It's hip to be square

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Local club introduces a new group of students to square dancing

By Ramsey Scott

The crowd that had been mingling and eating homemade cookies migrated to the makeshift dance floor at the beckon of the caller.


“Time to square up,” yelled Jan Hormuth as she joined the new dancers, who were quickly forming groups.

Last Thursday night was the students’ second lesson at the Valley View Church gym, and the process of arranging themselves into proper square dance formation had not quite been mastered. Hormuth walked from square to square, making sure there were enough dancers in each group and that there were enough “angels” as well.

“ ‘Angels’ are the experienced dancers. They help them learn the moves,” Hormuth said. “It’s not like the Stampede, where you learn the western cha-cha real quick and dance. There’s 69 calls to learn.”

Moves like “star promenade” and “ladies backtrack”; “allemande left” and “weave the ring.”

The 69 moves make up the palette that callers such as Bill Hiney wield to choreograph the participants as they make their way around the squares. As Hiney calls out each move, the dancers respond while keeping rhythm.

“Square dancing is really about socialization. It’s a chance for people to get out and interact and meet one another. The dancing is subservient to that a little bit,” Hinley said.

The square dancers all agree: They love the interaction the pastime provides.

“When we go to our conventions, we meet people from all over the world,” said Margie Siskowic, who’s been dancing for about 25 years. “And it’s not so rigid. You make a mistake, you laugh it off and go on dancing.”

Hormuth has been square dancing for about five years. As with many of the new students at the Mountaineers Square Dance Club class, she and her husband had friends who danced and persuaded them to give it a go.

“It’s just the very best thing for empty-nesters,” Hormuth said. “One day you look at each other and say, ‘What are we going to do with the rest of our lives?’ “

Many of the new students fit that description. But square dancing isn’t just for the empty-nest set.

“The younger kids, they do all the swings and twists,” Hormuth said.
Michael Palisoul was taking the class with his girlfriend, Rachael Needham. Needham, who started dancing nine years ago as a child, said her whole family square dances.

“It’s a lot different than what I used to think square dancing was,” Palisoul said. “I thought it would be more along the line of line dancing.”

Though he was still learning the moves, Palisoul was an eager participant. By the end of the evening, he was twirling Needham expertly around the floor.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Needham said of her boyfriend’s future as a square dancer.

As the class ended, the 50 or so people in the gym circled up for one last dance. As they worked around their respective squares, hooting and hollering could be heard throughout the gym.

“When the music gets going, square dancers get down,” Hormuth said.

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.