Mel Wilkerson Notes on Teaching Mainstream Calling

November 20, 2016

Written by Mel Wilkerson for the Newbie Callers or Callers In Training Facebook group


I thought I would try something just a little different this time and focus only on one piece of choreography.

Recently I have seen a number of articles, and watched a number of videos that have “Bless Them” using what is commonly being referred to by dancers as half sashayed choreography. This indicates to me two things:

  1. We as callers are still focused on teaching and calling boys and girls rather than ends and centres etc. and
  • Our choreography is still not being used with enough variety to break this mindset.
  • It is however, very refreshing to see that at mainstream and plus that more callers, and even more importantly, more dancers are “calling for” (pun intended) the full use of the program applicable to each level to which it pertains. The most common unified complaint/observation repeated over the last 8-9 months comes from both callers and dancers and is nearly every third to fourth comment on the various social media pages I follow. Paraphrased it is simply put as:

    “It is frustrating….the (insert level here) dancers at the dance are breaking down on simple (insert lower levels) here”.

    What I have noticed recently, is that there is a lot of complaining - frustration to the point of quitting dancing or calling - about dancers not being able to dance a full program. So like the typical analyst that I am, I looked at a sampling of the latest 1000 separate comments and complaints from dancers and callers on the subject of choreography only and found some interesting things.

    Although the list of complaints and comments seemed endless, when breaking it down there were 842/1000 complaints from callers and dancers that fell into one of the 5 categories (5 for callers/5 for dancers) below:

    From the Dancers:

    1. Dancers coming up to higher levels (plus and above) can’t dance simple basic and mainstream and we have to re-teach re-learn in order to teach plus.
  • (Ironically) At basic and mainstream the biggest complaint is that many of the plus dancers can’t dance and break down on simple basic and mainstream moves.
    1. Plus and higher dancers complain that they are bored with the “simple” program at mainstream so advance to the next level.
  • (Again Ironically) The only real validated complaint from mainstream dancers was “why didn’t we learn this (different positions) when we learned the movement”
    1. I feel stupid because I can’t learn plus – everything is backwards and done differently from what I was taught

    From the Callers:

    1. There isn’t time to teach them everything (a full program). I put my dancers through to my plus club in a year. Besides, it (multi positional dancing) is not used at mainstream anyway, so they can learn it at plus.
  • The program is too long – dancers want wind in the face movements. They don’t want to learn different positions. (Note: strangely enough this is very different to what the dancers say)
    1. I have to re-teach simple basic and mainstream to my dancers at plus and it frustrates my plus dancers (Note: ironically most of those new plus dancers were taught by the same caller – or by new callers where little or no mentoring or support is available to help them grow)
  • No one writes singing calls with that kind of choreography.
    1. Explaining the Calls to the dancers is way to technical from different positions

    When I started this article I was watching a You tube clip and I saw some interesting things going on. There was a fair bit of “½ sashayed” dancing and the dancers were doing great. It was background noise and time passing and I wish I had the link to give to you but I never copied it. It was that of a younger (30-40 year old) American Caller whom I do not know calling at a dance with 8 squares on the floor.

    The caller made use of a good mix of standard position and ½ sashayed position movements, both left and right hand as well as a good mix of gender neutral formations for things like spin the tops, recycles, square thrus etc. It was actually quite impressive. Then the killer movement came. This one movement broke down one square completely and 4 of the remaining 7 other squares found it awkward.

    Surprisingly the movement was simply “half sashay”. I had to stop and replay these sequences a number of times. What I noted was that it was awkward was because:

    • ¾ of three of the squares did a roll away with a ½ sashay which gave a completely wrong body flow for the next call.

    • The square that broke down ½ did a roll away but on one side the man pulled the lady across like a Dixie style and she just followed the lead and went to the other side of the square and got lost.

    • In the other three squares one lady started a roll away but adjusted quickly and the square continued smoothly.

    Why I found this interesting was because this is a basic, often little used movement that caused more than ½ a floor 5 out of 8 squares of obviously good dancers, awkwardness; and yet it was not a “half sashayed” movement as it were. It was a standard position boy on left girl on right movement called half sashay.

    I also realised at this point, that I am just as guilty of what I am talking about in my own choreography. I like to use a lot of “positional” dancing, and have always taken pride that dancers I graduated at mainstream could dance “multi-positional” – in this reference meaning that you dance the movement from a lot of positions where the focus is ends and centres or right and left hands active rather than (boys on left girl on right – boys do this girls to that).

    I was taught to think that using calls like recycle from waves which many callers and dancers refer to as half sashayed (i.e. girls on the outside) is good - but after watching that clip, I thought, what about the movement “HALF SASHAY” all by itself. Like many callers, I use it to set up my Right and left grand quick get out, in the circle, or just to set up a specific movement but I realised, I had never really considered the movement on its own merits. It is so much more versatile for setting up simple flows that add a feel to the mix that is not difficult, but just a little different enough to keep it interesting.

    It is for that reason that the rest of this article is left to contributing chorography, some done with my checkers on the desk in front of me and other stuff blatantly stolen with gratitude just using the ½ sashay as a call to add to the repertoire and toolbox of any caller that wants it.

    Most callers have these three simple get outs in their tool box already

    • (Zero Box) Right and Left Thru, Half Sashay, Pass Thru, Right and Left Grand…

    • (Zero Box) Slide Thru, Right & Left Thru, half Sashay, 1/2 Square Thru, RIGHT AND LEFT GRAND

    • (ZL) Star Thru, half sashay, Right & Left Grand

    • And possibly this classic half sashay fun sequence (from Garland Smith) that will make everyone think for a second, Heads Box The Gnat & Pass Thru, Separate Around Two To A Line, (Two) Boys (Together) half sashay, (Two) Girls (Together) half sashay, (Couple in the) Centre half sashay, Everybody half sashay, Left Allemande So here are a few simple modules that use “half sashay” to add to your lists. They are not difficult but will add just that little different feel to the mix. What is better however; is that when used properly and frequently, the tendency to “rollaway” disappears and overall makes for a better caller and a better dancer.


    • (ZL) Touch 1/4, Circulate, Boys Run, Reverse Flutter Wheel, Sweep 1/4, half sashay, 1/2 Square Thru, Right and Left Grand

    • (ZL) Pass Thru, Partner Trade, Reverse Flutter Wheel, Sweep 1/4, half sashay right and left grand.

    • (ZL) Pass The Ocean, Swing Thru, Girls Run, Girls Trade, Couples Circulate, Bend The Line, Half Sashay(boys in front), Touch 1/4, Girls Run, Right and left Grand

    • (ZL) Right & Left Thru, Half Sashay, New centres only Half Sashay, Pass Thru, 1/2 Tag, Right and Left Grand

    • (ZL) Right & Left Thru, Half Sashay, New centres - Right & Left Thru, and a Half Sashay, Everybody, Square Thru 3, Bend The Line & face left, Centres Pass Thru, Right and Left Grand

    • (ZL) touch 1/4, circulate, boys run, make a left hand wave, left swing thru, girls trade, girls run, couples circulate, bend the line, half sashay, square thru 4, right and left grand


    • (ZB) square thru 3, centres left swing thru, outsides U-turn back, extend (l-h), chain down the line, half sashay, pass thru…Right and Left Grand (or slide thru allemande left)

    • (ZB) swing thru, boys trade, boys run, ferris wheel, centres swing thru, outsides half sashay, extend, right and left grand

    • (ZB) right and left thru, veer left, ferris wheel, centres right and left thru & ½ Sashay, zoom, zoom (again), right and left grand (Note: this has to be timed on the second zoom)

    • (ZB) Star Thru, Pass Thru, Bend The Line, Right & Left Thru, Half Sashay, Right & Left Grand

    • (ZB) Right & Left Thru, Half Sashay, Touch 1/4, Scoot Back, Girls Run, Square Thru 4, Right and Left Grand


    • (ZL) Right And Left Thru, Everybody Half Sashay, Centres Half Sashay, Boys Half Sashay, Girls Half Sashay, Centres Half Sashay, Everybody Half Sashay, (ZL)

    • (ZL) Pass Thru, Wheel & Deal, Centres Half Sashay, Zoom, Centres Square Thru 3, Dosado To A Wave, Swing thru, Boys Run (ZL)


    • (ZB) Slide Thru, Right & Left Thru, Half Sashay, Pass the Ocean, Swing Thru, RECYCLE, Veer Left, Ferris Wheel, Centres Pass Thru, (ZB)

    (Note: the following box sequences flow better if there is a flow call or sequence prior to the “outsides ½ sashay”. Something like right and left thru, ferris wheel, outsides ½ sashay while centres pass thru. Or right and left thru veer left wheel and deal, outsides ½ sashay.)

    • (ZB) Outsides Half Sashay, Swing Thru, Boys Run, Pass Thru, Wheel And Deal, Double pass thru, Leaders Trade (ZB)

    • (ZB) Outsides – do a Half Sashay, Centres Split Two, Separate Around 1 To A Line, Square Thru 3, ½ tag the line, Girls Trade, Recycle (ZB)

    • • (ZB) Outsides Half Sashay, Centres Split Two, Separate Around 1 To A Line, Turn Thru, ½ tag, Swing Thru, Boys Run, Ferris wheel Centres pass thru (ZB)

    • (ZB) outsides Half Sashay, Dosado, Swing Thru, Spin The Top, Step Thru, 1/2 Tag, Swing Thru, RECYCLE, Square Thru 3, Trade By, (ZB) (note this also works well as a singing call…use H sq4 and sides ½ sashay)


    • (SQ2-B) Right & Left Thru, Half Sashay, Pass Thru, Trade By, Swing Thru, Recycle (ZB)

    As always, Comments are welcome. Have fun and enjoy. Mel

    Category: Mel Wilkerson