Gather Round for Square Dancing


Howdy partner, as we say in Troy.

One of life’s immutable rules is, if you’re from Russia, Ohio, you learn how to square dance. We are square dancing fools. Well, at least half right. No Russia wedding reception is complete without many many versions of square dancing. There is Plain Jane, Honest John, Duck for the Oyster, Reuben Reuben, and everyone’s favorite, the Farmer’s Daughter. The Farmer’s Daughter entails, and I swear I am not making this up, turning the female dancers, in all their wedding finery, upside down. Martha Stewart would faint dead away.

Much later on the bumpy road to square dancing proficiency, it was brought to my attention that some people learned to square dance in grade school gym class. In Russia, gym class consisted of dodge ball, locally considered to be a blood sport.

Recently, many years after my latest Russia wedding, a friend asked if I’d like to join her square dance group. As you might suspect, opportunities to join such an assemblage don’t come along every day. Just on lucky days. My friend Kevin and I showed at Square Dance Central. Kevin is the one who told me he had taken square dancing in a gym class. In what was obviously a very progressive school, he had also taken drama and art lessons. In Russia, on good days if the levy passed, we had chalk.

He has not done much dancing since the fifth grade. The dancing he has done, he described as, and I quote, “tribal.” This was not encouraging. Because in square dancing, the four couples follow the direction of the square dance caller. The directions are not negotiable. However, there has always been room for a little free-style. You know, a trifling non-tribal wiggle. An extra twirl. Some flirty skirt-swishing (more on this later). Or some fancy stepping.

This dance group had it all. We had patient people who were instructors. We had a DVD featuring a well-rehearsed eight-some and a caller who insisted on pronouncing doe-see-doe as doe-sigh-doe. We were in an air-conditioned room with a fully stocked refrigerator. It was such a luxury being taught something I already knew how to do. (I’m the girl who has spent six months trying to learn a five-minute tap dance routine.)

Once Kevin remembered that the allemande left goes initially to the right we did okay. We doe-see-doed and promenaded and allemanded for about two hours. It being the first time and all, we repressed the urge to twirl even though twirling is one of the great joys of square dancing.

Twirling, and you’ll probably have to take my word for this, is a lot more fun if you have one of those giant poofed-out skirts to twirl in. If the women have them, I mean. Square dancing is not a hotbed of cross dressing. In the DVD, those women had skirts supported by yards and yards of gaily colored petticoats and the skirts stood out nearly horizontally. When they twirled, the skirts nearly took flight. And when the women promenaded, they would swish those skirts back and forth and create a crinoline kaleidoscope of color.

Naturally, I want one. But where, exactly, does one purchase a colorful, poofed-out, nearly horizontal, fully crinoline-supported square dance skirt? Square Dance R Us? As I am not a natural-born Google searcher, it took several tries to hit on something remotely acceptable. Even Amazon’s offerings weren’t nearly poofy enough. But Square Up Fashions has just the thing. Don’t know if there is some sort of rite of passage until you earn your spurs, so to speak, and are entitled to dress like a full-fledged skirt swisher. I’m guessing all it takes is a willingness to look like an escapee from Midwestern Hayride and some dough-see-dough.

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today

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