By Marlana Ward
Square dancing has been defined as walking at a steady pace to a called pattern with musical accompaniment. This simple combination means that no dancing ability or rhythm is required to learn square dancing. Everyone on the dance floor responds similarly to the instructions given by the caller. These moves are universal to all square dance events, making it an easy way to connect with others and share an appreciation for good music and fun.
The health benefits of square dancing make it an ideal activity for people of all ages and physical capabilities. A dancer can expect to walk the equivalent of between two to five miles during an evening of dancing. Because the movements are low impact, the stress on joints is minimal. The Mayo Clinic even offers that square dancing can strengthen weight-bearing bones, help with cardiovascular conditioning, and possibly be a part of physical rehabilitation after heart or knee surgery.
In addition to the physical benefits, the mental benefits of square dancing can mean enjoying a higher quality of life for an increased number of years. An article published by AARP reported that square dancing could help decrease the probability of developing dementia. Square dancing has also been suggested to improve mood and decrease stress as the mind is too occupied with attention to calls and recalling movements to allow worry and anxiety while participating in the activity. With over 60 calls possible to learn and remember, square dancing provides ample material for the mind to ponder.
The social aspect of square dancing is evident whenever you observe a group of dancers gathered together. The camaraderie and enthusiasm shared by the participants adds to the experience that exercising alone cannot provide. The chance to have an activity to look forward to can give a sense of purpose and the feeling of learning the calls and performing them when instructed can provide a sense of accomplishment and pride.
You may have seen the western shirt clad gentlemen and twirling skirt sporting ladies of The Young at Heart square dancing club performing at various community events throughout Johnson County over the years. The club has been dancing together since 2005 and currently has around 24 active members. The group has been recently featured at the Mountain City Sunflower Festival as well as Old Butler Days in Butler, Tennessee. These public displays are but a glimpse of the enjoyment and opportunity that square dancing affords those involved.
The Young at Heart members have taken what they have learned and practiced on the road to take part in square dances around the country. The Tennessee State Association of Square and Round Dance Clubs, Inc. hosts a yearly square dancing convention in Gatlinburg, Tennessee that several members travel to and enjoy taking part in. The chance to interact with other dance enthusiasts, learn at the various workshops, and perform in a large group setting appeals to many Tennesseans and other dancers from around the country.
Some members of The Young at Heart club travel throughout America taking advantage of the wide network of square dance clubs. Some locations members have visited include Memphis, Tennessee, St. Louis, Missouri, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky. Because the calls at a square dance are universal worldwide and are always called in English, a dancer from Mountain City could travel to any other country with a square dance event and dance without problem. Square dancing is an activity that knows no language or cultural barrier, making it a great opportunity to reach out and interact with people you may have not had the opportunity to meet before.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.