Don and Rebecca Williams of SaddleBrooke Ranch have been helping others learn to square dance for over 15 years. They were initially introduced to square dance in the Chicago area. Rebecca explained, “Unlike some types of dance, learning all the calls takes a number of weeks. However, once learned you can go anywhere in the U.S. and anywhere in the world and square dance.”
Don admits he was reluctant to give it a try at first but quickly found square dancing was basically just walking to the commands or “calls.” The dancers do not do any sort of routine; instead, the caller directs them via the calls to execute the dance. Don said, “It is a bit like doing a puzzle with seven other people. When you all can do the calls proficiently, the caller will move you around in many different ways but will always get you back to your original position or home.”
One important aspect in learning to square dance is the help of experienced dancers to dance with new dancers so they learn the correct way to execute the calls. The Williamses started to assist with lessons when they were in Chicago and have continued ever since they came to the SaddleBrooke Squares Club. Rebecca said, “We have been helping with lessons every Sunday night for over 15 years. We really enjoy meeting the new dancers, and helping them helps us improve our skills also. Many new dancers return to help others, which really helps to solidify their knowledge of the calls.” On a typical lesson night often 60-70 percent of those attending are those who know how to dance and are assisting the new dancers in learning.
Don and Rebecca both agree that one of the things they like the best about square dancing is the friendships they make. You don’t have to have a partner. During a typical dance you are only with your partner 25 percent of the time in any case, so it is okay if a couple splits up in order to partner with and help new dancers. You also don’t need any special attire. At formal dances many ladies wear prairie skirts or a long skirt although some still wear traditional skirts with petticoats. Many dances are informal, and casual tops and pants or shorts are fine.
The Williamses have square danced in numerous states, several times in Japan and at National Conventions with people from around the world. There are also many square dance ocean cruises, and square dancing is also done in many areas of Europe so there are also square dance tours. Don said, “We were surprised to be able to dance with people in Japan despite the fact they knew no English and we knew no Japanese. The calls in square dancing are the same throughout the world, so we were easily able to dance together. It was pretty amazing!”
If you are interested in learning more about square dancing, look at the SaddleBrooke Squares’ website at www.saddlebrookesquares.com or call club vice president Bob White at 818-9482. He will be sure to add you to the list of those interested when lessons start again.