When the Zane Grey Twirlers and the Pineberry Promenaders invited me to their Aloha dance, I jumped at the chance. The two square-dance clubs are made up of mostly retired members and meet once a week to teach square dancing and also once a week just to dance. They travel to festivals and host local square-dance gatherings as well.
Being the youngest in the room, I was in no way the most energetic nor the most colorful. Square dancers take their hobby with a light-hearted seriousness. A couple can invest hundreds and even thousands of dollars in elaborate dresses and shirts that make it easy to figure out who is partnered with whom. But the smiles on their faces are brighter than the most colorful costumes.
The Wednesday evening that I joined them was a celebration for a handful of graduates who had passed the six-week course offered by the Zane Grey Club at the Lamplighter RV Park in Star Valley and a kick-off celebration for the upcoming Muscular Dystrophy Association dance the two clubs are hosting Sunday, Sept. 3.
The MDA dance will benefit the famous Jerry's Kids and be held in conjunction with the Jerry Lewis Telethon that has run for more than two decades.
"Last year, we raised $1,400 in just three hours," dancer Connie Stiffler said. They have not set a dollar goal, but they plan to take in lots of donations by having lots of fun.
This year the dance, held at Rim Country Middle School, will go from noon to 8:00 p.m. - a full eight hours of dancing, food and fun. During the all-day event, seasoned pros, beginners and kids are welcome to try their hand at square dancing.
Taking my own spin on the dance floor, I found a new language, too.
Connie's husband Carl escorted me into a "square" a group of four couples, each one making up one side of the square.
The object of the dance is to have fun and to follow the caller's cues or instructions, working in this unit of eight individuals. Phrases like "promenade," "dosy doe," "ocean wave" and "pick up the girl and take her home" have detailed footwork to accompany them.
Caller Larry Ingbert sang the phrases for my first "tip" or dance. His voice carries a light country twang as he sings along to popular country tunes, adding the calls in with the verses.
As I watched four squares each operating independently and yet moving with the precision of a Swiss watch I knew I'd step on my own foot or worse, someone else's.
I squared up and Larry was easy on me, he called basically a beginning square for my benefit. You must know left from right, he said - usually this is my first major hang-up, but with a strong partner my lack of directional sense was easily hidden.
We faced our partner and "dosy doed" to the right. Stepping in time with the music, we walked forward, right shoulders passing and then backward on the left. We held hands and circled left. We "promenaded," holding hands and walking side by side around our square. I learned how to shakes hands in a grand and have my partner "pick up your girl and take her home - kicking and screaming all the way."
I'm sure that is an official call Larry wouldn't have made it up.
The group was excited to have a newbie amongst them. Our tip ended with a yellow rock one of their favorite calls. A yellow rock is simply a hug of thanks for your partner and comrades in the square.
If you are interested in being square, even for just one dance, give the MDA Labor Day Festival a spin.
MDA Labor Day Square Dance
Noon to 8 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 3
Rim Country Middle School Gym
Raffle items and free food and drinks donated by local vendors in an effort to raise money for Jerry's Kids.