Do-Si-Do At 26th Annual Square Dance Festival

RIM REVIEW

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Ladies' colorful skirts will be flarin' as their partners twirl them around the dance floor Friday and Saturday night.

For the 26th year in a row, world-class callers and cuers will be telling dancers where to go and how to get there at the Rim Country Square and Round Dance Festival, held June 9 and 10 at the Tonto Apache Recreation Center.

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Sally and Jerry Myers and Ronda and Ken Caldwell.

"All I have to do is what the caller tells me and that's a lot easier than what my wife tells me," Ken Caldwell said with a gentle laugh and a nudge to his smiling wife Ronda. Caldwell is the current president of the Zane Grey Twirler, the local organization who hosts the festival.

Ronda danced as a teen in the 4-H Club, then again in the 1970s when she was living in the Midwest. Six years ago she convinced Ken to join her in a square.

Actually, she dragged him kicking and screaming.

"I enjoy the whole social aspect of square dancing plus the people are extremely friendly and will help you learn new calls," he said.

For the man who admitted he is not a music lover the voices of the callers make the dancing fun, keep his interest and challenge him to learn the steps.

Calling the squares

That mixture of 60-plus "mainstream steps" and more than 50 "plus steps is what featured callers, Jon Jones and Deborah Carroll-Jones will lead the dancers in.

Jones has spent most of his life in Texas. By closely listening to his deep baritone, his origin is easy to guess, but his speech has more clarity than the soft drawl often associated with Texas. He has been calling for 50 years.

Carroll-Jones spent most of her life in Los Angeles, Calif. and has been calling for 25 years

"I wanted to have a career with my singing voice that did not include a life on the road singing in bars," she said.

Three years after she first promenaded around the floor, she started calling. She is the only woman ever to have called in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

"Only 10 percent of callers are women," she said then equated her profession to that of a female disc jockey or news anchor two and a half decades ago.

The husband and wife team met professionally and have been calling together for five years.

"It's nice to have someone with whom you can speak the same lingo," Carroll-Jones said.

The couple performs and records together and individually.

As long as a song has 126-130 beats per minute, it has the potential to be adapted into a square-dance tune.

"Square-dance callers have been using ‘rap' for a very long time before (anyone else)," Jones said. "The difference is that most rappers sing in a monotone, our voices fluctuate up and down and harmonize with the music."

He prefers traditional, square-dance music that includes fiddles and banjos.

"Patter" is the term for calling to that type of music, similar to what an auctioneer sounds like.

Carroll-Jones likes to alter popular songs and choreograph them, alternating lyrics with calls for steps.

For instance:

"I hear that Father Dip Is gonna blow the blues And all that Jazz!

Four girls promenade. Put some shimmy in it, girls! Get back and swing the man waiting there. Join hands, circle left and move it along and now Allemande left and weave that ring.

Start the car I know a whoopee spot where the gin is cold, But the piano's hot ..."

To make sure her audience is listening she adds humor to the mix, substituting ghost chicken in sky for ghost riders in the sky or an ‘allergy to shellfish' instead of the original theme of a song ‘love that is selfish.'

Cueing for the rounds

When square dancers aren't squaring off in sets of four couples, they choose a single partner and dance in rounds to the cues given by the cuer.

This year, Barb Lopez is the featured cuer and she and her husband, Ernie, will teach the round-dance workshop.

"The music that is playing usually has a vocal with it because these are popular songs that we are playing," Lopez said. "Someone has choreographed a routine and that is what we are cueing."

Dancing to the cuers is just like ballroom dancing -- there are waltzes, tangos, rumbas and, Lopez's favorite, the foxtrot, among them.

The couple have been avid square dancers since they met in Germany while Barb was a civilian working for the Army. A cuer who was moving away trained Barb.

"We thoroughly enjoy the dancing itself," said Lopez who has been as a hobby cueing since 1982.

"I've have been dancing at the festival in Payson for the last six or seven years and I am finally getting a chance to work," she said.

Festival registration is offered at the door. The $25 fee includes workshops and dances for both days.

The public is welcome to come and watch from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. either evening. The Grand March is Saturday at 7:45 p.m.

Square dance trivia

Q: Square dancing is a combination of folk dances immigrants brought to America at the turn of the century. The steps were passed down as people spread across the West. What three men are largely responsible for square dancing's popularity?

A: Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw who formed a tour group of teens dancing "cowboy" dances. Henry Ford who saw a man teaching square dancing and bought the man's contract and brought him East. The instructor was Benjamin Lovett.

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