERTED LINES (the centers are facing one way, the ends are facing the other).
  • OCEAN WAVES (dancers alternating facing direction). These can be right-handed (end and adjacent center have righthands) or left-handed.
  • THREE-AND-ONE LINES (any three dancers facing one way, with the fourth dancer facing the other way).

Similarly, when we say COLUMNS, we're talking about another class of formations. It's a bit harder to describe these, so they're called by the names of the basic calls that start from them.

  • DOUBLE PASS THRU formation (or DPT formation for short). Here all dancers are facing the center of the set.
  • COMPLETED DPT formation. All the dancers are facing away from the center.
  • EIGHT CHAIN formation. The center couples are facing the outside couples.
  • TRADE BY formation. The center couples are facing each other and the outside couples have their backs to the centers.
  • RIGHT-HANDED (or LEFT-HANDED) COLUMNS. Dancers have right (or left) hands with the dancer next to them.
  • MAGIC COLUMNS. The outside dancers have right hands while the center dancers have lefts, or vice-versa (this is aC1 formation).

Normally when we speak of LINES we mean that we have two lines that are PARALLEL (the lines are the same, and are symmetric). The lines can also be end-to-end, where we have a GRAND or TIDAL line (TIDAL is most often used when describing a GRAND OCEAN WAVE).

There are other formations, like DIAMONDSand QUARTER TAG, that you'll see at Plus levels and above. But we'll leave those for another time, perhaps, so that there's room to talk some more about the awareness of what your formation is and where you are.

Are you in OCEAN WAVES, or TWO-FACED LINES? You might have to do the call a little differently depending upon the answer (LINEAR CYCLE is an example here). Are you an end, or a center? The definitions of some calls require you to know that. Are you in a left-handed OCEAN WAVE? SWING THRU feels different from there, since it always starts with the right hand, which in this case is the center.

If we PASS THE OCEAN from FACING LINES we get OCEAN WAVES, but if we do it from EIGHT CHAIN formation we get a TIDAL WAVE. The difference is important, and it helps if you know what to expect at the end of the call. If you're expecting the wrong formation after FAN THE TOP, you're likely to go too far or not far enough. FAN THE TOP will take OCEAN WAVES to a TIDAL WAVE and vice-versa.

And while we're talking about TIDAL WAVES, remember that a TIDAL WAVE is two waves end-to-end. It's important to know whether you're an end or a center of your wave, as well as whether you're in the center of the TIDAL WAVE. For instance, if we RECYCLE from a TIDAL WAVE each wave works independently. If you're confused about where the center of the wave is, you'll have trouble. On the other hand, we can have just the center four RECYCLE . You need to know whether you're one of the center four.

There's a lot more that we could say on this subject, but space doesn't permit it. Now when we talk about the difference between doing RIGHT AND LEFT THRU from FACING LINESand doing it from TRADE BY formation, you'll know what we mean. And if you learn what to expect when you SCOOT BACK from QUARTER TAG (ending in THREE-QUARTER TAG), you'll be better able to help the dancers who have trouble with it, and you'll keep your square going. Next time you're dancing, give a little thought to the formations. Start looking around and seeing what formation you're in and where you are in it. End? Center? Facing in? Facing out? Is your partner on your left, or your right? Once you get used to it, you'll find yourself more certain of what you're doing than you might have been before.

(Printable Version)

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