Square dancing club hosts ‘good, clean fun’ workshops for novicesSquare dancing is surprisingly fun. If you want to have a good time, head over to “Square Dance ABC,” a workshop hosted by Harbor City Squares, the local square dance club. And, yes, we have one of those.
By: Beth Koralia, Budgeteer News
Square dancing is surprisingly fun. If you want to have a good time, head over to “Square Dance ABC,” a workshop hosted by Harbor City Squares, the local square dance club.
Yes, we have one of those.
“It should be fun,” expects Chris Carroll, square dance instructor and caller. “I never met friendlier people than square dancers.”
Square Dance ABC is designed to spark interest in square dancing. It is a way to get a taste of the activity without significant time or financial commitment.
Harbor Squares encourages families (with children older than 8) and all others to attend. The caller will teach steps that are needed for the evening. Regulars will be in attendance to help beginners. Each night, the caller will include a few steps different from the previous meeting, but will teach the basics at every workshop.
“You could go to all three and each would be a bit different,” mentions Gail Erickson, the group’s president.
Come by yourself, or bring a friend. The group takes turns and frequently rotates partners, while those sitting out are happy to visit and watch.
“It’s easy to get people to feel like they are really square dancing right away,” says Carroll.
People of all ages can square dance. In fact, one member, Fred Johnson, is 97. He still dances along with his wife, Elsie, who is 85. They have been dancing since 1940.
“It’s a nice pastime. You meet a lot of different people,” explains Elsie Johnson.
If they can do it, so can you.
Carroll claims, “All you need to know is your right from your left.”
The most difficult part is remembering which way to turn: “If you get confused, just put your hands up and someone will grab you,” they promise.
“I used to be so afraid that everyone would be mad at me if I broke the square, but they don’t care,” offers Erickson.
Once you learn the calls, you can square dance anywhere in the world. Calls are always in English. Bob Truman, who met his wife at square dancing, says it is taught in English too.
“It’s uniquely American,” says Carroll.
At one time, Duluth had four square dancing clubs, until they merged into one. Harbor Squares has been the primary club since 1998.
The club, which has roughly 40 members, meets two to three times per month. In the summer, the club gathers outdoors at Billings Park.
“We have picnics in the summer, and, in the winter, we dance in schools,” says Nancy Crosby.
“On a good night, we have three squares (24 people),” says Erickson.
“Here we go!” interrupts caller Tom Bolf, putting on another old record. The dancers are up and in position as soon as the music starts.
Most of the music is 1940s and 1950s country. The club used to have live music — with a violinist and pianist — but now they mostly use records.
The dancers spin around the floor, with partners passing swiftly through the circles, guided by the caller.
There is no drinking or smoking or swearing. The members jokingly think it the next best thing to a Bible group.
Mark Forsman calls it “good, clean fun.”
The dancers reiterate the corny, square dancing motto: “It’s friendship set to music.”
And, sure enough, these folks are all friends, tossing teases and chatting boisterously throughout the evening.
Gary and Sharon Bergquist believe “it’s the people” who make it great. They enjoy meeting people and making friendships.
Andy Riordan says it is a lot of fun and “good for your health.”
His wife, June, says, “If people go once or twice, they’ll love it.”
When Aurine Casey and her husband first attended square dancing she thought her husband didn’t like it.
“But the next weekend,” she said, “he asked, ‘Did you get a babysitter?’”
They have been dancing ever since.
The group is hoping to get young people interested.
“It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” joked Erickson. “It is a good physical activity, but it is also a good mental activity to keep your mind sharp. It keeps you on your toes and laughing all the time.
“You don’t even realize you are exercising it is so much fun.”
Calling the dances is a bit more complicated: “It’s like a Rubik’s Cube,” explains Carroll.
The caller must ensure that each dancer ends the set with the same partner with whom they started.
The members do not always wear the poofy crinoline skirts.
“They are really hot,” says Erickson. “Just wear what’s comfortable.”
Jeans and a shirt are perfectly acceptable — although good, closed-toe footwear is essential. The average square dancer walks three to five miles in one evening of dancing.
“It’s about having fun not knowing what you’re doing,” reminds Forsman. “If the square breaks down, it doesn’t matter.”
Square Dance ABC will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 7, 21 and 28 at Fellowship Hall in Peace United Church, which is located at 1111 N. 11th Ave. E. Call 728-2270 or e-mail email@example.com for more information. Cost is $5 per person or $12 per family.
If you are interested in joining the club, Harbor Squares asks that you have previous knowledge of square dancing or have completed the community education course, which is offered in the fall.
For Square Dance ABC Saturdays, no experience is necessary.
Find a square dance near you at www.squaredanceminnesota.com.
Duluth freelance writer Beth Koralia last covered the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum for the Budgeteer. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.