“Pass through, bend middle, swing through,” said the caller, Ron Mineau, as some 50 dancers wheel about. It is ’50s night at the Rambling Roses Square Dance Club’s monthly dance, so the men wear cuffed jeans and button-up shirts, while the women wear poodle skirts and pony tails. Everyone has a smile on their face as they dance to some of the greatest hits of rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop.
The club was founded in 1972. It currently has about 60 members, and meets on the first Saturday of each month at Fairwood United Methodist Church. Despite the name, the club does both square and round dancing.
“In round dancing, you have one partner,” the Rev. Nara MacLaren, treasurer, said. “It’s light ballroom dancing with cues, like cha-cha or rumba. Square dancing has at least four couples, and all four keep the square from breaking down. You have a caller who calls out commands, and the dancers keep up with those.”
Square dancing has 68 calls, which the dancers memorize by taking lessons, and follow as they hear them
“My father was a caller, actually,” Mineau said between dances. “I didn’t intend to become one, but when my father died, the dancers sort of determined that I would be the next. They even came to my workplace. At first, I just played records, and one side had a caller recorded on it, but after I played two, they all said, ‘You call.’ They ended up electing me.”
It is the caller’s responsibility to keep the dance flowing smoothly and give calls challenging enough to entertain the dancers, but simple enough to keep prevent mishaps.
“First, I memorized the steps, then I learned to watch,” Mineau said. “You have to keep track in your head of what’s been done, and what’s next. It’s hard to learn. Sometimes, when I see the dancers think they’ve figured out what my style is and what I’m going to do, I’ll switch it up a little bit.”
This spirit of fun keeps the dancers coming back for more.
“I first got involved about 35 or 36 years ago,” member Dick Cawley said. “It was one of my coworkers that said, ‘Come on, it’ll be fun.’ I’ve just been doing it so long. I love the fellowship, the fun and it’s something we could do as a family when the kids were growing up.”
Others enjoy the dance for different reasons.
“I got started in 1982, when the phone company I worked for moved me from Indianapolis to Dallas,” the Rev. MacLaren said. “My neighbor came out one day with her husband dressed for square dancing. I spoke to them, and they invited me to a dance. I just loved it. It’s also great exercise — I’m 63, but no one believes me.”
Although the members of the club are mostly older, they welcome dancers of all ages.
“I remember one time, some teenagers came in looking for something else,” the Rev. MacLaren said. “We just grabbed them and got them dancing, and before you know it, we had two dozen teenagers square dancing, and they loved it. … I think it’s important for people to know that square dancing isn’t just for old folks. It’s a lot of fun for all ages.”
This variety of ages also shows itself in the music played.
“I’ve got about 1,900 songs on my computer,” Mineau said. “I play cha-cha, new wave, Lady Gaga, anything you can imagine. Pop music, any genre. This is ’50s night, so I chose songs from that time like Duane Eddy and Roy Orbison.”
The Rambling Roses often add some variety to their shows by giving their monthly dances different themes. According to the Rev. MacLaren, they have had ice cream social, spring fling, snowman Santa, May showers, ballgame, fiesta and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day themes, to name a few.
The Rambling Roses Square Dance Club meets on the first Saturday of each month at Fairwood United Methodist Church, at 1712 Old Omen Road, Tyler. For information, visit www.squaredancing-easttexas.com .