Square dancing is a wholesome activity

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    By Carla Roberts
    Special to The PREVIEW

    Photo courtesy Sharon Parker Carla Roberts’ square dance class, from left to right: Carla Roberts, Bill Wert, Bruce and Karen Swain, Rose Bueh, Alyssa Feyen, Don Coughlin and 5-year-old Leona Bueh in front.
    Photo courtesy Sharon Parker
    Carla Roberts’ square dance class, from left to right: Carla Roberts, Bill Wert, Bruce and Karen Swain, Rose Bueh, Alyssa Feyen, Don Coughlin and 5-year-old Leona Bueh in front.

    A new, ongoing class at the Ross Aragon Community Center continues every Wednesday evening from 5-7 p.m. Local music and dance teacher Carla Roberts will teach easy square dance calls at the basic level, with an emphasis on having fun. The drop-in class is free to the public and open to all ages and experience levels.

    Way back in the 1920s, square dancing became a popular American pastime due to an unusual PR campaign led by some famous historical figures.

    In 1923, Henry Ford wanted to promote a wholesome activity to counteract what he considered the evils of jazz. He chose square dance. The Dearborn, Mich., public schools received a dance program as did colleges and universities, all at Ford’s expense. A Sunday radio program was broadcast nationwide featuring square dance caller Benjamin Lovett. Over the radio, Lovett would call dances that had been printed in the newspaper the previous week.

    A large dance hall was then built in nearby Greenfield Village and a staff of 12-14 callers, maintained by Ford’s generosity, helped to popularize the newest old-fashioned square dance rage. Even Thomas Edison jumped in by producing the first 78-RPM square dance records under his Edison Label.

    Some modern callers still use their old records and turntables, but most have embraced digital technology, using computers and iPods.

    As for the new crop of dancers coming up through the ranks at the community center, here are a few observations:

    “I got to meet new people.” —Rose, age 10

    “I liked changing partners.” — Karen

    “I’m glad it doesn’t take coordination.” — Karen

    “Some people say they can’t dance but it’s not necessary for square dance” and “I was half behind you and it worked out most of the time.” — Peter

    “Lots of laughs.” — Karen

    Help us to continue this great Western Heritage activity in Pagosa Springs. Come to town and kick up your heels with caller Carla Roberts every Wednesday evening from 5-7 p.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center located at 451 Hot Springs Blvd.

    Multi-instrumentalist, singer and performing arts specialist Carla Roberts has taught and performed concerts in schools and fine arts venues in the western states for the last 35 years. Her Four Corners-based “Wild West Squares” program is designed to bring the joy of Modern Western Square Dance to people of all ages. Carla can be reached at 903-6478.