A friend was recently asking for dances to build up their collection, as they were getting back into calling and their dance box had a lot of weird nonsense in it. (You know, that one dance you collected and wrote down but never actually tested, and then you try to call it and a hole opens up in the space-time continuum. Who hasn’t been there?)

Below are the dances I’d recommend to them and to anyone else with the same question. I’ve roughly grouped them into some categories that I find useful when building up a collection—any categories or classes of dances that I’ve missed?

Opener/Beginner dances

The dances you call first or second in an evening to get the beginners oriented, or that you pull out when someone’s entire bachelorette party (for instance) rolls into the hall. There are many of these to choose from but I’ve limited myself to just a couple.

As mentioned above, the chain-star progression can confuse beginners, as it’s not immediately obvious how to find new Ns out of a star. It often works just fine in a hall with enough experienced dancers, but in extremely beginner-heavy halls, I wouldn’t call a first dance with this progression.

For any glossary dance with a chain-star progression, you can substitute “circle left 3/4; pass through and do-si-do” or, for an even more forgiving version, “circle left 3/4; balance the ring and pass through.”

Get everyone back on track

You need a second dance for a hall that’s not ready for anything super complicated, or you need to get everyone’s confidence back up after a dance that crashed and burned. Here are some dances that are a little more interesting than the plain ol’ glossary dances like those above, but are still good for getting a hall moving together and—because of low piece count and a lot of moving together—hard to mess up.

Move intros

When you need to introduce a hey but your dance card for Butter (perhaps the prototypical hey intro dance) is in tatters because of how many times you’ve called it.

Something more interesting

Generally accessible, but also really satisfying for experienced dancers. Dances in this bucket tend to be either “this one weird trick” dances (i.e. mostly simple moves that you’ve learned from earlier glossary dances, with one little twist that makes it real cool but isn’t too hard to learn) or just really well-composed dances.

Favorite Closers

Dances that aren’t too hard to pick up (often simple moves or low piece count or both) and easy for the dancers and band to jam out on, ending with a partner swing (ideally balance and swing). Often stompy-balancy, but not necessarily.