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Swing 'em high, then swing 'em low, Turn 'em loose, and watch 'em go.
Dedicated square dancers still gather on weekends for workshops where they can learn new steps and meet old friends. Photo by Phil Houseal


Details:
Contact Sonny & Charlotte Ezelle at 903-734-7481 or via email at sacaezelle@hotmail.com. For more creative cues, visit this link: www.ceder.net

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Promenade go 'round the square...

by Phil Houseal
Sept 3, 2008

 

Swing your honey round and round,
Any old way but upside down

I heard that strange refrain coming from Turner Hall one summer Saturday night. So I pulled in the parking lot and strolled inside. I saw petticoats twirling, string ties flying, and whole lot of promenading. Turns out I had stumbled in on a square dance.

Meet that gal with her petticoat a floppin'
Shoe fell off and a hole's in her stockin'

You mean folks are still doing this in 2008, I asked Charlotte Ezelle, who appeared to be in charge.

"Oh yes," she informed me. "Clubs hold square and round dance weekends all over the country."

Charlotte and her husband, Sonny, sponsor this event and another in Arkadelphia in September. Dancers flock from all over the country to get together and have a "big time."

Swing 'em early, then swing 'em late,
Swing 'em 'round Mr. Meadow's gate

About 100 couples were registered for the Fredericksburg event. They attend two days of workshops, then dance into the night. There is no doubt that square dancing provides physical exercise, but many love it more for the mental challenge.

The Ezelles spend up to three nights every week dancing and teaching. Charlotte once asked Sonny how long they were going to keep this up.

"He said I'm afraid if I stop, my mind will go to mush," Charlotte said.

Gertrude is clever and Kathy is witty,
I want the girl from Kansas City

Dance weekends are rated by difficulty, with categories rated from beginner through plus, advanced, to challenge. The ages of the couples also edged toward the upper end of the scale.

"I asked one caller what is the average age of dancers... he said deceased," Charlotte said. But you couldn't tell it on this night. The group ranged from mid-50s to mid-80s, but they were do-si-doing and swinging their partners with enthusiasm, even after they had attended dance workshops throughout the morning and afternoon.

Hurry up, Grandpa, can't you see
You're not as young as you used to be

Back in the 1950s, square dance was hugely popular. I remember my folks going to a dance nearly every Saturday night. That is not the case anymore, and Sonny has some idea why.

"We're suffering now," he said. "One of the things that keeps attendance down is it's too easy to entertain yourself at home. Years ago when it was only one member of family working, the woman usually stayed home all week. Come Saturday night she was ready to go kick up her heels. This was very economical entertainment. A regular weekly club dance probably cost $10 per couple - that got you in and usually fed you dinner."

Crack that whip, jerk the line,
Let's start dancing and have a good time

Square dancing evolved from the folk dances brought to America by early immigrants. Someone would yell out to remind dancers of the steps, and soon innovative callers were inventing new steps. From then on, all you needed for a dance was a caller, someone to scrape along on a fiddle, and a lot of floor.

Ladies to their seats and gents all foller
Thank the fiddler and kiss the caller

Not much has changed. The gals still wear calico and gingham, and the callers still bark out creative cues.

Here we go with the ol' red wagon
Hind wheel broke and the axle draggin'

It wore me out just watching. I sashayed away long before that final call:

Honor your partner, corners all
Honor your opposite across the hall
And that's it - that's all