By Pat Jenkins
Alana Smith thinks it’s hip to be a square dancer.
She and other members of Alder Dam Dancers are trying to introduce their hobby to more people by hosting an introductory class and dance Dec. 8 at Eatonville Community Center. They can get their do-si-do on starting at 6 p.m.
The club is open to couples, singles and families. All ages, too. Smith said members range in age from 10 to the 80, which “makes it a real family activity.”
Square dancing’s origins date to the pioneer days. After a week of hard work, settlers would gather in barns on Saturday evenings for dancing and socializing. As communities grew in size and diversity, so did the dances.
Square dance movements are based on steps and figures used in traditional folk dances from many countries. The dancers are prompted or cued through a sequence of steps by a caller to the beat of music.
For dances held by Alder Dam Dancers, the music comes from virtual relics – the 33 rpm records spun by caller Mark Sebree, who drives from Tacoma to put the dancers through their paces.
The popularity and historical significance of square dancing was acknowledged in 1982 when President Reagan signed an act of Congress declaring it the official national folk dance. Today, thousands of square dance clubs nationwide are keeping the tradition alive.
The Alder Dam Dancers are doing their part to help ease “the stress of everyday life,” said Smith, a club member for 10 years. “We need to have evenings to relax and laugh. Just as much as the pioneers needed social contact with neighbors, this is still true today. We work hard and have little spare time. We need to develop and preserve relationships with our neighbors in order to preserve the small town feel in our community.”
Besides square dancing’s ability to “bring folks together,” it’s just plain fun a low-cost family activity,” she added.
SQUARE DANCE TERMINOLOGY
Allemande left: Corners face and take left hands. Walk around each other to own position.
Allemande right: Partners face and take right hands. Walk around each other to own position.
Do-si-do: Partners, or those designated by Caller, face. Walk around each other passing right and then left shoulders back to own position.
Forward and back: Three steps forward. Honor, and back to position.
Honor: Partners, or those designated by caller, face. Ladies curtsy, gents bow.
Promenade: Partners, or those designated by caller, cross hands in skating position and walk counter-clockwise to position. Right arm should be over left.
Set: (Lady Walpole’s Reel): Two lines of dancers facing. Ladies in one line. Gentlemen in the other. Usually six to eight couples in each set. Head of the set is nearest caller or record player.
Star by the right: Couples, or those designated by caller, walk to each other and join right hands in a star formation and walk in the direction they are facing (clockwise).
Swing: Partners, or those designated by caller, face. Gents take one step to the center and walk alongside lady. The outside of the right feet should touch to start. The left foot is about six inches to the side with the toe of the left foot in line with the heel of the right. Take a regular dance arm position, leaning back a bit so as to obtain leverage. With a slight pivot step on the ball of the right foot, keep shoving around on the left as if on a scooter.