Square dancing is a social activity where eight people interact through a series of movements as "called" by the square dance caller. It is a healthy, very social and fun activity. Square dancers often say that their recreation is "friendship set to music." It is not a competitive activity.
The difference between old time and modern square dancing is that old time dancing followed a set pattern for each dance, unlike its modern form. The pattern would never vary, no matter how often the dance was repeated. In old time square dancing the first couple in the square would usually execute a number of moves in turn with each of the other couples. Then, the second, third and fourth couples would do the same moves with each of the other couples.
There is much more variety in modern square dancing because there are no set patterns for a dance. The dancers learn a number of moves that the caller then puts together to form the dance. The caller "calls" out these moves to the dancers and the dancers follow the "calls," not being able to anticipate what will come next. Usually, all the dancers move together, although some calls are executed by just two couples (four people).
Modern square dancers learn the movements by joining a square dance club where the basics are taught. There are no "steps," as such, the feet simply shuffle to the rhythm of the music and the hands and arms make the directional changes. New dancers begin to have fun with their very first experience while being taught the movements by the caller.
To meet the dancer's desired level of challenge and time available to participate, modern square dancing is offered in different progressive programs including Mainstream, Plus, Advanced and Challenge. The Hey Lollies is a “Plus” Club for married couples.
The music in modern square dancing certainly includes country western tunes but there is also lots of pop, show tunes and even adaptations of golden oldies that are very popular with aging baby boomers.
Square dance calls are standardized in the English language worldwide, making it an international recreation. Once dancers have learned the calls, they can dance at any club or square dance event around the world.