Want to learn to dance? Exercising, socializing and mental stimulation are among the benefits

Round and square dances have been a part of Estevan for more than 60 years, and according to Bob and Marian Lees, the benefits of the types of dance are the same as they’ve always been.

The couple plays an important role for the Diamond Dancers and the Hitch and Vine Twirlers, which provides opportunities for round and square dancing each week. Bob serves as the caller for the Diamond Dancers, which handle the square dance component, while Marian is the cuer for the Hitch and Vine Twirlers round dancers.

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The club will have an introduction to square dancing on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the 60-and-Over Club at the Estevan Leisure Centre. The introductory lessons will continue until December.

“We like to refer to it as dancing for new dancers,” said Bob. “We’ll have them dancing the first night, and we will base it on the square dance format, because that teaches them the rhythm of music and listening to the calls.”

Two nights later, the club will have the first of its weekly square and round dance sessions, which will also continue until December.

After Christmas, the club will have an introductory night for round dancing, slated for Jan. 14, 2019, and then have more weekly sessions until early April.

“The round dance is all based on ballroom dancing,” said Bob.

“It’s choreographed ballroom dancing,” added Marian. 

Food is served at the end of each weekly session.

About 16 to 24 people show up each week. If they get 24, then they have enough participants for three eight-person squares.

The Lees became involved with the club in 1996. They were on the verge of retiring, and heading to Arizona for a holiday. Bob’s brother said that if they came to Arizona, and they wanted something to do, they needed to learn to square dance.

They started learning to square dance with Don Mortenson back when Mortenson was the caller. Mortenson retired in 2005 and Bob took over the calling duties. In 2008, Marian became the cuer for the round dance club.

The dances carry numerous benefits, they said, most notably exercise. Bob cited a Mayo Clinic study that says dancing is the healthiest form of exercise available for both the body and the mind. In an average night of square dancing, participants will walk an average of seven kilometres.

“You get cardiovascular activity, and it keeps the mind sharp, because you don’t know what I’m going to call, and you have to respond to the call I give. And it’s the same in the rounds (round dancing),” said Bob.

“It helps with your balance a lot,” added Marian.

Many of their members have danced into their 80s and 90s. And while they meet in the senior’s club, and the bulk of their members are at least 50 years of age, the dance lessons are open to people of all ages. 

“(We welcome anyone) from eight to 80, we used to say, but we found that 80 was too low,” said Bob. “They dance older than that.”

Many of the younger people who were part of the club a few years ago left Estevan after the price of oil crashed in 2014. Others who were part of the club have had to step away to concentrate on raising a family.

“It’s an excellent family activity,” said Bob. “My niece in Alberta has eight kids, and they’re all square dancing. They range in age from eight to 24. And then mom dances with them as well, along with their grandfather.”

Young people tend to grasp the moves within square dancing a lot quicker than older people, he said.

The dances also represent two hours in which participants don’t have to worry about the stresses of their day-to-day lives.

“And it’s a nice social outing,” said Bob. “I say that square dancing is a true social activity, because every time you get up to a square, you’re dancing with seven other people, whereas with round dancing you just dance with your partner.”

Marian loves to see people having fun while they’re out dancing. Once they master a step in round dancing, they become very excited.

“It’s wonderful to be able to teach people things they can enjoy doing,” said Bob.

The club also doesn’t have much of a dress code. They like to see the female members wearing a skirt, but the big fancy skirts associated with square dancing are now a thing of the past. They also like to have the men wear long-sleeved shirts.

But they recommend that people wear a smooth-soled shoe, especially on the new floor inside the 60-and-Over Club. They don’t know what it will be like to dance on that surface, but they hope it won’t be an anti-slip floor.

“We like to put it this way. With square dancing you work from the waste up. When round dancing, you work from the waste down. It’s all foot work in the round dancing,” he said.  

© Copyright 2018 Estevan Mercury

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