By Carla Roberts
Special to The PREVIEW
Learn to square dance every Wednesday afternoon from 4:30 to 6 p.m. from Feb. 4 through March 25 at the Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association (PLPOA) Vista Clubhouse.
In this eight-week introduction to square dance, Carla Roberts will teach at the basic level, so new dancers can quickly master enough calls (or dance steps) to experience the exhilaration of dancing in a group setting. The class focus is for everyone to have an enjoyable dance session while learning the building blocks of square dance.
This is a fun, easygoing and free class open to families, couples and singles. Suggested age for children is at least 8 years old.
Call Roberts to enroll at 903-6478.
Old-timers might remember the joyous community dances or barn dances that were the glue of a hardworking agricultural community, important social events that were held in grange halls, old theaters, dance halls or barns and often included the whole family in a potluck social and dance. People got there however they could — on horseback or by jalopy.
While adults visited, children played among themselves during the evening and, after tiring, were put to bed in a spare room or on top of coats under a table. Local musicians provided music, a mixture of country, old-time hoedowns and even an elegant waltz or two.
By the 1980s, there were a number of local square dance clubs with names like Levis and Lace or The Circle Eights.
A good square dance caller was hard to come by and many clubs danced to records and then enjoyed larger regional dances with live music and calling.
Pagosa had an active 4-H square dance program, as did most other nearby towns.
In 1952, Dee Cox became the caller for the Circle Eight Square dance club in Cortez, while Otto Degner called for the Buckles and Bows in Farmington for 42 years. Degner was a nationally known caller who taught over 2,000 people to square dance and mentored Lloyd Husted, of Farmington, who carried on the tradition by mentoring a number of local apprentice callers, one of them Roberts.
A visiting caller will often be invited to perform for the dancers by doing a guest “tip” during the dance. While attending a big dance in Laughlin, Nev., this January, four of our senior national callers (Gary Shoemake, Mike Seastrom, Ken Bower and Marshall Flippo) invited Roberts onstage to share a tip and some five-part harmony.
“I was nervous because very few men sing in my natural range and I expected the key to be much too low for me. It was, but I had a great time ‘winging it’ on the high harmonies and just shouting out my calls when my turn came,” said Roberts.
In Pagosa Springs and other local mountain communities, square dance is alive and well and enjoyed by those who like to get up and move in a joyous fashion.
It is wonderful exercise for the body and mind. If you can walk at a brisk pace, you can square dance.
Square dancing is sociable and just plain fun. It involves a social component that solitary fitness endeavors do not. You are given the opportunity to develop strong social ties, which contribute to self-esteem and a positive outlook. Many people have made lifelong friends at square dances.
Cultural background does not make a difference. In fact, square dancing breaks down many barriers between cultures.
And talking about fun, just ask any square dancer how much fun they have.
Help us to continue this great western heritage activity in Pagosa Springs. Come to town and kick up your heels with caller Roberts every Wednesday afternoon from 4:30 to 6 p.m. starting Feb. 4 and continuing through March 25 at the PLPOA Vista Clubhouse, located at 230 Port Avenue.
To best enjoy dancing, wear comfortable clothes and clean shoes.
Multi-instrumentalist, singer and performing arts specialist 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.