Dancing the night away
'Never a dull moment' at weekly Greenridge Mountaineers Square Dance Club
HAYDEN — Men suited in boots and stiff-collared shirts do-si-do their partners then promenade them back home. Women twirl in brightly colored skirts as they look for the next forearm to left grand. Everyone is smiling.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said W.G. Pankey of Craig. “There’s never a dull moment.”
He has been square dancing for 16 years, and now meets with the Greenridge Mountaineers Square Dance Club every Friday at the Hayden Congregational Church.
“I’m still trying to learn,” he said.
He has a good teacher. Jim Kline of Rawlins, Wyo., drives down to call the dance. It’s one of his four gigs every week. The other three are throughout Wyoming.
“Look at these friendly people I get to spend my time with,” he said during the Sept. 30 dance. “It’s well-worth my time.”
He is a patient yet energetic caller, talking beginners through basic steps and challenging the experts.
He describes square dancing as “friendship set to music,” and says the best part of his job is the people he meets. But sometimes the camaraderie gets in the way.
“We get to socializing so much we forget to listen,” longtime dancer Lois Norman said.
The music keeps the dances lively, too. Kline comes armed with books full of mini discs, each holding more than 40 songs, in a range of genres and decades.
“I like the variety,” Jan Sherman of Craig said. “You go from country to rock and roll to classical.”
That’s one of the perks. Square dancing is for everyone, anywhere, said Cathy Vorhees of Yampa.
“Square dancing is universal,” she said. “If you can dance in New York, you can square dance here.”
And square dancing is good exercise, Kline said.
“It builds your heart, it builds your mind, it builds your bones,” he said.
He cited a Mayo Clinic study that shows square dancing adds 10 years to one’s life, as well as decreases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis.
But health benefits are not what the dancers are focused on. As the ladies make stars and circle the middle and the men swing their partners by the arms, everyone just appears to be having a ball.
“Even if we mess up, we have a good time,” Kline’s wife, Kathie, said.
That doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the mood is maybe even more lighthearted.
“That’s all it amounts to,” Pankey said. “Whenever someone fouls up, everybody just laughs about it anyway.”
Things have changed during the years. Errors are more common now as dancers push themselves to try new steps.
“When I was a kid, they had old country square dancing, but they’ve added so much to it by now,” she said.
Norman started out with the Boots and Bows Club in Craig in the 1970s, but the group disbanded in 1990. Boots and Bows merged with the Greenridge dancers in 1997, and now, the combined group is going strong every Friday night except during the summer.
Vorhees remembers a time when square dancing was so popular Craig had three clubs.
“There were groups up and down the whole I-70 corridor,” she said. “There were just a lot of people doing it, but things kind of fell apart.”
Most of the square dance demographic is a bit older now, but Greenridge members are aimed at attracting young people to the hobby.
“Square dancing has a stigma attached to it,” Sherman said, “so it’s hard to get people to come out. But once they do, they love it.”
That’s true for newcomers Debra Reglin and Gaye Schnackenberg of Craig. They square danced Sept. 30 for the first time since middle school. They were out of breath and smiling at the end of the night.
“They kind of tug you along with them,” Reglin said of the angels, or expert dancers who lead beginners, forcefully yet kindly, by the hand.
“I never thought this could be so much fun.”
For more information about square dancing, call Norman at 824-6773 or visit http://www.dosado.com.
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