It's Got It All! Discover Square Dancing--Inspiration From A Dancing Boomer

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:
www.squaredance.bc.ca/dancingkeepsyouyoug.shtml


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:

British Columbia:

Toll-free “Infoline” telephone: 1-800-335-9433

E-mail: info@squaredance.bc.ca

Learn more at the web site of the B.C. Square and Round Dance Federation:
http://www.squaredance.bc.ca


Canada:

Toll-free telephone: 1-866-206-6696

E-mail: info@squaredance.ca

Learn more at the web site of the Canadian Square and Round Dance Society:
http://www.squaredance.ca


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.

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Tags: alzheimers, dance, exercise, fitness, fun, health, mental

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Comment by Brian Elmer on December 30, 2008 at 4:08am
Lorraine, I'm glad that my blog about modern square dancing brought back good memories of time spent on the dance floor! As you wrote, remembering the moves does come back to you after time away from the dance. It's like riding a bicycle--you never forget how to do it.

By the way, I had a look at what they have in the way of "New Dancer" sessions in the Edmonton area and see that one dance club has a January startup. It would be perfect to introduce your man to the fun. The club is called "St. Peter's 2X4's" and the dancing will be Fridays, starting in January. The telephone contact is: George 780-989-0477

You might also want to consider learning to round dance, which is choreographed ballroom dancing set to live cues. A club called the "Wild Rose Country Dancers" is offering round dance instruction on Tuesday evenings in January. Contact Joan at 780-463-9381.

The city has a non-profit dance organization called the "Edmonton District Square Dance Association" or "EDSDA" for short. It represents all the square and round dance clubs in the region. Their web site has loads of information for you. See the new dancer session listings at: http://www.edsda.org/dances.html#NewDancers

The home page for EDSDA is: http://www.edsda.org

General e-mail inquiries to EDSDA can be made to:
edsda@edsda.org or telephone: 780-496-9136

Fun times are just a brief inquiry away! Don't delay good times. Perhaps I'll meet you folks on the square dance floor some day soon!

Brian
Comment by Lorraine Granger on December 28, 2008 at 8:22pm
You bring back fond memories for me...I learned square dancing in school and have been dancing since I was nine, I also love the two step, polka and old time waltz, just haven't danced much lately as my man can't do these dances. About 20 years ago I went with a friend to some square dances and it all came back to me, I had so much fun. I would love to do it again, we have just moved back to Edmonton area so I will check into it.
Comment by Brian Elmer on November 22, 2008 at 10:24am
Supplement to Brian's comment to "reel:"

Web page links in the message are as follows:

Clog America in Poland, Part 3, from Youtube.com (keep the sound volume low):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDAMZOOPfjg

Square dance clubs in the state of Virginia:
http://www.dosado.com/clubsorgs/clubsus.htm#Virginia
Comment by Brian Elmer on November 22, 2008 at 9:58am
Thanks, "reel," for your comment. I don't clog but it is available in my home area and in various cities around my province of British Columbia. Last year I encouraged a local clog instructor to go teach all the students at an elementary school. The teachers were looking for a form of dance to fill the need for a dance component in the school curriculum. She did go and the kids loved it.
A few years ago, a local Fall Fair featured a touring clog display group called "Clog America." It's all teenagers. They were fabulous. You can see them performing on tour in Poland on youtube. Just go to www.youtube.com and enter into the search position "clog america." I like "Part 3" of their peformance routine. Here's a link to that:


I see in your profile that you're in Virginia. There's lots of square dancing there--you should consider getting back into it! You know, you never forget the basic calls. See the following web page for active cities and contacts in your state:


Thanks, again, for commenting.

Brian
Comment by reel on November 21, 2008 at 6:56pm
I lived on a farm once and used to go to square dances once a month with the family. We all had a great time. When I went to college and met my wife she taught me how to Clog. I don't do much of that any more but it is a great thing to do. They do have square dance groups around and people do still enjoy it.
Comment by Brian Elmer on November 8, 2008 at 4:15pm
Thanks, Wendy and Rosemary, for your comments on my "Discover Square Dancing" blog. I'd like to see more adults, who experienced and enjoyed square dancing in their youth, take it up again. It's such a great social recreation.

I understand, Wendy, that in the early days of 4-H clubs, many included square dance sessions in their activities. I expect that Jr. Farmers was similar. By the way, my wife and I attended a well-planned national square and round dance convention in London, Ontario, in July. It was held for three days at the London Convention Centre.

Congratulations, Rosemary, on taking up folk dancing in Kelowna. It's great for people to be involved in dance of any kind. I think that it's a celebration of life to be able to move to music, forgetting the stresses and tensions of the day. I, too, am located in the Central Okanagan at Westbank. Local square dancers have done some display dancing on the stage at Folkfest in the past.

I currently volunteer to co-ordinate an extensive in-class square dance program in Central Okanagan Valley (B.C.) elementary schools. I co-ordinate the sessions, dealing with teachers for bookings and setup details, and another volunteer instructs as the "caller-teacher." We often teach every student at a school, grades K to 6. Many bookings run for 6 or more occasions, so the students become rather proficient in basic square dancing. Modern square dancing has four program levels: Mainstream, Plus, Advanced and Challenge. Of the 69 "calls" in the Mainstream program, we teach the students about 20 of them.

One of the parents of dancing students, at a school named "Glenmore Elementary," has posted some video on Youtube.com of his or her kids dancing in the gymnasium. The quality isn't the best but it' fun to see. Find it at www.youtube.com and type into search: "Little Kids Square Dancing in Kelowna" or copy and paste the following link: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=s8hxU8JXr9o

Thanks, again, for reading my blog.

Brian
Comment by Rosemary on November 4, 2008 at 1:07am
Hello Brian, I haven't square danced since I was a girl. My husband and I did some ballroom. Three years ago I joined Israeli Folk dance because I didn't need a partner to participate. It is great exercise and fun, our group performed at July 1 folkfest. I live in Kelowna. Thanks for sharing

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