Hip to be Square
Square dancing can be fun for everyone, young and old.
Who said square dancing was dead? The DC Square Dance Collective is doing its darndest to keep the great American dancing tradition alive. All types of people used to come together in great numbers to dance and celebrate. Once a month, DC Square Dance Collective hosts a dance at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. It costs only $5 to get through the door and is a very inclusive community for both beginners and more serious dancers alike. According to Facebook Reviews, the event has been given a 4.9/5 stars. People love the venue, and, in the words of one of the best reviews I have ever read, the dance is described as “Fun elevated to infinite potency. For $5 you have so much fun that you are gonna ask God to kill you on the spot because it is just too much happiness to bear.” If that doesn’t sell it, I don’t know what will. There are also plenty of other great reviews all praising this establishment.
According to the Folklore Society of Greater Washington, of which DC Square Dance Collective is a part, the events have had great turnouts. There is an average of around 200 people per dance, and the crowd is made up of a wide range of people. The first dance was held in February 2011, and the group has grown from there. The group claims that their success comes from a welcoming environment. It is their hope to bring square dancing to a younger, more urban audience. Founder Gabe Pokin explains, “I believe there’s a hunger for authentic experiences in a world where so many of our interactions are mediated by technology, a hunger for true community, for the chance to meet and touch and dance with strangers in a safe space. I know no better way to satisfy that hunger than square dancing.”
The history of square dancing started in England and came to America with the pilgrims. Over time America has continued to pass down the tradition of square dancing, eventually turning it into a trademark of the Western World. In many states, square dancing has become recognized as their official dance. In American square dance, the participants get queued in by a designated Caller. It is the Caller’s job to let every person know what the next steps will be, and also to help the dancers keep a rhythm. The dancers are grouped together in parties of either 4 or 8. In most Western square dances, all members only learn certain moves, and don’t do anything too complicated even at the highest level. After going underground for a few years, square dancing gained popularity again in the 1950’s with the rise of folk music.
Want to be ready for your new square dancing adventure? Here are a list of basic calls and their meaning:
Circle Left: all 4 or 8 partners join hands and move in a left circle.
Allemande Left: Everyone face their corner, take a left forearm with their corner and circle around until they are facing their partners again, drop arms.
Do Si Do: Face your partner, step past each other, passing right shoulders and, without turning around, step back to back, then back up passing left shoulders until you are in front of your partner again.
Right and Left Grand: Everyone face their partner, and taking right hands, walk past each other, then alternate hands with the people that come to you, until you meet your partner. Stop when you come to your partner.
Promenade: Couples in a skater’s position, men on the ladies left side, and slightly behind her, take hands and walk together in a counterclockwise circle until you reach your home position (Starting Position).
Swing: Couples in a ballroom dance position, circling in a clockwise direction a full 360 degrees or until facing the line of dance. Man twirls the lady under his arm to finish the swing.
Roll Away To A Half Sashay: Men will basically just help the ladies roll in front of them to get to his other side. Starting and ending in a handholding circle.
Come practice all of these new dance moves and get to know some awesome people!
Where: St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
Dates: Nov. 4 and Dec. 9
Look them up on Facebook at DC Square Dance Collective!
PC: Zoe Bemer/Wikimedia Commons