Mary Anne Turner (centre) teaches Doug and Pam McIntosh of  Williams Lake (left) and Helen and Henry Hall of Lac la Hache (right) some steps during the Mexican fiesta themed jamboree held this spring at Glendale Elementary School.

Mary Anne Turner (centre) teaches Doug and Pam McIntosh of Williams Lake (left) and Helen and Henry Hall of Lac la Hache (right) some steps during the Mexican fiesta themed jamboree held this spring at Glendale Elementary School.

Square dancing exercises the mind and body

Just like country music, today’s square dancers are branching out — becoming cross-over artists in their own way.

Just like country music, today’s square dancers are branching out — becoming cross-over artists in their own way.

You will see dancers grooving to songs like Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ and ‘Hey Soul Sister’ by the rock band Train, as well as to major hit songs from the 1920s on. “Square dance music has to have a solid beat — the  50s 60s 70s were great eras for danceable music but lots of modern music is also suitable,” says Nick Turner, caller for the Stampede Whirlaways — Williams Lake Square Dance Club.

Traditional crinolines and fancy skirts may come out at inter-club jamborees in the spring but right alongside them you will see women dressed in modern broom or straight line skirts. And at the regular Thursday night club dances, the evenings can be downright casual, with women often choosing to dance in pants. The only real requirement for participation is to wear soft-soled shoes so as not to scuff up the floors.

Nick and his wife Mary lead and teach square and round (choreographed ballroom) dancing for the Whirlaways and are inviting empty-nesters, parents, and children ages 10 and up to join them in a series of nine introductory sessions to modern square dancing that will start this Friday evening, Oct. 19 at the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Centre.

No experience and no special clothing is required — just a smile and you can even bring along your two left feet, they say.

Participants will have fun right away as they learn the basic steps in square dancing that, when put together by the caller, become the dance.

“One of the joys of square dancing is that it challenges the mind as well as the body,”  Nick says

Mary Anne says the challenge is to listen for the call and translate the call to your feet.

“When I first started square dancing I was nervous; now it’s just second nature,” Mary Anne says.

The Whirlaways would like to see more people join their group.

“It’s a great social activity for empty-nesters heading into retirement who have more time on their hands and want to add a new dimension to their exercise program,” Nick says, “and it is a great activity for parents to interact with their kids.”

During the club’s regular dance nights, held on Thursday evenings from October through mid-April, Nick calls the square dances and Mary Anne cues round dances.

Round dancing is an easy way for couples to learn different ballroom rhythms as there is no emphasis on the man to have to lead, Mary Anne says.

Each partner learns his and her steps and all the couples do the same figures as they move counterclockwise around the hall.

At the moment Mary Anne says the local club is concentrating on the two step and the waltz because that is what the members want to learn, but round dances are done to all sorts of rhythms such as the cha cha, rumba, jive or fox trot.

In May and June club members travel to jamboree dance weekends around the province, and they host visitors for Williams Lake’s own spring jamboree.

This is a special weekend because it has a theme such as Fiesta, Cajun or Sea Cruise, for example, and for 2013 the theme is Polynesian Paradise.

“It’s a very social activity and each square dance club is like a family,” Nick says. “When you square dance at jamborees in other communities it’s like an extended family.”

On another note, the North West Pacific Teen Dance Festival has been holding teen dance festivals for 60 years, alternating between B.C. and Washington State and the Turners would like to see more young people from this area get involved in dance to enjoy those festivals.

Nick says there is also a shortage of callers and cuers in this area and in the province generally so he would like to see more people learn these skills so that a great traditional dance form can be kept alive.

To register for the beginner square dance sessions call Marie Gibbons at 250-392-5360 or Nick and Mary Anne Turner at 250-392-2432 or email

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