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    May 11
    Dark. No dance.

    May 25
    Terry Halley, caller
    Ken Prattt, cuer

    The Checkerboard Squares dance at the Rockwood Grange, located at 183rd and Southeast Stark Street between the Taco Time restaurant and the Motel 6 in Gresham, Ore. Admission: $5 for non-members.

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The Best Time for a Food Break May Be at the End of a Dance

Open breaks where dancers can graze throughout the evening of square dancing are popular. A stop halfway during a dance to eat and then resume the dance is also popular. Some clubs serve food at the end of the dance. Which break option is best?

Presenters at the 59th national square dance convention in Louisville urged clubs to consider serving food at the end of a dance. “Food halfway through is a death knell,” they said. A square dance begins with momentum. If the dance pauses for eating, that momentum is lost, and the caller and cuer have to start it all up again.

Food is paramount to a dance, the experts said. People are likely to stay until the end of the dance if the club serves food at the end. The dancers sit and eat and visit.

On the other hand, with their tummies full halfway through the dance, people often feel uncomfortable dancing and are tempted to go home.

When dancers go home early, momentum is further lost and the sense of excitement gone with fewer people participating.

(These ideas come from Tom Davis, Jerry Junck and Nick Hartley in their seminar, “Fun Dances are Successful Dances.”

The Target  Age for Square Dance Recruits

Square dance club lessons should be targeting 50- to 55-year-olds, according to CallerLab’s latest research, as reported by Don Taylor and Tom Rudbock at the national convention in Louisville.

The reason? These are “empty nesters” wanting to reconnect with a spouse after years of going their separate ways as they raised their kids.

To attract these potential dancers, the speakers said to promote square dancing’s benefits: fun, laughter, new friends, a chance to socialize, an opportunity to find a partner (for the singles), and health through exercise.

Don’t exclude other age groups, Taylor and Rudbock advised. Just realize that age 50 to 55 is prime.

Making Your Club Winsome

I never intended to join a square dance club when I signed up for lessons three years ago. I was merely seeking something fun to do on Tuesday nights–something to force myself out of the rut I felt I was in.

I had seen a sign along the highway advertising square dance lessons as I drove home from work. That had put square dancing on my radar for the first time. So when the community college’s adult ed bulletin arrived in my home and I saw a square dance class, I was interested. Over long-distance calls, I debated with my sister whether I should take square dancing, Irish dancing or woodworking. “Square dancing,” she said. The square dance classes were the best time for my schedule, so I signed up and paid my $50.

A few weeks later, I walked into a Grange Hall full of strangers who immediately smiled at me and helped me find my name badge. Over the next 10 weeks, I made sure I never missed a lesson–I wanted my money’s worth. And I didn’t want to fall behind.

As lessons progressed, club members told me about the fun of Mid-Winter, Oregon’s biggest square dance festival. Members told me about the club’s annual beach trip, the summer picnic, the Christmas party.

When jamboree time neared, I came to class and found square dance clothes spread on the benches that lined Grange Hall’s meeting room. I went home with two pretty skirts and an off-white petticoat–for free. Club members had donated them. My mom mailed me a new frilly white blouse in a manila envelope (to save postage).

When the first jamboree came, I had proper clothes to wear. And a couple in the club invited me to ride along with them to the dance.

When lessons ended, I felt sad as I contemplated never seeing these people again. They had become my friends. So when a club member asked me about joining the club, I said an immediate “yes.” I paid my dues, received a name badge, and began going to club dances, club visitations, Mid-Winter, nationals in Wichita, mystery trips, picnics, Christmas parties, and more jamborees with the new dancers who have taken lessons since I started square dancing. I hope their experience mirrored mine.

Growing Your Club

One of Kansas’ largest clubs is less than five years old. Can clubs thrive today? Yes! Here are some tips on how to grow your club.

  1. Keep the time span for lessons short. Replace the usual 12-15 weeks of lessons with four weeks of Saturday lessons, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a free lunch. Vernon Jones, who developed this “fast track,” says it gets people dancing faster. Clubs that have tried this shortened lesson cycle have ended up with an 80 percent retention rate–30 percent to 40 percent had been standard before.
  2. Ask club officers to stand near the door at the beginning of dances to meet and greet everyone who comes. And at the end of the dance, they should be at the door telling everyone goodbye.
  3. Promote carpooling for visitations.
  4. Phone any member who misses two dances.
  5. Send a card to anyone who is sick.
  6. Visit every club within 75 miles at least once a year.
  7. Hold lessons the same night as your dances. That way, new dancers get used to coming to your location on that night of the week and will easily continue coming to regular dances after lessons end.
  8. Offer a family rate for dances.
  9. Sponsor a competition. Have the caller judge squares and give a prize to the best square.

(Note: These tips are compiled from workshops at the 2008 national square dance convention in Wichita, KS.)

Square Dancing is Good for Your Health

Below is a chart listing common activities and the number of calories they burn.


Housework:  3 calories per minute ; 180 per hour

Biking (3.5 mph): 3.5 calories per minute; 210 per hour

Walking (2.5 mph): 3.5 calories per minute; 210 per hour

Gardening: 3.6 calories per minute; 220 per hour

Tennis (doubles): 5.0 calories per minute; 300 per hour

Square dancing: 5.6 calories per minute; 350 per hour

Biking (10 mph) 6.9 calories per minute; 415 per hour

Aerobics: 7.4 calories per minute; 445 per hour

Jogging: 9.8 calories per minute; 585 per hour

Running (8.5 mph): 11.7 calories per minute; 700 per hour

Cross-country skiing: 15. calories per minute; 900 per hour

(Source: “Lifetime Physical Fitness and Wellness, Werner Will Hoerger, Morton Publishing Co. 1989)


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