Two residents who jumped on square-dancing bandwagon bring some friends to demonstrate and facilitate other residents
A couple of Highlands residents, Mary Davis and Sandy Bergeron, with help from members of the Tri Squares Square Dance Club, got almost everyone attending a Sunday Storytime on Aug. 10 out of their chairs and square-dancing before the event was over.
Davis and Bergeron joined the Tri Squares Square Dance Club a year ago and brought along the club president, the caller and a few other members to first demonstrate some dances before pairing up with the neophytes to try some do si dos and promenades.
Before the dancing started, Davis and Bergeron explained how they got involved with the club that meets at the Tigard Grange, with Davis calling square-dancing "my new passion" and adding, "I met the president of the Oregon Square Dancing Association at a big birthday party. I had square-danced many, many years ago. Sandy and I went looking for the sign in the Grange window a couple of years ago but missed it."
Bergeron took up the story, saying, "Then the next year we saw it and called. We said to each other, 'Let's clear the boards and do it.' I had square-danced in high school, but I found out it was exercise, and they just called it square-dancing. I had a husband who talked a lot, and I tuned him out, so I had a problem listening to Larry (Halley, the caller) because when I heard a male voice, I tuned it out."
Linda Ray-Keeney, the Tri-Squares president, called out the names of the "angels" who came along to the HighlandsClubhouse and who are club members willing to help newcomers find their way around a square.
"Terry will run our angels through some steps," Ray-Keeney said, and with that, Halley put on the music and started calling, with eight dancers forming a square and putting on a polished demonstration.
Halley explained, "We use all types of music for dancing. We call it modern or Western square-dancing that also includes gospel, rock 'n' roll, pop and popular music, but there also is traditional square-dancing with traditional music."
He added that square-dancing is Oregon's official state dance and that "it is a very good, clean activity with no smoking or drinking allowed. It is a good way to meet quality, nice people. It's a good activity. You can dance a lot of places like community halls and granges."
Then it was time for "volunteers" from the audience to join the experienced dancers and create two squares, with Halley explaining, "I'm going to teach you some moves."
He explained the logistics of the square and the positions of the dancers, such as the head couples and the side couple, as well as the basic steps.
"Most instructions are given to the guys because they need the instruction," Halley said before starting to call out, "Bow to your partner. Bow to the corner. Circle left, circle right and back to home. Do si do, walk right past shoulder to shoulder, promenade, weave the ring" and so on.
By the end of the session, almost everyone was able to follow the steps and do a credible version of square dancing, with some signing up on the spot for the fall series of lessons, which run for 10 weeks starting Sunday, Sept. 21, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. People can attend the first two classes for free before they decide if they want to continue and pay $48 for the remaining eight lessons.
"Our youngest dancer is 10 years old, and our oldest is 80, and we have a number of single people," said Ray-Keeney, adding that the club currently has 42 members. "They come from all walks of life, but they all have to learn all the steps. Anticipating the caller will foul you up. And we have a refreshment break every class. We try to pace it.
"If people give us their email address, we send out reminders for the steps they learned, and they get a video. We have a six-week break over the holidays, and then Jan. 4 people can sign up for a second series of classes. There are a total of 68 moves, and the first 51 are taught in the fall series. In the winter we teach 52 through 68, and dancers graduate in the spring and are invited to become members. Then the next fall they can come back and be angels if they want."
Halley added, "We have many couples who are married, but if one is sick, the other comes anyway. Our newest members are not on the sidelines very long."
Ray-Keeney explained, "Terry will call the moves they know at first. And we also have round dancing. And people should know that they do not have to wear square-dancing clothes. We call the dress 'smart casual,' but they accept me in my jeans."
Following the demonstration, Davis and Bergeron talked a little more about their involvement with the Tri Squares.
"I did it 30 years ago for three years, and I loved it," Davis said. "I started up again because I wanted to do something different, and the location is perfect. I like Terry because he is all about teaching, but he is also about having a good time. It was nice to have the angels to dance with when we started.
"The whole club is so supportive, and they don't want to intimidate people. This is about having fun and taking on physical and mental challenges. By the time you go through their classes, you are proficient and can go to any square-dance club.
"It's always challenging, but you can go as far as you want with this. Some people like round-dancing better. I haven't done it yet, but it's on my bucket list."
Bergeron explained, "I always like trying new things, and it's good to keep our minds and bodies active at our age. Doing this is fun, and it adds two more hours of exercise to my week. I was surprised at how hard it was on my brain. I told Mary, 'My brain hurts,' but we're creating new pathways in our brains, which is good.
"You can make this as strenuous as you want. Otherwise, it's just basically walking and getting your brain and body moving together at the same time. I'm 76 years old, and I like getting this old body to move. This was on my bucket list to do before I can't walk anymore."