Square dancers seek new dance partners
Swirling skirts and circling dancers aside, Lubbock square dancers believe their hobby is just friendship set to music.
Square dancing, the state folk dance, may have been more popular in years past, but the Lubbock Area Square and Round Dance Federation of several dance clubs continues to offer lessons and plan events in hopes of attracting more dancers.
Loyd Cowan, who runs the Executive Mobile Home Village in Frenship with his wife, Mary, started dancing with her 28 years ago.
“A couple we knew kept asking us to, and we never had really thought about it. Finally we thought, ‘Well, let’s just go and maybe they won’t ask us again.’ We came out and we had so much fun that we’ve been doing it ever since,” Cowan said.
He is the executive vice president of the federation and has held the presidency with his wife twice in the past.
Cowan said he has continued dancing because it is fun, but it is also a good source of exercise.
Judy Tyree, president of the federation of dance clubs, said it is great exercise for both the body and the mind. She has been told three hours of square dancing is equal exercise to walking 5 miles.
“It’s exercise for your mind, because you have to learn all of the moves and recall them. So it helps tremendously with dementia,” Tyree said.
Almost equally important to the physical and mental benefits are the social benefits, Tyree said.
“One of the things that we say is, (square dancing is) friendship set to music,” she said.
In 1985, the federation had more than 1,500 members of several clubs. Those members each purchased a $25 bond to buy a permanent dance home at 2305 120th St. The federation members added a hardwood floor and kitchen to the warehouse and maintain the building to this day.
“We’re probably the nicest membership-owned building in the state,” Cowan said.
At a “Burn the Note Dance” to celebrate the building’s payoff in 1991, there were more than 250 square dancers at one dance, Cowan said.
But the membership has dwindled to just more than 100.
Tyree said none of the members are sure why the numbers are dropping, but she believes there are more things calling on people’s time these days.
“I don’t believe people get out and visit. I don’t believe people know their next-door neighbor anymore,” Tyree said. “For that reason, I think there are fewer and fewer people.”
Traditionally, Tyree said, word of mouth was the best way to get more dancers. But eventually, she said, members have asked all of their friends and don’t know of anyone else to ask.
“Back in those days, there were a lot more clubs,” Tyree said of the days when the building was purchased.
The club of which she and Cowan are members, Levi and Laces, was not the first in the Lubbock area; that distinction belongs to a now defunct club known as the Gully Jumpers, according to Cowan.
Levi and Laces has been in existence for 63 years, and Cowan said it may be the oldest active square dance club in the state.
To attract more people, the federation has been trying to encourage its seven clubs to offer square dancing lessons. Levi and Laces is offering lessons on Monday nights; it costs $75 for six months of lessons.
Dances are held just about every night, Tyree said, and dancers can attend any dance by paying club dues of $25 per three months.
“It’s one of the cheapest forms of entertainment that you can get,” Tyree said.
The federation is also seeking new members in other ways, such as entering the recent Fourth on Broadway parade in Lubbock.
They also try out new forms of music, with the caller choosing songs that may stretch them a bit.
Cowan said he really enjoys dancing to country and western songs, as well as older rock songs from Elvis.
But the dancers can and do dance to all sorts of music, Tyree said.
“We do country, we do blue grass, we do gospel, we do rock. One of the ones we had going at the time of the parade was “Blurred Lines,” which that doesn’t mean a thing to me, but to young people it does,” Tyree said, hastening to add the dancers used a version without the words to the song.
Square and round dancing, or ballroom dancing with a caller called a cuer, takes time to learn. But Tyree said there is no penalty for making a mistake during square dancing. The activity is for fun, she said.
“That’s why we want people to come out. It’s just fun,” Tyree said.
“That’s what it’s all about, to come out and have a good time,” Cowan said.
To ask about lessons or events, call Tyree at 747-4344 or visit the Lubbock Area Square and Round Dance Federation website at squaredancelubbocktx.com.
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