Folk Dance

Various folk dances could serve as use cases for modeling and visualization. Contra and square dances are particularly apt, because they both make use of a "caller" who directs the activity. (Also, conveniently, I am familiar with both of these dance forms. :-)

Traditionally, the roles in these dances are gender-based. For example, in square dancing, the man stands on the right in each couple and the woman stands on the left. However, it is not uncommon for dancers to take non-traditional roles (e.g., if there are more women than men at the dance).


Contra dance choreography specifies the dance formation, the figures, and the sequence of those figures in a dance. ... Most contra dances consist of a sequence of about 6 to 12 individual figures, prompted by the caller ... As the sequence repeats, the caller may cut down his or her prompting ... A figure is a pattern of movement that typically takes eight counts, although figures with four or 16 counts are also common.

-- Contra dance: Choreography (WP)

The various square dance movements are based on the steps and figures used in traditional folk dances and social dances from many countries. ... In most American forms of square dance, the dancers are prompted or cued through a sequence of steps (square dance choreography) by a caller ...

-- Square dance (WP)


Square dance callers have historically used sets of upside-down teacups to model and visualize choreography. The handle of the teacup, IIRC, represented the dancer's right arm. This is reputedly the origin of the "teacup chain" call.

However, the diagram below follows more prosaic conventions:

  • The couple at the bottom is known as number 1.
    The other three couples are numbered sequentially,
    moving counter-clockwise (as viewed from above).

  • The "man" in each couple is represented by a square;
    the "woman" is represented by a circle.

  • A black dot is used to indicate the dancer's direction.


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Topic revision: r5 - 15 May 2015, RichMorin
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