By Marlana Ward
Johnson County boasts a community full of diverse interests and clubs that celebrate the fellowship had by members who seek to share their passion with others. One such group is The Young-at-Heart Square Dancing Club of Mountain City. This group has been bringing joy and foot-stomping fun to the Johnson County area for over 12 years. The style of dance enjoyed by the 32 members of Young-at-Heart is Western Style Square Dancing.
“Western square dancing is danced to a specific series of calls,” explained Paul Stephan, group representative. “Music used incorporates a wide variety of genres, ranging from pop to country to rock. Music is usually recorded, but a live caller provides the instructions, or calls, to the dancers to guide them through the moves at a pace in time with the music.”
While music may vary from club to club, it is the instructions made by the caller that makes it possible for people to visit different clubs around the world and still join in the fun.
“Calls are standardized, so there is no need to learn new ones when moving about to different venues,” Stephan said. “Dances are held at different times through the year that each level, so there are many opportunities to go beyond the local club for those desiring to do so.”
As with many sports, there are different degrees of difficulty available in square dancing.
“Calls vary in difficulty, with mainstream as well as plus levels being the most commonly used and what is practiced at Young-At-Heart,” he said. “More advanced levels are practiced at times at some clubs.”
Young-at-Heart is one of four western square dancing clubs in the area with other clubs located in Johnson City, Kingsport, and Linville, NC. During the recent Long Journey Home festivities at the Johnson County Senior Center, the Young-at-Heart Club could be found dancing “traditional style” dances to the music of the area.
“Another style of square dancing is traditional, also known as Appalachian square dancing in this area,” Stephan shared. “The calls and music are more traditional and may be more limited in variety from Western style.”
The Young-at-Heart Club is always seeking to share their love of square dancing with others and want to help anyone who might be interested in learning.
“No experience is needed to start classes, and club members assist new dancers working through execution of different calls,” said Stephan. “At the same time, new dancers do need to start near the beginning of the classes and learn the calls to graduate and join the group.”
“Western square dancing calls are easy to learn,” further expressed Stephan. “Still, with many calls to learn, practice is needed to be able to execute them smoothly, and classes typically run for several months. Additional time is needed to master more advanced calls.”
The club opens it’s doors to those wishing to participate every Monday night at First United Methodist Church on Church Street.
“Start time for 2-hour sessions is usually 6:30 pm but adjusted occasionally to meet members’ needs,” said Stephan. “A class for new dancers begins Monday, September 17 and will start at 6:30 pm, running for about 45 minutes at the outset. Regular dancing will follow, running until 9 pm. Anyone may attend the classes to learn the calls for Western square dancing and join the club.”
“Experienced dancers are also welcome to join in both the classes and the regular dances,” Stephan encouraged. “Normal dress for Young-at-Heart is casual, although some members frequently dress in the western apparel that is usually associated with Western square dancing. Regular dances cost $5 for age 18 and above and $3 for those under 18.”
Additional information about the Young-at-Heart Club or the dances may be obtained by calling Paul Stephan at 727-9759 or Dr. Joe Ray at 727-1433.