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Community square dance, classes hosted by High Country Squares

It’s that time of year again. The only opportunity that brave Pagosans will have to learn a new skill that will bring joy and camaraderie into one’s life and possibly even romance.

First, the opportunity is our once-a-year beginners’ lessons for square dance starting this Monday, June 6, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the PLPOA Clubhouse.

As for romance? Well, that may be a stretch, but in a casual conversation with the leader of a large singles square dance club, she admitted that most of the singles have become couples over time. What a nice way to date and get to know your future partner! Couples will find square dancing a great way to enjoy quality time. Men who do not like to dance may be pleasantly surprised to find square dancing to be the right mixture of challenge and reward, and there is no better teacher to get new dancers motivated than Jim Park.

Jim and Fae Park moved to Pagosa Springs in 2007 from the Detroit area.

Back in 1974, when their romance was budding in Dearborn, Mich., Jim decided to study square dance calling. Fae was involved in music education with vocal music (specifically opera) as her specialty. She said “Jim never sang a note until he met me — he told me he didn’t know how to sing. I noticed that he had potential because he had good resonance. I wanted him to be a caller so I bought him his first music and books.”

Just for the record, Jim’s first singing call record was “Louisiana Man.” Every summer Jim and Fae would attend Callers School, which is a concentrated coaching environment for callers. With the vocal coaching from Fae and an appealing natural voice, Jim soon excelled as a caller. Most callers have a mentor, and Jim credits Bill Gracey with inspiring him and helping to put him on the stage.

When it was time to find some live dancers for Jim to work with, Fae provided a novel solution — her junior high school students became the first class. Fae drove them from school to a church where they learned to square dance with Jim. Soon the kids brought their parents into the club.

What started as a small group of kids practicing in a church facility morphed into a career for Jim working with huge groups of dancers. In Clawson, Mich. The Clawsonaire Running Bears had 110 couples dancing. Jim was teaching constantly. He estimates around 72 beginning classes over the years.

I asked Jim what he liked best about calling. He said, “I like to see the smiles on people’s faces, the friendliness and camaraderie that it creates with people”. He also mentioned the fascination with the mechanics of dancing.

Now that he has retired and moved to Pagosa, our High Country Squares benefits enormously having such an experienced and professional caller to grace our dances and beginner lessons. Jim and Fae harmonize occasionally during a singing call, and hope you will come join us for “exercise with a smile” — square dancing.

Dance and Social

If you would like to give it a try right here in Pagosa Springs or just come and watch others having fun, please be our guest at a free community square dance with pie and ice cream social to be held on Friday, June 3, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the PLPOA Clubhouse at 230 Port Ave. We invite anyone in the community to attend this introduction to Modern Western Square Dance with our caller, Jim Park. Come on down and learn a few easy calls, have lots of fun and socialize with our very friendly bunch here in Pagosa Springs.

Lessons start June 6

Following the free community dance, official beginner’s lessons start on Monday, June 6, 6:30 to 8 p.m. with our club caller Jim Park doing the teaching. Each class is $4 per person. The only requirement is to bring your left and right feet, your enthusiasm, and your sense of humor. All classes are held at the PLPOA Clubhouse at 230 Port Ave. You will want to be there at the beginning, if possible, so you do not miss out on any instruction. If you have always wondered what it would be like to square dance, don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to learn from one of the most experienced teachers in the United States. Singles are welcome and our square dancing “angels” will be there to dance with those who have no regular dancing partner.

The High Country Squares offers weekly dances, regional dances and a wonderful sense of community for local and visiting dancers. Contact Lorna at 970-731-5525 for more information.

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