Square Auto-Choreographer (SqAC, pronounced ‘squawk’) is an app to assist a caller, or even a square dancer, in calling patter.
Becoming a proficient square dance caller is a long studious process. Beyond knowing the call definitions, as any good dancers does, a caller must know each call’s starting and ending formations and timing. Hundreds of sequences of get-ins, get-outs, and others must be memorized (whether they call them “modules”, “sequences”, or “I just know what to call”). Throw in available hands, flow, multiple resolution techniques, presentation and singing skills, and the cost of entry to become any good is really high. For years, this caller-to-be is either not calling because he isn’t good and no good because he isn’t calling, or the dancers are suffering through low quality dances. Would-be callers may become overwhelmed or frustrated, and give up.
This hurts the activity. Many regions can’t have many dances, and support multiple levels of dances, because of a limited resource: callers. So either the selection of available dances are limited, dance quality is low with newbie callers, or the quality callers become overworked and underpaid charity providers of their years of study, to support the dance community.
This application is not designed to replace a highly skilled caller! It can never be as good as a professional, and those who start off using SqAC may find themselves depending less and less on it as their skills grow. SqAC is designed for two use cases:
- New callers who need some help to get started, gaining experience and confidence by calling dances that are actually fun.
- Small groups of dancers who can’t afford or access a professional caller, but have among them someone who can use this application.
SqAC’s role is to assist a newbie caller by taking on some of the work. By doing so, it quickly raises the quality of the dances for the dancers, and provides the experience and confidence the new caller needs to gradually build skills. It also allows those who may never have the time to dedicate to becoming a proficient caller, to be able to pick up the microphone and get a small group of friends dancing. Finally, by opening up calling to more people, it is hoped that SqAC will help bring more dancers too!
- SqAC is not a caller, Don’t try connecting it to a voice synthesizer and expect to enjoy the results. It’s only an assistant.
- SqAC is not an audio recording. You could dance to a CD of a professional caller, but how long before you have the tips on that CD memorized? SqAC generates a unique dance every time.
- SqAC is not a music player. You must supply your own music and player. SqView is quite popular for this and SquareDesk is a new up ‘n comer.
- SqAC does not know singing calls. Several existing apps can play the music and display the lyrics and calls.
- SqAC does not generate modules, it puts them to use! Download collections from the online SqAC community. Or, develop your own modules with checkers or SD, and then enter them into SqAC.
- SqAC does not show animated dancers. In fact, it knows nothing of the mechanics of calls or formation, because it doesn’t need to. For virtual dancers, try SD, Taminations, and Callerama.
A goal of SqAC is to have a real impact in making square dancing accessible to more people. To that end, everything outline here is free. The application is free; cloud storage space is free; and users are encouraged and facilitated (but not required) to share their own collections of modules with everyone else.
The author does hold the copyright, and may at some point seek sponsors and donations to pay for expenses and further development.
Hey, you’re still with me. Great! In my next post I’ll get a little bit into how SqAC works. If you want to see it in action though, try the alpha version here!