Formation Management

Jens Harms, 1994


This session is about formations and arrangements, how to achieve them, how to get out of them, what to do with them and how to use them, in short how to handle or manage them.

If not otherwise mentioned, we're talking about "symmetric choreography", which means that we always deal with a square with the mirror image effect. For example, if boy #1 is on the end of a Wave facing in, his opposite (boy #3) is on the end of the other Wave facing in.

Formation is the first part of FASR. FASR describes the state of a square at a given time.

  • Formation is the geometrical shape of the dancers on the floor, plus the information in which direction the dancers are facing.
  • Ais the information which position of a formation is occupied by a boy and which is occupied by a girl. There are six arrangements possible in each formation.
  • The Sequence of the boys and the girls can be clockwise or counter clockwise. Therefore are four combinations possible.
  • Relationship is the information of who is which partner. There are four possibilities.

Sequence and Relationship are primarily important for resolving the square. In this session we deal with Formation and Arrangement.

If a caller is a good Formation Manager, he can create any formation with a specific arrangement any time at will. Of course he must be able to get out of it, too.


Some advantages of being a good Formation Manager:

  • It provides variety within the called program.
  • It helps in teaching.
  • It enables to normalize the square.
  • It gives a better understanding of the formations created by a call. So there is no necessity to wait for the dancers to finish the call and to look at the formation being created then.
  • It makes every caller different.


Training possibilities:

  • Analyze all calls from the program you call. Which starting formations are possible and which ending formations will result?
  • Prepare a set of cards, each with a formation and a specific arrangement on it. Try to put your checkers into this formation and arrangement with just a few calls.
  • Try to follow modules from note services in mind. This will train your imagining ability.
  • Dance one program higher than you call. This will give you more ideas, insight and inspiration.


Points to be considered:

  • Don't overdo things. A whole evening with just Left Hand Waves or just 3-and-1-Lines is just too much.
  • Don't use the same get-in or get-out for your featured formation all the time.
  • Be aware of the degree of difficulty that you call. If your choreography is so complex that nobody can dance it, you have failed. Let the dancers (and yourself) win.
  • An infrequent or difficult call in combination with a strange formation or arrangement may not be a good idea.
  • Help the dancers. Give them just helpful hints. Don't overdo this. It should not result in stop-and-go-choreography.
  • Evaluate the floor. The dancers you're calling for may be different from your dancers at home. Use your judgement to adjust your choreography.
  • Don't forget the Body Flow while managing your formations and arrangements.
  • The arrangement can be a useful tool to direct the dancers. It can help the dancers very much. For example, the dancers identify themselves and recognize the other dancers very much easier as girls or boys than as centers or ends.
  • After dancing for a short while in strange formations or arrangements, put them back into Standard Lines. This will give them the feeling: "Wow! I made it right!" Furthermore, this may be the chance for the broke down squares to dance again.
  • Don't make the sequences too long. The broke down squares starting with the Standard Lines may forget during a long sequence that they made a mistake and may blame you for not bringing them home.


Examples featuring more or less unusual formations:



From Static Square:
Heads Pass the Ocean; Extend
-> Standard Waves
Girls Walk & Dodge -> 3-and-1-Lines
Girls Run; Boys Hinge; Girls Pass Thru and Face In; Extend; Boys Run-> Standard Lines
Slide Thru; Touch ¼; Centers Trade and Run; Bend the Line; Touch ¼; All 8 Circulate -> Columns with Girls in the center
Girls only Scoot Back; Boys Trade; Girls Walk & Dodge; Centers In -> 3-and-1-Lines
Cast Off ¾; Girls Pass the Ocean and Hinge;Couples Circulate; Bend the Line -> Standard Lines
Pass the Ocean; Girls Run; Boys Hinge;Very Center Boys Trade and Run; Boys Bend the Line -> 3-and-1-Lines
All 8 Circulate (Boys Pass Thru; Girls Circulate);
All 8 Circulate (Boys Partner Trade; Girls Circulate);
Girls facing out Run around one Boy; Box the Gnat 
-> Standard Lines
Pass Thru; Wheel & Deal; Centers Slide Thru and Touch ¼ & Spread -> 3-and-1-Lines
Centers Right & Left Thru; Others Circulate; Centers Pass Thru; Girls Recycle, Boys Wheel & Deal;Star Thru; Boys Trade; Bend the Line -> Standard Lines


Inverted Lines:

From Standard Lines:
Slide Thru; Touch ¼; Centers Trade and Run; Ferris Wheel; Double Pass Thru; Boys Partner Trade
-> Eight Chain Thru with Girls in the center
Centers In-> Inverted Lines
Cast Off ¾; Girls Pass Thru; Everybody Partner Trade-> Lines with Boys in the center
Boys Pass Thru-> Inverted Lines
Cast Off ¾; All 8 Circulate (Boys Pass Thru; Girls Trade); All 8 Circulate (Boys Partner Trade; Girls Pass Thru); Girls Run-> Lines with Girls in the center
Pass Thru; Tag the Line, Girls Face Out, Boys Face In-> Inverted Lines
Boys Pass the Ocean; Girls Trade and Face the Boys-> ¼-Tag with Boys in the center
Boys Recycle; Double Pass Thru; ½ Zoom-> Inverted Lines
Girls Run; Touch ¼; All 8 Circulate; Boys Run; Centers Pass Thru; Star Thru-> Standard Lines


Here's a sequence featuring some unusual formations. Maybe you have to use your checkers.

From Standard Lines:
Pass the Ocean; Swing Thru; Girls Circulate 1½, Boys Hinge;
Wave of six Swing Thru and Single Hinge;
Girls Bend the Line and Touch ¼;
All 8 Circulate 1½; Column of six Trade and
Circulate and Circulate 1½; Boys Scoot Back;
Girls Bend the Line; Boys Walk & Dodge;
Star Thru; Girls Trade; Ferris Wheel;
Centers Swing Thru; 4 Boys Pass Thru and Run Left;
Center Girls Trade and Run; Center Boys Cross Run;
4 Girls Pass Thru and Run Left;
Center Boys Trade and Run; 4 Boys Extend;
each Box Circulate; Girls Swing Thru;
each Box Circulate; Boys Run; finish a Ferris Wheel;
Centers Pass Thru; Swing Thru; Boys Run;
Girls Scoot Back; Boys Circulate 1½;
Girls Walk & Dodge; Boys Face the Girls;
2 Girls with 1 Boy Pass to the Center;
same 2 Boys come into the middle and Touch ¼;
Boys Extend and Single Hinge; Extend; Boys Run
-> Standard Lines



Formation Management as a Teaching-Tool

  • When introducing calls from other than standard arrangements, it might be a good idea to have in each half of the foursome a dancer with a familiar position and one dancer with an unfamiliar position.

    For example:
    Pass the Ocean or Flutterwheel from two boys facing two girls.


  • When teaching a long call from the programs above Mainstream, find a sequence of calls which put the dancers after the completion of the workshopped call back into their former position of the starting formation. That is more than just the same arrangement as before! Let them dance this position several times until they feel comfortable with it. Then introduce the next position.

    after Spin Chain the Gears:  All 8 Circulate
    after Coordinate:Centers Circulate; Bend the Line; Touch ¼
    after Chain Reaction:Centers Run; Ferris Wheel; Centers Step to a Wave



Normalization of the square

Put the dancers into parallel Right Hand Waves. Six arrangements are now possible. Two of them feel normal (boys in the center or on the ends). If the dancers are not in one of these arrangements, call "Single Hinge; Centers Trade". If they are still not there, call it again. Now they are in one of the two arrangements.

Helping the trouble square

After recognizing that one square made a mistake, the square is asymmetric concerning the arrangement, you may want them to continue dancing without resolving all the other squares. The following routine works it out, if just one boy exchanged place with one girl or, in some cases, two boys exchanged places with two girls. In my experience the routine is working most of the times.

  1. Normalize the other squares into Waves with Boys in the center. Do not mention Boys or Girls. Instead Centers or Ends. The following calls will not change this arrangement.
  2. If the trouble square has a Wave with four Boys, call "All 8 Circulate". Go to step 7.
  3. If in the trouble square each Wave has two Boys and two Girls, then continue with step 6.
  4. If the trouble square has a Wave with three Boys, have the one Girl in that Wave looking out. This is already the case or call a "Centers Trade" or "Ends Trade", as appropriate.
  5. Call "Same four (Centers or Ends) Circulate". Each Wave has now two Boys and two Girls.
  6. If two Boys are holding right hands with each other, call "Centers Trade".
  7. Now call "Boys Run; Bend the Line". Now you can go on with your choreography.

This procedure sounds very complicated, but with some experience it isn't that hard. Don't do that too often. The trouble square might still be asymmetric and maybe the dancers will forget that they made a mistake. At the end of the sequence they may blame you for not bringing them home. Instead, resolve the other squares.



Some thoughts about Body Flow



last Update: 10.12.1999

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