As a guy who discovered dance at 10 years of age, I can’t say that I’ve ever suffered from the two-left-feet syndrome, something that many men put forward as the reason they are uncomfortable with dancing. While I did the night school thing to learn how to ballroom dance, which I do enjoy, it’s square dancing that became my lifelong hobby.
Perhaps you’ve seen the tv commercial on Shaw cable or Star Choice satellite that opens with a couple saying “if you like to walk, you’ll love square dancing?” If not, I can tell you that it goes on to detail many benefits of the activity. I’ve enjoyed this dance form for quite a while and many great times compel me to relate more and encourage you to discover it too.
If you want a recreation to enjoy with your partner outside the home, modern square dancing fits the bill for fun, laughter and sharing time with each other.
If you’re like me, you need some active living to keep the pounds down but prefer something moderately aerobic. Again, this is it.
Many of us Boomers have watched our parents or grandparents succumb to Alzheimer’s and are looking to avoid that by keeping mentally active. Well, this is it too. This kind of dancing challenges you to listen, think and act upon the various commands.
In his book, “Shed 10 Years in 10 Weeks,” Dr. Julian Whitaker writes that dancing helps to increase the number of “dendrites” in the brain, which enhance communication between brain cells (Simon & Schuster, 1999). Perhaps more important is to say that square dancing is mentally uplifting. It relaxes you as you move to the music, improving your mood while making you forget the stresses and tensions of the day.
On the topic of fitness and weight loss, basically the more you move, the more calories you burn. A fun square dance session moves you the equivalent of walking several kilometres, about 200 calories burned per hour. It’s a vehicle for cardiovascular conditioning and helps prevent or slow bone loss (osteoporosis) because square dancing moves your weight in traveling steps.
Oprah’s favourite medical expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show is Dr. Oz from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He wrote “Ballroom dancing and square dancing are two of the few activities shown to involve both physical activity and mental stimulation significant enough to reduce the risk of dementia - a true two-for-one example of using it or losing it.” See it in his book “You: Staying Young - The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty.” (Free Press, 2007).
In a fitness and conditioning evaluation conducted in 2006 at Kelowna, B.C., fitness expert Chris Collins of Okanagan Peak Performance writes: “Given the declining health and activity levels of North American society, square dancing should be viewed as an effective form of exercise to maintain good health.” See the full report at the following web location: http://squaredance.bc.ca/articals/Fitness_Evaluation.pdf
Something that I think a lot of people don't realize is that modern square dancing encompasses many styles of music from pop to country and show tunes to golden oldies. The stereotype is that all the music is fiddle and banjo. Not so.
Everybody wants to make new friends, new connections and, since this form of dance is about teamwork on the dance floor, you can’t find a better social recreation. I’ve made new friends through square dancing both on and off this continent.
The square dance has so many benefits that you can’t beat it! Many dance groups have free introductory sessions to give it a try. Most start in the Fall and some in Winter.
What do you wear to New Dancer Dances? How does it work? Basically, you attend in casual clothes, avoiding loose jewelry or clothing that might catch on others as you move. It’s good to wear a soft-soled shoe that won’t mark the floor, allowing you to glide along and not grip the surface.
At the dance, you pair off into teams of eight and begin shuffling around the floor and having fun right away. The instructor, known as a caller-teacher, directs you on a call and then you dance it. Then you learn another one and dance that.
You have to listen carefully during the instruction and that can be a reason for goof-ups and laughter, because we don’t all listen well. There are lots of rest moments in between and, before you know it, the session wraps up leaving you anxious to return for more the next week.
I can’t tell you about the easy learning process of participating in a New Dancer Dance any better than a great video, aimed at Boomers, that explains it all. Have a look at the 11 ½ minute feature “Dancing Keeps You Young:” Turn up the sound and you'll find it on the web at:
It may interest you to learn that the square dance recreation embraces another dance form called “round dancing” that complements most square dance events. That’s choreographed ballroom dancing set to live cues. Pretty well anybody can do it because the cues don’t require you to memorize the choreography, you just learn the dance steps and react to the cues as they are called out to you on the dance floor. But, round dancing is something to learn at separate sessions and only if you want to.
One of the greatest elements about picking up the skill to square dance is the way it opens doors for travel everywhere. The “calls” that you learn are standardized in English worldwide and that means you can travel all over to dance, even to non-English speaking countries. Just down the road from your home you’ll find special party dances or, on a grander scale, there are Jamborees, Festivals and Conventions to which you can travel. You can even take cruises with other square dancers and dance yourself silly at sea.
Do yourself a favour and visit a New Dancer group near you. All are operated by non-profit organizations and you’ll find their rates pretty economical.
If you've still got offspring at home in the nest, most dance clubs welcome youth, preferably in their teen years. In fact, teens and pre-teens enjoy square dancing at a competitive level annually at an international event called the Pacific Northwest Teen Square Dance Festival. Now over 50 years in operation, it's been many years since I competed myself at the Festival but many great memories linger. Have a peek on the web at my favourite photos of kids enjoying the ‘97 Festival at the web location: http://squaredance.bc.ca/gallery/teen97gl.shtml
By the way, if you're still in the workforce and your company or business is looking for a way to improve the bond and cooperation between employees, there's nothing like a special square dance session to help teach teamwork to workers. You can connect with caller-teachers capable of conducting such sessions through the links seen below.
I hope that I’ve influenced you to discover square dancing for yourself. To learn more about the recreation or the location of New Dancer Dances near you, here’s the contact information:
Toll-free “Infoline” telephone: 1-800-335-9433
Learn more at the web site of the B.C. Square and Round Dance Federation:
Toll-free telephone: 1-866-206-6696
Learn more at the web site of the Canadian Square and Round Dance Society:
By the way, to the men out there who feel like they have two left feet when it comes to dance, try square dancing. There really aren’t any “steps,” as such. You simply shuffle to the rhythm of the music. Basically, if you can walk, you can do it. Get out and enjoy life! I hope to meet you on the dance floor soon.