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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

Square Dance Shorthand
By Jack McKay

Jack McKay


In square dance, as in any other field, shorthand is designed to reduce a large quantity of material to a small easily handled form as rapidly as possible. A square dance caller needs shorthand form for four principal reasons:

  1. to assist in square dance analysis,
  2. to assist in square dance diagramming,
  3. to assist in memorizing new figures, and
  4. to refresh his memory quickly.

All Around                              aa
All Eight Chain                      All 8/
Alemande                              A
Alemande Thar                     A/Th
Around One                           /1
Around Two                           /2
Around Three                        /3
Back Track                            BT
Box the Gnat                         BG
Box the Flea                          BF
California Twirl                      CT
Cast Off                                CO
Catch All Eight                      Catch 8
Center                                   ⦿
Chain                                     c
Circle Left                              
Circle Right                           
Circle Half                              ½⃝
Circle Eight                            
Circle Four                             
Circle Three                           
Circle ¾'ers                            ¾⃝
Corner                                   Cr
Couple                                  Cp
Cross Trail                            XT
Divide                                    /
Dixie                                     Dx
Docey-Doe                           Docy
Do-Pas-O                             Dpso
Do-Sa-D                               dsdo
Double Pass Through          DPT
Duck                                     D
Elbow                                    e
End                                       E
Face                                     F
Grand Right and Left           GR R/L
Half Sashay                         ½s
Hand                                    h
Head                                    H
Lady                                     L
Left                                       I
Line                                      –
Man                                      M
Opposite                              Opp
Partner                                 Ptnr
Pass Through                      PT
Promenade                          Pr
Re-Shashay                         R1/.2s
Right                                    r
Right and Left Through        r&l
Roll Back                              R/B
See Saw                               SS
Side                                      S
Square Through                   ▢
Star                                      *
Swing                                  Sw
Turn Back                           TB
U-turn                                  UT
Wagon Wheel                      W*
Wheel Around                       *
Weave the Ring                  
Whirl Away                         w/a

For an example, let's look at a square in original form, and then see the same figures in shorthand.

One and three bow and swing
Chain your gal to the right of the ring
All four ladies chain across
Turn them around, don't get lost
New head ladies chain to the right
Turn them boys, don't take all night
One and three half sashay
Into the center and back that way
Pass through and around two
While the sides couples half sashay
Forward eight and eight fall back
Right and left through across the track
Forward eight and eight fall back
With the opposite Box the Gnat
Lady on the left, left allemande. (Etc.)

1 & 3 Lc-r
4 Lc
New 1&3 Lc-r
H ½s
S ½s____4
r&l   BG

Square dance shorthand is designed as a memory aid, not as a replacement for work in preparing to call. Try it and I am sure you will find a handy "Tool of the Trade."