January 19, 2014

Worldwide dance struts its way to Myrtle Beach for convention

Squares really do fit in round pegs for a group that will dance up a storm this weekend in Myrtle Beach.

Squares really do fit in round pegs for a group that will dance up a storm this weekend in Myrtle Beach.

The S.C. Square & Round Dance Federation, with about 30 clubs, will have its 39th state convention Friday-Saturday at Springmaid Beach Resort & Conference Center.

Richard and Barbara Walker of Columbia, past chairpersons for the federation, said dancers and spectators are welcome to these festivities, a pastime for all ages.

“That’s the whole thing,” Richard Walker said, “to relax, have fun and make friends.”

The Walkers also have square danced on travels to Germany, making friends with a pair who include a caller – the role of which, sounding like “an auctioneer,” cues the steps dancers take, he said.

“We have friends in Germany, Colorado and California,” Walker said, “and we’re met these people through square dancing.”

Walker elaborated on the many elements and benefits of square dancing, and that he and his wife of 44 years got into this form of recreation as their children grew older, so the couple soothed her curiosity to check it out.

“It started as a date night,” he said. “The truth is we fell in love with it.”

Question | Just how far a reach does square dancing have outside the United States?

Answer | Square dancing is done all over the world. It’s worth noting that it’s done, that it is called, only in English. In Germany, they use square dancing for the kids to learn English. ... To encourage the teaching of English, they take square dancing right down to the elementary school level. ... Guys in Germany teaching it might explain it in German to students, but once they do it, it’s done in English.

Q. | What has made square dancing go so deep as part of U.S. culture?

A. | Square dancing came from Europe as folk dancing. ... It evolved as contra dancing, ... and from there, evolved into what we now call Western-style square dancing. It’s part of the culture, and part of the background, of this country. ...

A lot of people think we do it for competition. It’s kind of a fun hobby. It’s actually classified as a sport, which surprises people. We have an outfit, Western wear. There are competitions at the state level, and national competitions.

Q. | What steps are made to engage more youth in square dancing?

A. | We’re always concerned about that. It is for all age groups. We have some dancers who are teens or preteens up through people into their 80s and 90s. They come in all shapes, sizes and professions. We have doctors, truck drivers, teachers and homemakers. All that really doesn’t matter when you’re on the floor, where you’re all just square dancers.

Q. | How strong does turnout remain every year for the S.C. state convention?

A. | We have people come from New York, Virginia and Florida, and especially from up north, with the snowbirds. It’s not just S.C. people. ... We’re not that different from any other state; every state federation has a state convention. In a Tennessee event we attended, they had in excess of 800 dancers, with something like 19 states represented. ...

If you go to a national convention, there’s everything you can think of there. They have seminars, such as if you want to learn how to sew a Western shirt. There is a school for callers. Callers have to go to school and be licensed. ...

State conventions are somewhat like that, but on a more local, smaller scale.

Q. | Anything special lined up for the 2014 edition in Myrtle Beach?

A. | We’ll have a fashion show at noon Saturday; that’s where the ladies and gentlemen get up and show their fancy outfits. This year, the dancing format is pretty much the same. ... We do different levels of square dancing. ... We want to get as many people who want to come and dance.

Q. | What has made Myrtle Beach such a reliable, repeat hub for the S.C. convention?

A. | We’ve had it the last several years at Springmaid. ... Myrtle Beach has been really kind to us.

Q. | How many dancers attend typically?

A. | We had 49 squares last year. That’s eight dancers per square, so that’s eight times 49 for 392 people dancing. Add in the people putting it together for another two dozen to that, for 400-some dancers.

Q. | What other rewards come from the dance floor?

A. | You go and dance with people, and you form some really good friendships. That’s the best part about the whole thing: friendships. ...

It’s not really expensive. You could go to a square dance for less than a movie. ...

It’s good exercise, for your mind, body, and it keeps you in shape. People will say, “I’m too old,” but what’s too old? I’ll be 71 in May. On average, my wife and I dance six out of 14 nights, and sometimes more than that.

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