10/29/2013 4:22:00 PM Letter: Square dancing
alive and well
After reading the article entitled, "Square Dancing fading from the American fabric," I feel some sort of response is due. As president of the Cottonwood Roadrunners, the local square dance group, I have a pretty good handle of what our club is about, and the health of the art of square and round dancing.
First off, square dancing is not dead and is not dying! If you were to travel to Apache Junction on any given day of the week, one could literally dance all day long, seven days a week. The dances have over 30 squares, that's 8 people in each square, (with their special events drawing in over 100) including people from all over the world.
Moreover, square dancing is alive in many big cities around the U.S. and the entire world. Young people are being drawn to all types of dancing from ballroom, to folk, to contra, and yes, even to square dancing.
Our club is one of the few groups in central northern Arizona with our sister group in Prescott. Both Show Low and Kingman have thriving clubs with high membership count. Clubs in Phoenix and Tuscon are alive and well hosting weekly and monthly dances with large turnouts. Most clubs host a major "festival" once a year, attracting people from around the nation. The callers travel nationwide as well, with the more popular of them, having folks travel state wide and even across state lines just to experience their distinct calling style(s).
Last year, we had a lady from Japan attend one of our monthly dances. She spoke very little English, but danced beautifully with out one misstep the entire evening! This is due to fact that the calls are taught in English, no matter what the country.
We frequently have folks from around the U.S. who are visiting Cottonwood and the outlying areas, stop in for a night of fun and dancing. They are always mesmerized by the beauty of the Verde Valley, the quaintness of Old Town, and remark frequently of the genuine warmness of our club and its members.
As Mr. Hutchinson's article stated, I enjoy both Contra and Square Dancing. There are four of our club's members that attend the Contra dances. We all enjoy the different take on some of the same moves and meeting a new array of local dancers. Our groups have also tried to work together to come up with a plan to draw more dancers.
Like square dancing, Contra is also having difficulty drawing in the large crowds as they had in years gone by. College towns such as Prescott and Flagstaff have an edge on our small communities and can draw the younger crowd in for a night of shuffling around the dance floor.
It is true, that many callers use traditional type square dances songs that make it difficult for young folks to relate. However, many callers use modern up to date country western songs, current pop music, current rock and of course old rock and roll too. I have danced to rock opera, Spanish flamenco type music, and well as old Hank Williams and the Beatles.
The new wave of callers are working hard to develop a new square dance base, by using current music trends, with some going as far as hip hop and rapp, mixed with the styles of traditional dance tunes.
Our current caller and dance instructor, has an amazing baritone voice permitting him to put his own twist on old classics and new country western and pop songs as well. He is also an excellent teacher/instructor who can start one out from the very basics to mastery of the higher levels of the square dancing calls.
Our lessons start in September and go to December, and then restart in January and go though to May. We offer both beginning and the more advanced lessons as well during both "semester."
Our monthly dances offer both round (type of formal ballroom dance), and Mainstream squares (advanced beginners) to Plus (more advanced). Any one is welcome to attend our dances just to watch at no charge. You may go to our website at Cottonwoodroadrunners.com to see our dancing schedule. There is also contact information to speak to any board member including me.
The common threads of all dance is the need to move, use the brain, and of course socialize and have fun! That is the essence of what folks are looking for when going out dancing and/or challenging themselves to learn a distinct dance form.
Square Dancing is just that ... a richly American distinct dance form. Yes, it does take some conviction to learn ... but is that a negative? What is wrong with using parts of the brain that sometimes sit dormant? What is wrong with getting highly varied low impact exercise? What is wrong with hearing quality music from a wide variety of genres? What is wrong with making new friends that make you smile and laugh? All of this and more while learning a skill that will stay with you forever, while helping preserve a truly unique form of dance.
Personally, I feel blessed that my mother drug me to my first dance lesson. My father and she met at a square dance back in the 1940s.
Not only do I enjoy the traveling and dancing part, but I also enjoy being an ambassador for both our club and the art of square dancing itself. I am happy to tell you, Square Dancing is not fading from the American fabric ... it is alive and well!