> caller's notes > articles

Techniques for Discovering Arrangement

Rich Reel   9 Feb 2007

This article is specifically targeted to the sight caller that calls for groups with mostly mixed-gender couples.  If most dancers are not dancing their biological gender position, you may find it difficult at times to know when you may call gender-dependent calls such as Star Thru or Boys Run, usually an essential step before resolving the square.  Unless you carefully track the arrangement at all times, you may find yourself occasionally needing to probe to find where the boys and girls are.  While it is always ok to occasionally ask: "Where are my boys (or girls)?", this article presents some techniques for finding them more "discretely".


Use Gender Identifiers

A simple strategy is to designate boys or girls to do a call that is legal from all arrangements, then look to see who did the call. 

This strategy is common enough that some of experienced dancers will know what you're up to, but if you only use it occasionally, and use maximum variety, you'll maintain your "great caller" reputation.


Use Partner and Corner Pairing Information

It turns out that the rules of symmetry in a square can allow you to deduce a lot of information about gender placement around a formation (any formation) from a single piece of information: some dancer 'A' and another dancer 'B' in known positions are opposite gender.

If you don't remember any specific dancer's gender, you should at least know some partner pairing information in order to resolve the square. 

You should know...

You may know...

The simple knowledge that one set of opposite gender dancers can be in a position to interact with each other for a two dancer call (facing or side-by-side for example) can be used to say mathematically that ALL such interacting dancers in the formation must also be opposite gender.  This means you can confidently set up and call a gender-specific call that requires EVERY interacting pair of dancers in the square be opposite gender, without knowing ANY specific dancer's gender. 


Understanding Gender Positioning

Facing dancers in facing lines

Say you have facing lines.  You do not know anyone's gender.  You happen to notice that two partners of one (only one) of your key couples are facing each other.  These two dancers could Star Thru with each other if were called.  Say this is all we know about this formation.


Question: Is it safe to call Star Thru from this setup knowing that Star Thru requires all facing dancers be opposite gender?

Let's look at this logically.

Does it matter which positions our known facing dancers were in?

So if any ONE pair of dancers is opposite gender in facing lines, all facing dancers in facing lines MUST be opposite gender.  And thus it will be safe to call Star Thru or Touch 1/4; Boys-Run or any other calls requiring all facing dancers to be opposite gender. 

Study carefully the six (6) possible symmetric arrangements for facing lines.  In four (4) of the six (6), all facing dancers are opposite gender.

or or or

Note the other two (2) possible arrangements for facing lines have no opposite gender facing dancers.


Dancers in a quarter of an eight-dancer formation

Say we have any 8-dancer formation than can be symmetrically divided into four quadrants, with two dancers in each quadrant.  (A quadrant is the area in one fourth (1/4) of something)  Say we do not know anyone's gender but we DO know that two original partners are both in one quadrant.

Let's make this problem more interesting by being somewhat arbitrary in how we might group pairs of dancers into quadrants.  Example: Say we have a tidal wave and our key couple happens to be the centers of one side.

Question: Does every quadrant have one boy and one girl?

Let's look at it logically.

So if any quadrant contains a boy and a girl, then ALL quadrants must have exactly one boy and one girl.  It is somewhat arbitrary how we carve the formation into quadrants, but the carving must obey the rules of symmetry.  Looking back at the facing lines example, you can think of it as one particular way to carve facing lines into symmetric quadrants - by facing dancers.

Let's use this understanding to help us use some techniques to return the square to a known-arrangement state even though we know very little (if anything) about individual dancer's genders.


Gender-independent Normalizing Techniques

Assumptions - Using these partner pairing techniques assume the square is symmetric. This will be the case with normal symmetric choreography if the dancers have correctly executed all calls.  It is also assumed that the dancers remember what gender part they are dancing and that only you (the sight caller) have lost track of the arrangement.

  • Original partners together in waves

    This is one of the easiest techniques to use (assuming you know both dancers from at least one couple).

    Everyone should now be in standard arrangement couples.  You'll get one of the following:

    It's tempting for the newer caller to call Bend The Line after Boys Run, because the result is convenient standard arrangement facing lines.  True.  However, you only have 1 chance in 4 that the flow will be good for everyone.  There's no one (Mainstream) call you can call automatically and guarantee nice flow for ALL four possible resulting formations.  Plan on a brief pause to evaluate which formation you get, then choose your next call.


  • If any boy is facing any girl (if any original partners are facing each other)

    If all eight dancers are facing someone directly, no dancer is facing their mirror-opposite and any two facing dancers are opposite gender, then all facing dancers must be opposite gender.  (See either "Facing dancers in facing lines" or "Dancers in a quarter of an eight-dancer formation" above)

    From [L] or [B], if you see a boy facing a girl, you can confidently call Star Thru or Slide Thru to get everyone into standard arrangement couples.  Note that's standard arrangement only, not necessarily facing lines!  In fact, exactly 4 formations are possible.

    For help understanding these formation abbreviations, click here

    To use this as an arrangement-normalizing strategy, call to bring the partners of one of your memorized couples together facing each other (avoiding all gender dependent calls) then call Star Thru.  Have a flowing follow-up call in mind for all four cases so you can quickly call it the instant you identify which formation you get.

    Consider a Star Thru equivalent...

      --T1/4   G-UTurn
      --LT1/4  B-UTurn
      --PasTh  G-FaceL, B-FaceR
    ...or any of the following to get standard arrangement couples...
      --T1/4   B-RunR
      --LT1/4  G-RunL


  • If you don't have a clue about anyone's gender...

    (Good luck resolving the square!)

    If you have either [B] or [L] and have no idea where boys and girls are and call Slide Thru, (assuming symmetry) you'll get one of 6 possible outcomes in each of the 2 boxes in the formation (2x4 or 4x2 has two 2x2 boxes)...

    Facing Out Tandem Special Magic Box

    A Special Magic Box

    A "Magic Box" is half of a "Magic Column" formation (on the C1 list).  It is a 4 dancer box formation where 2 dancers are facing each other and the other 2 dancers are back-to-back.  There is one right-handhold and one left handhold. 

    The "Special" Magic Box has a very helpful arrangement state when using the calls above.  If you get a Magic Box at all (1 chance out of 3) it will always be the best 1 of 6 possible arrangements states.  The Boys will always be holding right hands and Girls will always be holding left hands.  From the Special Magic Box, if the 2 dancers who are facing each other Pass Thru, the dancers will always end in standard arrangement couples (back to back in the box).

    Take a moment to verify that the Special Magic Box indeed ends with standard arrangement couples facing out if Facing Dancers Pass Thru.

    Using the Special Magic Box

    1. Get facing lines [L] - arrangement unknown
    2. "Slide Thru"   (Note Star Thru is not legal from 2 of the 6 possible arrangements)
    3. "(In each box of 4) - Those dancers that can - Pass Thru"
    This will always give you standard arrangement Trade By formation [0T].

    What might be more useful is look to see what you get after step 2 above.   If you get the Magic Boxes case (called a magic column), call Those facing directly Pass Thru (no need to say "in each box of 4") to end in standard arrangement Trade-By formation [0T].   If you don't get the Magic Boxes case, look for one of these 4 formations...

    If you are ready to recognize what you have and quickly call a flowing follow-up call, the dancers will never know you lost track of the arrangement.

    You might want to use inflection in your voice on the Slide Thru to prepare the dancers to possibly expect something strange.


  • Waves U-Turn Back method - more versatile way of using the Special Magic Box
    1. Get parallel R-H waves [W] - arrangement unknown
    2. "Single Hinge and the Girls Turn Back"
    3. "If you can, Pass Thru"
    4. "Bend The Line"
    This will get you to standard arrangement facing lines [0L] from any of the 6 possible starting arrangements.  You may skip step 3 if you see that no one can Pass Thru.  Of course if everyone can Pass Thru at step 3, you already have facing lines so you could optionally end there.

    Left Hand Variation - Replace steps 1 and 2 above with the following (steps 3 and 4 remain the same)...

    1. Get parallel L-H waves [L.W]
    2. "With the Left Hand Single Hinge and the Boys Turn Back"

    8-Chain Variation

    1. Get 8-Chain Thru formation [B]
    2. "Slide Thru" or "Touch 1/4 and the Girls Turn Back" or "Left Touch 1/4 and the Boys Turn Back" (these are all equivalent)

    For reference, after step 2 of any of the above, these are the resulting 6 formations depending on starting arrangement...
    • [0L] - standard arrangement facing lines
    • [0LO] - standard arrangement lines facing out
    • [0F] - standard arrangement right hand two face lines
    • [L.0F] - standard arrangement left hand two face lines
    • [0I.L] - inverted lines, ends facing in - standard arrangement after Ends Pass Thru
    • [0O.L] - inverted lines, ends facing out - standard arrangement after Centers Pass Thru

  • If you get the magic box (inverted lines), a fun follow-up call might be:  Those facing start a Right And Left Thru "cue: everybody finish with a Courtesy Turn".  This always ends conveniently in [0L] standard arrangement facing lines.



    Other Useful Examples

    In the following cases, the term "quadrant" specifically refers to the 4 corners (North-East, South-East, South-West, and North-West) in all of the following formations.  That means each end dancer of a 2x4 formation would be in his/her own quadrant with his/her adjacent center in the same quadrant with him/her.

  • In waves, if any wave-partners (neighbors) are opposite gender, then an All 8 Circulate will not change that fact.  All wave-partners will still be opposite gender.  Why? - If a dancer has his original partner beside him as a wave-partner, then All 8 Circulate will take him to his original partner's mirror opposite which will be the same gender as his original partner. 

    After All 8 Circulate:

    At Advanced, Trade Circulate has a similar effect as All 8 Circulate.
  • In any formation, if two original partners are not in the same quadrant, but are (one each) in two mirror-image quadrants, then all quadrants must have one boy and one girl.  Why? - If our key dancer's original partner is far across the square next to our key dancer's mirror opposite, then our key dancer must be next to his partner's mirror-opposite. 

    After All 8 Circulate:

  • In waves, if original partners are both centers OR both ends of the SAME wave, you may find it hard to get to the wave-partner-pairing we want.  At Advanced, the secret call is In Roll Circulate or Out Roll Circulate.  At Mainstream, the secret call is Split Circulate

    After Split Circulate:

    After Split Circulate:

    Just one Split Circulate from either situation above, and you may confidently call Boys-Run!
  • In waves, if original partners are opposite corners of the same BOX, you may find it hard to get to the wave-partner-pairing we want.  The secret call is Centers Trade (or at Advanced Slip) and you may confidently call Boys-Run

    After Centers-Trade:

  • Note the previous two cases (Split Circulate case and Centers-Trade case) are a Single Hinge or Cast Off 3/4 away from each other.  If you know one well and happen to get the other, you may use Single Hinge or Cast Off 3/4 to convert before proceeding.  I like to visualize which call (Split Circualte or Centers Trade) would get my two partners into diagonal (mirror-opposite) quadrants to help me choose the correct call to use for the case I have.
  • At Advanced, in waves, if wave-partners are opposite gender (the goal of all examples above), you may confidently call Explode And Half Breed Thru to get nice standard arrangement facing lines!


    See more of! - click here   Richard Reel   Hayward California USA