Seniors Calling. Square Dancing


20160321_194625If you need any proof that square dancing is good for you, check out the group that do-si-do’s, allemandes and promenades every Monday night at The Moose Lodge & Family Centre on Trunk Road in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. With the legendary Ellis McDonald as Caller, accompanied by The Sundowners, Don Discher and Lynn Mazzanello, several pairs of feet were circling right and circling left.

“We’ve been having really good crowds coming out on Monday Nights.” shared Marjorie McDonald, a square dancer and wife of Caller, Ellis McDonald.  On this particular night, there were at least 60 people out to ‘chain down the lane.’

20160321_194832“For our special events, we have people coming from all over, including Traverse City, Michigan.” said Marjorie.

Diane Brechin reflected on the social and health benefits to square dancing.  “And, not everyone here has been doing this for a long time.” she said. “We’re all in various states of square dance experience. The main thing, is that we come together and have fun. Exercise is the added bonus to it all.”

In fact, square dancing is a very good thing for overall health and well being.

In an article titled :’Square Dancing for Fitness and Fun Improves Mental Acuity’, Dr. David Colvard and co-writer Russel Keen state: ‘Square dancing offers more than just physical fitness benefits because it “gives you an opportunity to develop strong social ties which contribute to self-esteem and a positive outlook” according to another Mayo Clinic Health Letter.  A lot of our club members spend as much time socializing with friends as dancing.  After all, square dancing is friendship set to music. Square dancing requires your full attention to the caller and split-second rapid-fire decision making (as opposed to rote memory) which increases your cognitive reserve. Square dancing is not only fun, but can improve your cardiovascular fitness (heart) and muscle strength and stamina. Square dancing typically burns up about 280 calories per hour in a 150 pound person.

20160321_194705 More energetic dancers may burn up to 400 calories in half an hour of sustained dancing.  Square dancing is a low impact activity, except when you stomp your feet and clap your hands to the lively upbeat music.  It involves weight bearing, side-to-side movements, and numerous turning and pivoting movements which can improve bone density and balance. Square dancing makes it impossible to think about the day’s worries, stresses and frustrations.’  Dr. Colvard was in private practice, Psychiatry for over 30 years and is the vice-president of the Star Twirlers Square Dance Club in Raleigh, NC. He is a fervent believer in the overall health well being that do-si-do-ing can bring to person.

Dancers from Iron Bridge, Thessalon, Echo Bay, Desbarats, Bar River, Goulais River, St. Joe’s Island, The Sault and points in between, were on the dance floor, warming up with a waltz or two before square dancing got underway. “Won’t You Come Back Lilly Dale” & ” Honky Tonk Heart” brought everyone to the floor.

20160321_194609With a stroke of the bow, the fiddle started working it’s magic in the skilled hands of Don Discher. Everyone started clapping & toe tapping to the beat, in anticipation of Square Dance Call instructions. Ellis McDonald took the mic, and led the crowd through their paces. “Bow to Your Partner”; “Backward, Forward, Line”; “Take The Couple Down the Centre. The Ladies Go Right & the Gents Go Left.” “The Corners All.” “Six Go Forward & Six Fall Back.” Those are just a few of the Calls that kept everyone in a square dance state of mind, and body. Concentration is definitely a great bonus of square dancing. Trying to remember all of the Calls and listen for new instructions is an ongoing symbiotic process. When you add in the music, the body just moves along. It’s impossible to not have fun. Diane Brechin was right about that.

With much laughter and happy hearts, all skill levels were sashaying  their way into a common enjoyment of square dancing.

20160321_202508Ellis has been Calling since 1950. “I’ve (Square Dance) Called mostly in this area (geography)”. shared Ellis. “Years ago we would have the Call for the odd Dance.  But now that we have regular square dancing on Monday nights, I’ve had to learn more Calls. In 1950, I played in a band, and in those days we had lots of Callers. I’ve been around square dancing my whole life. Occasionally we would have a dance and no Callers would show up, so I started to learn how to Call Square Dance. I do enjoy doing this, and seeing people have so much fun. The live music is a big part of it. Timing is important in Square Dance Calling.”

20160321_200824(0)Any given Call might be modified by an instruction specifying which dancers should do the particular Call, such as “heads promenade.” There are hundreds of square dance Call possibilities.

Ellis McDonald definitely has a gift, and the crowds coming out are very appreciative of his encyclopedic knowledge of square dance calls. The live music is  terrific with Don Discher (fiddle & guitar) & Lynn Mazzanello (keyboards). Their voices blend so nicely together as The Sundowners.

20160321_194429As newcomers to square dancing, Clare and Ross Weatherby started checking out square dancing in December,2015. “I love the fact that everyone here has been so welcoming to us.”

The camaraderie among the dancers was evident. Everyone cheered each other on, as Call instructions were followed by some who are well versed in the Calls, and some who are less experienced in them. What is universal, however, is the shared goal to have fun and get some exercise. It’s good for mind, body and soul. At $5.00 per person, it’s a real bargain. Benefits: Priceless.

20160321_203434Square dances were first documented in 17th-century England but were also quite common in France and throughout Europe. They came to North America with the European settlers.

Monday Night Square Dancing continues at The Moose, wrapping up in April. Everyone is welcome. For information, contact Diane Brechin at 705-254-4451.




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