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Thursday, 06 March 2014 09:58

Square dance club continues a long tradition

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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There is a long tradition of square and round dancing in southwest Saskatchewan that is still carried on by the dedicated members of the Swift Current Square Dance Club.

The club hosted a special Valentine dance at the Bright Beginnings Family Centre (formerly the Entrepreneurial Centre) on Feb. 21 that was attended by dancers from Elrose, Kindersley, Moose Jaw and Rosetown.
The evening started with a pot luck supper and the guest caller/cuer couple was Dale and Katherine Olson from Rosetown, who took turns to lead the square and round dancers through their steps.
Swift Current Square Dance Club President Mike Frankow has only been a club member for three and a half years and is really enjoying it.
“You’re socializing with all the dancers,” he said. “You’re not just dancing with one individual.  You’re dancing with everybody in the square.”
Each square consists of eight dancers and it is both a mental and physical challenge to go through a sequence of steps with the help of a caller.
“That’s the wonderful thing about it,” long-time dancer Olive (Ollie) Waker said. “It’s not only exercise. It’s for the body and the mind.”
She came to Swift Current in the early 1950s to teach dancing and met her husband through the Old Time Dance Club, which later became the Swift Current Square Dance Club. She joined the club in 1955, when he was already a member.
“When I started they had an orchestra and they were doing a lot of pattern dancing, like couples dancing,” she recalled. “They had only two squares. They square danced twice during the evening.”
She and her husband took a break from dancing for a few years to start a family and when they returned in 1959 the club had a greater focus on square dancing.
“They were doing more square dancing, less couples dancing, and the caller had been away and he had learned so much more,” she said. “He came back and we were doing modern square dancing instead of the old-time dancing.”
The club’s caller at the time was Harold Newlove, who played a significant role to promote square dancing in the region. He used a PA system and played records at dances instead of the usual orchestra.
“That made it so much easier for clubs to get started,” Waker said. “So all the little communities began to square dance because they had these records and they could get a PA system.”
Newlove went out to smaller communities to call at their dances until they had their own caller and he helped to start clubs in Elrose, Ernfold, Gull Lake, Neville, Shaunavon and Success.
“Harold had workshops and they came in to Swift Current and it spread,” Waker said. “In the latter part of the fifties and sixties there was a lot of dancing in the area. Just about every little community had a square dance club.”
In Swift Current the Old Time Dance Club adopted a new constitution in 1962 and changed its name to the Swift Current Square Dance Club. It was during this time that Waker started to teach round dances and she continued to do that for 45 years.
“During the evening at the square dance we do two rounds, but there were many that liked the round dancing and they wanted to learn and so the Swift Current club started what they called round dance evenings,” she recalled.
This interest in round dancing resulted in the start of a round dance club in Swift Current. Renz Struik is currently the round dance teacher and the club is known as Renz’s Rounds.
Waker has remained involved with round dancing and she is also an active member of the square dance club.
“It’s changed, but the thing that has stayed the same is the friendship of it,” she said about the club. “It didn’t matter if you were the banker or the farmer, as long as you were dancing. The great thing about square dancing is friendship.”
According the Frankow the square dance club in Swift Current has about 31 members at the moment.
“We’re the lowest we’ve been for a long time because we’ve had a lot of sickness in the last year and a few members passing away,” he said.
Most of the club members are getting older and recruitment of new members is a real challenge.
“I don’t know, but the younger people aren’t interested in it,” he said. “We learned to dance when we were kids. We used to go to the dance hall with my mother and dad ... and sometimes you have to go up and dance with your mother or dad because they would take you out dancing. ... They were a lot of fun. All the kids were there.”
The Swift Current Square Dance Club and the Southwest Saskatchewan Zone 6 executive look forward to hosting the annual Saskatchewan Square and Round Dance Federation dance weekend in November 2015.
The event will take place at Swift Current Comprehensive High School and a committee is already working on the arrangements for the event.
The provincial federation represents and promotes square and round dancing and clogging throughout the province and the dance weekend is an opportunity for everybody to share their love for dancing.
“We’re hoping to get people to come to watch,” Waker said. “It will be open to people to come to watch and see all the activity. We’re hoping to have the cloggers there, and the round dances and we’ll have rooms for all the different sessions going on.”
The club’s intention is to get more young people interested in round and square dancing before the provincial event. If they are able to start with lessons next fall, they will be ready to participate in the federation weekend in 2015.
Dance season is from September to April for the square and round dancers and from September to May for the cloggers. The Speedy Creek Cloggers meet Monday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Col. Clifton Centre. Renz’s Rounds members also meet on Monday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Oman School.
The Swift Current Square Dance Club meets every Friday evening from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Bright Beginnings Family Centre (the former Entrepreneurial Centre). For more information, contact Mike Frankow at 306-773-4529.

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