Thursday, June 4, 2009

More on the Double Grand Square


I have to admit, I was really thrilled when we walked through the double grand square yesterday. I was lucky, of course. There were exactly 16 people at the Calling Party. All but one of them knew already how to do a Grand Square. They even thought it would be fun. Everyone learns fast when they're having fun.

Here's a picture that kind of begins to explain - the red couples are the heads, the purple couples are the sides, the green couples are the centers, and the blue couples (yes!) are the corners. The heads and sides face up and down, the centers and corners face across the set. The call is "heads go forward, sides divide." The centers follow the call for the sides, and the corners follow the call for the heads. Click on the picture to see it animated.

This didn't happen all at once, of course. It started when I played music for John Ramsay's high school class doing (?) Easter Morn (?) in his living room for a video. It has a grand square with an extra couple. Hmm...I thought. When I got a chance to dance the dance a few months later, when I got to be the center couple, I inadvertently pissed off my partner by walking the opposite corner, just to see if it worked. Later, thinking about it, I realized you could do the dance with six couples, and started working out how it would be done. I noticed that only three of the four corners of the small squares were occupied at any one time, and my dear husband Bob said, "Well, the last two couples go in the corners." "But, but..." I sputtered, "they won't be standing next to each other!" "Good observation," he said.

I started showing anyone who would listen about the double grand square. Kimmswick was great - all those smart people with nothing much better to do, thought it was pretty cool. ("Nah nah" to all of you who just think I'm nuts.) I got a little better at explaining it each time, and then I got challenged to animate it. I fired up Flash and had a good time, pushing little dots around the screen. Then I added noses and (slightly) better colors on another night.

And then, yesterday, miraculously, sixteen people walked through it twice, almost flawlessly.

I am so psyched.

M
E

10 comments:

mac said...

a simple way to describe the movement is: take hands 4 in the small 'corner' squares the top left and bottom right circle left 1X then circle right 1X. The other 2 circle right 1X then circle left 1X - then try it with no hands.

Martha said...

True, but wouldn't you be getting people to practice the wrong movement? They'd have the track right, but they would have practiced walking forward, not the "1,2,3,turn!" or the backing up.

This dance (if it's really a dance and not a puzzle) should probably only be attempted by people who already know how to do a grand square.

On the other hand, I suppose the dance wouldn't suffer irreparable harm if some people just walked around the little squares with no backing up.

mac said...

I think of it the other way - if people know how go do a grand square they will be able to pick up on the direction to face easily - and the people in the traditional head and side positions can rely on their experience. The centers and corners will be faced with an unfamiliar starting position. I would try walking through the circle concept first - everyone can do that with almost no teaching. Then introduce them to the others dancing the same role (head/side/center/corner) as these will be the only people they will interact with directly. That should allow you to teach the figure using only very familiar terminology and figures they already understand. This may actually be easier to teach than a normal grand square since with 8 people you are often wandering around without any other danceres as reference.

It might be interesting to try teaching a regular grand square this way - it should work but won't be as obvious.

Since you now have a 16 dancer break you need a figure to dance with it. Could this be the missing break for Dutch Crossing?

Mac

mac said...

Another teaching thought:
3 steps
1 - walk it in 4 circles
2 - walk same with no hands and make 90 degree turns to actually walk in a square
3 - walk same way - but always make your 90% turn to remain facing the center of the set - meaning half of the time you walk backwards.

I bet it could be taught in under 2 min without having to treat any of the positions any differently from the others. Then just get them all facing right for the start and dance!

Thinking about a regular grand square - I think a lot of dancers think it is a complicated figure and never realize what a simple pattern they are actually dancing.

Mac

Martha said...

Agreed. I may have overtaught, in fact, since it worked so easily. But it was pretty fast. It took more time to get everyone into the family room than to teach it. Here's what I did:

I lined just eight people up in a regular square and "taught" a grand square. Since they already knew how, this part was pretty easy.

"You'll be playing with just two people," I said, borrowing from my square-dancing friend Aaron, "your partner and your opposite. If you are far away from your partner (or your opposite) you walk towards them for three short steps, then turn to face the other one on count four. If you are face-to-face with your partner (or your opposite), you back away from them for three short steps, then turn to face the other one on count four."

Several people mumured "I didn't know that!"

We spent a short moment practicing figuring out who the heads and sides were, and who our partners and opposites were. I had the side couples face their partners, and the head couples continue to face in (the heads and sides face the band or have their backs to the band), then told them the intitial call (at first) would be "heads go forward, sides divide." "Let's do just that much. One, two, three, turn!" "Which way do you turn?" "See, it's easy to figure out - you face The Other One." "Now do what seems natural." etc. Then "Reverse!" etc.

We all agreed that everyone had walked around in a small square just their own. The people waiting out at this point, not all of whom knew how to do a grand square when we started, made that sort of "Ohhhh..." noise you make when the light bulb goes on.

Then we did it with just one extra couple starting in the center, to prove that it can be done. I told them that the centers follow the same rule as the sides, and that the centers should face each other, with their backs to the side couples. ("Heads go forward, Sides divide!") No problem.

We did it again with two center couples. No problem.

Finally, we added the corners. I just told the corners to stand facing the head couples (centers and corners face across, sideways to the band), and to follow the same instructions as the heads ("Heads go forward, sides divide").

We took a deep breath, and went for it. Slowly.

I was ecstatic and wanted to stop while we were so far ahead. But everyone wanted to do it at speed, so we did, and it was (almost) PERFECT!

Now I want to try it with my Western Squares club.

With the XO part of Dutch Crossing as the (other) break.

Or maybe it could be part of a four-facing-four contra dance.

Yesterday, salt-and-pepper shakers, tomorrow, the world!

:-)

M
E

mac said...

here is the next challenge with this figure: Your starting position (if I understand it correctly):
across the sides direction; alternating he-he-she-she and she-she-he-he lines
across the heads direction she-he-she-he lines with the ladies on the left of each "couple" How do you get to this formation from any other figure or double contra?

Mac

Martha said...

I didn't read your post carefully enough, Mac.

I missed the part about always facing the center of the set when you do the turn on step 4. That could seriously work...

Wow.

I think you're right. It is easier than people think it is.

Gender doesn't particularly matter, either, since all the moves are understood by position rather than gender.

Let's try it!

M
E

Martha said...

And now your other post, too!

How's this:

If you started in two four-facing four lines (Duck Soup?) you'd be doing the double grand square with your partner and the couple in front of you, though your roles would change.

If you ended up in the middle of the four lines, you'd have to start by turning your back on your partner and becoming a Center, and if you are on the corners of the grid, you'd become a Corner by turning toward the two people who become Heads. If you on the outside of the grid, but not in a corner you are a Head or Side, and should turn in to face the center of the grid. At the end of the Double Grand Square, you'd be back with your partner in a four-facing-four sort of way. And all you'd really have done is some fancy marching around your little square with your partner and another couple!

Balance and swing your partner and pass through to progress.

M
E

mac said...

I still have a problem seeing it done that way. You would have to define a quadruple minor set. There are 4 destinct parts to dance. Each couple would have to alternate between 2 of them while actives (progressing down set) and the other 2 roles when progessing up. It is getting more complicated. Maintaining one 8 couple set seems a better approach

Mac

Martha said...

Too complicated? You think? (LOL)

M
E