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Square dance club sees record participation

Beginners have one more day — Friday — to continue alongside the regulars of the Montana Mavericks Square Dance Club that meet each week at the Plains Paradise Senior Center in Plains for lessons.

Last Friday was a record attendance for the Plains club with 58 men, women, boys, and girls for the second class of the season. “I don’t think we’ve ever had more than this,” said Terry Watkins, who’s been with the club since it began in 2004.

Paradise resident Darlene Jolly, president of the club, said it was great to have such a good turnout for the second week in a row. She also doesn’t recall when they’ve had so many youngsters taking lessons. Jolly, the oldest dancer at 87, has been square dancing for 45 years and loves it. She said it’s great exercise and a great activity for families.

Plains resident Emmett Booth, 9 was the youngest dancer, and one of a handful of kids hitting the dance floor for the first time. They had 21 first time dancers at their first meeting on Nov. 3, and several first timers on Saturday, said club member Deb Pier of Hot Springs. There were also numerous veteran dancers on hand, too, with participants from Plains, Paradise, Thompson Falls, Camas Prairie, and Hot Springs.

Lorrie Lane of Kalispell served as the teacher again this year. Lane, a caller for 13 years, started with the basic moves and took it slowly through the dance steps. With too many ladies on hand, some had to don blue sashes to designate they were taking the part of the male partner. Instead of the traditional squares, Lane started her students out in a large circle — boy girl, boy girl — and explained the terminology, commands, as well as the moves.

“That’s too easy for you, I’ll have to think of something harder,” said Lane after they quickly picked up on some of the basics. As she went a bit faster and gave them more difficult moves, some showed problems in grasping the steps. “I’ve got special stickers if you don’t know you’re left from right,” she jokingly told the group.

Roger Webster of Thompson Falls and a square dancer for 18 years, said he still gets his left and right mixed up. Lane didn’t use music for the first hour of the two-hour class. Once she was confident they had a few of the elementary moves, she put them into squares, which has four couples per square with six squares spread out throughout the room. Lane mixed beginners with experienced dancers, called “angels,” in each square. Lane said there are 68 mainstream moves for square dancing, but she touched on only a few of them.

Several participants said square dancing is an excellent way to keep fit. “It’s a lot better exercise than walking around a barber chair,” said Glenn Miller, a Plains barber who was trying square dancing with his wife, Amanda, for the first time. Veteran dancer Michael Murray agreed that it’s a good source of exercise for any age group. He and his wife, Sharon, have been club members for about 12 years. Watkins also attested to the positive exercise outcome. Thompson Falls resident Charlie Patalon started square dancing as an PE class at Shasta College in California. He and his wife, Donella, have been Club members for about a year.

The Montana Mavericks Square Dance Club has 36 members from throughout Sanders County as well as Charlo, St. Regis, Ronan, Kalispell, Spokane and Port Orchard, Wash., and Sandpoint and Priest River, Idaho. It costs $20 a year to join the club. The money goes toward renting the senior center, paying callers and insurance. Each dance night is $7 a person.

The 18-year-old Bridger Bauer of Plains decided to try square dancing for a different reason. “I thought it was something fun that I could do in the community and I could meet new people,” said Bauer, who is one of the few new ones that said he’s definitely saying with it.

He also remained after the square dance lesson was done when Lane gave a session on round dancing, which comprises of couples traveling in a circle group, but making their moves as a couple rather than the multiple couples of a square. Round dances include a variety of music types, such as swing, foxtrot, cha-cha, and waltzes, and has levels within each type of dance and follows the commands of a cuer rather than a caller. The waltz has six levels, said Lane. The next class is Friday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. at the senior center.


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