Square dancing partners Eileen Styba and her husband Eugene practice some steps in the kitchen.

Square dancing partners Eileen Styba and her husband Eugene practice some steps in the kitchen.

A modern spin on an old-time dance

When Lady Gaga’s Poker Face or AC/DC’s Highway to Hell comes through the loudspeakers, newcomers might be forgiven for thinking they’ve arrived at nightclub instead of a square dance.

When Lady Gaga’s Poker Face or AC/DC’s Highway to Hell comes through the loudspeakers, newcomers might be forgiven for thinking they’ve arrived at nightclub instead of a square dance.

But the modern music that can sometimes be heard at Red Deer Square Dance Club get-togethers is just the latest Baby Boomer innovation.

At age 52, Eugene Styba is among the club’s younger members and a strong proponent of mixing up the square dancing soundtrack to include other musical genres along with traditional Country and Western.

Eugene admitted that if he had to listen to old-school country all the time, he might not have lasted four years in the group. “Your eyes would be glazing over . . . But it’s not like that.”

The club’s guest square-dance callers have license to use whatever music they please, including classical, marching band, new country, pop and rock.

Eugene initially had to be talked into joining the local group by his wife, Eileen, 51. Now the two are co-presidents of the Red Deer Square Dance Club, which is in its 60th year of “continuous dancing.”

Eileen said she’d square danced as a teenager and had lots of fun, so when some friends from work joined the Red Deer group, she thought she’d give it another try.

“I dragged my feet a bit,” said Eugene. “Originally, I said, ‘No, it’s for old people.’”

But Eileen’s enthusiasm won out, and soon the couple was sharing an enjoyable hobby while getting some exercise and meeting people at dances and camp-outs across Alberta and the U.S.

Now Eugene is the one asking when the next dance is coming up. (The local club holds square dances the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, starting from an Oct. 13 event at the Gaetz Memorial United Church hall at 4758 Ross Street. Classes are held Monday nights starting Oct. 22 at the Clearview Community Hall.)

“We’ve made friends from all over the place,” he said. “Square dancing is like a big family.”

The couple say their club offers plenty of opportunities for socialization and the cost of participation remains low, with local dance fees set at $5 a person, including a luncheon.

The Red Deer Square Dance Club, with most members aged 40 to 80, is considered one of the younger clubs in the province.

The Stybas would like to attract still younger members to ensure a future pool of participants.

“It’s so much fun,” said Eileen. “It’s such a good atmosphere, a good family kind of time.”

Newcomers can look forward to September 2013 when the local club hosts a jamboree that’s expected to draw up to 500 square dancers from across Canada and the U.S.

For more information, please call 403-342-1509 or email eil_eug_styba@hotmail.com.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com