The Penticton Squares are inviting the community to be part of a free class to test the waters before joining the club.
“The social aspect is one of the largest reasons to join because you get to know so many people,” said club member Diane Tucker.
The first lesson is being offered for free, and a series of beginner classes will continue until the end of 2015. After the essential moves are well-memorized, dancers can take their moves anywhere.
“Once you know the mainstream, you can go anywhere in the world because all the moves are taught in English,” said member Susan Boyd. “And when you go to other dancing communities, you see a lot of the same people, so your family of dancers grows and grows.”
Boyd said at Peachfest’s square dance event there was a couple from Germany who spoke English poorly, but they had no trouble answering to any call.
Tucker said the club appeals largely to baby boomers and young retirees who have the time to learn, but anybody who enjoys dancing is welcome.
“Many times I’ve heard ‘square dancing is for old people’,” Tucker said. “Yes, there are many older dancers and that’s because they have been dancing for 60 years of more, which is testimony to their fitness and overall health today.”
“But the younger the better because that’s when you learn the quickest,” said Ken Boyd.
“You don’t have to know how to dance,” Susan said. “You just have to like it.”
Though dancers should be no younger than eight years old so they can properly retain the procedures.
There are a total of 68 moves to learn, which are then intertwined into endless combinations.
The Squares are offering weekly classes from September through December to teach newcomers the basic moves. Those who continue classes into the new year will be introduced to the full spectrum of square dancing.
“This is a group that has to co-operate,” Tucker said. “Everybody has to know what they’re doing and be where they have to be for the other people in the group.”
At first glimpse, witnesses are often intimidated by the seemingly complex nature of square dancing, but the club members assure that by learning one move at a time, the craft can be mastered by anybody.
“Basically if you can walk, you can learn to square dance,” Susan said.
“There’s that element of physical touch, which has kind of been put on the back burner in our society nowadays,” said Tucker. “We’re always touching when we dance. Most of us have a big smile on because we’re happy, moving to a little beat of music, it puts a little spring in our step – and of course the touch.”
The activity offers healthy exercise for both physical and mental aspects of the body. Two hours of dancing is equivalent in exercise to walking eight kilometres, Tucker said.
“And it’s mentally stimulating because you have to learn 68 moves. There’s someone on stage who can pick any move at any time, and you have to be ready to react to that move, so it’s very good mental exercise.”
While square dancing has been popular since the 1950s, the format has adapted alongsie pop culture.
“Modern square dancing isn’t the old cowboy barn dancing people often think of,” Tucker said. “It’s not the same as it was in the olden days, it’s more interactive – we dance to modern everyday music you’ll hear on the radio.”
The free introductory class happens on Sept. 22 at the Seniors’ Drop-In Centre at 7 p.m. Those interested in taking more than one class can continue each Tuesday until Dec. 8 for $70, which covers the cost of 12 classes.
The Penticton Squares formed in 1998 as two other square dancing clubs amalgamated. To find out more, contact the Squares at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’ll have you dancing with our club by Christmas,” Tucker said.