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High Country Squares graduates pass the test

On Nov. 21, 10 new members (eight present) were inducted into the High Country Squares ranks in a moving ceremony that included a written test, a dance test and final graduation. Everyone passed with flying colors, a culmination of six months of beginning lessons with Jim Park.

Our club is very proud of this new crop of dancers, who will hone their skills over winter during the Monday evening club dance nights.

Graduation of the Mainstream dance program brings opportunities to learn the more complicated calls of the Plus program. Most of the High Country Squares members are plus level dancers and appreciate a chance to kick up their heels and fly around the square a bit faster to a lively Plus tip once in a while.

Recently, I attended a very large Square Dance Festival in Indio, Calif., that was dedicated to Plus level dancing. Seven of the top callers in the U.S. took turns during the more energetic workshops trying to call so fast we could barely keep up. It was exhilarating to dance with so many fast footed and friendly people. Concentrating on the voice of the caller, and then executing his or her commands at lightening speed, as a group can be tricky business.

My favorite “square” to dance with was a high-spirited group of octogenarians who were teasing and laughing the whole time. One gentleman proudly announced he was 80 years plus, and then kept kicking up his leg and yelping in an exuberant fashion during the dancing. No slowing down these fun-loving folks — they had twice the energy that I did. It was a beautiful sight to see hundreds of dancers moving in geometric unison. I ran into friends from Albuquerque, N.M., Westcliffe, Colo., and Denver who had made the trek out to California for a fantastic festival.

Part of the reason for going was to attend a three-day Caller’s School prior to the festival. Jim Hawkins and his wife, Gail, from Pagosa Springs also attended. We had the great pleasure of listening to four great Callers reminisce over dinner about their humble beginnings in the field and many hilarious stories of the “old days”. One interesting fact is that back in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, square dancing was a lot simpler and danced at what would be considered breakneck speed. Now, we have more complicated figures and slower dancing with lots of creative interaction between dancers and callers. Going back further in time, you might have a number of callers in one raucous dance hall — a caller and fiddler for each square all playing, calling and dancing at the same time. After a dance finished, the caller and musicians were tipped a small amount by the dancers before they moved on to the next square. This is the origin of the term “tip” when we refer to a two-part dance tip.

Christmas festivities for the club will be on Monday, Dec. 19, featuring a potluck party and dance.

The High Country Squares offers weekly dances, regional dances and a wonderful sense of community for local and visiting dancers. Brush–up dance practice starts at 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Mondays, followed by Mainstream and Plus dancing from 7:30 to 9. Contact Lorna at 731-5525 for more information.

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