Square dancers shattering ‘old tyme’ image

Artists like Lady Gaga are helping to shatter the traditional “old tyme” image of square dancing.

Eugene Styba gives his wife Eileen a twirl during the 60th anniversary celebration of the Red Deer Square Dance Club at the Gaetz Memorial United Church

Eugene Styba gives his wife Eileen a twirl during the 60th anniversary celebration of the Red Deer Square Dance Club at the Gaetz Memorial United Church

Artists like Lady Gaga are helping to shatter the traditional “old tyme” image of square dancing.

Red Deer Square Dance Club member Eugene Styba said most young people think square dancing is something “old people” do while listening to old country and western tunes.

“It’s nothing like that,” said Styba. “We dance to everything from rap to rock to country music like (Baha Men’s) Who Let the dogs Out. That kind of music. If it has a good solid beat to it. We can dance to it.”

Styba 51, and his wife, Eileen, 50, are one of the youngest couple in the club. Eileen Styba said it took her about 30 years to convince her husband to give square dancing a whirl.

“I wanted to do it when we were younger but he kept saying, ‘no, no it’s for old people,” said Eileen Styba.

The couple joined the club’s 60-year celebration of square dancing and good times at the Gaetz Memorial United Church on Ross Street on Saturday.

About 160 dancers from around the province took part in a day of “do-si-do-ing” and toe-tapping entertainment. The traditional folk dance involves four couples arranged in a square. A caller who calls out patterns to the dancers from known movements and puts them in various sequences to music.

Red Deer Square Dance Club president Jim Newbery said square dancing has evolved from the 1950s pastime with simple choreographed moves to today’s fast-paced and complex footwork.

The music changed with the fancy moves.

“The perception is it is just old people and retired seniors dancing to old music and it’s not the case,” said Newbery. “Certainly there are seniors that are still dancing. Some of them have been dancing since they were teenagers.”

Newbery said square dancing may not be the thing to do on a Saturday night for most people but he is hoping for a come back. The club has about 35 members which is a far cry from the early days when membership was nearing the 200-mark. Newbery understands it is a different world from when entire families used to spend evenings dancing together.

“Back in the 1950s when it started, square dancing was a craze,” he said. “Everybody wanted to be doing it.”

The average age in the club is about 50 but there are the odd younger members joining. Newbery would like to see more younger people get involved because it is good fun and easy on the pocketbook and promotes fellowship.

“It’s not that hard,” he said. “It’s as easy as going on a walk.”

“It’s a huge amount of fun and great fellowship,” said Newbery. “Square dancing is called in English Around the World. So you can dance just about anywhere in the world you want to dance.

In 2013, the club will host the third Biannual Alberta Square Dance Jamboree where close to 500 square dancers from Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the United States are expected to attend.

The club hosts two square dancing nights on the second and fourth Saturday each month. The next dance is Nov.12. For more information contact Newbery at 403-396-3394.


— copyright Red Deer Advocate

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