Square dancers packed the Central Cariboo Arts Centre Tuesday to kick off a new season of fun.
Each Tuesday this fall, until Nov. 27, the Williams Lake Square Dancers will be providing walk-in lessons at the centre.
Organized and run by the Stampede Whirlaways, the lessons cover the basic fundamentals of square dancing and are designed to be fun evenings of learning and socialization.
Dancers of all ages and skill levels are welcome, from Whirlaway members with decades of experience to high school students with none.
Mary Anne Turner, the wife of the Stampede Whirlaways caller of 41 years Nick Turner, said that they call themselves the Williams Lake Square Dancers for these classes because they feel many will not know what a Whirlaway is.
As the club reaches 61 years of operation this year, members don’t want to intimidate or scare away prospective newcomers.
“Every year we try to get new dancers to come, it’s a little bit hard sometimes because lots of people don’t go out much anymore to do things like dance classes, but we’ve got a fairly interesting group of young people who walked through the door today,” Turner said.
Turner has been learning how to cultivate an online presence for the group, as she feels that her posts have been able to spread the word better among young people than traditional advertising could.
After the first free lessons, Turner said there would be 10 more classes every Tuesday where prospective dancers would learn the 68 moves required to dance with the Whirlaways, providing they want to continue dancing at its end.
“Circle left is one, circle right is another, so it’s not as hard as it sounds,” Turner stated, joking “Whether they come back or not we’ll see, but it sounds like they’re having fun… they’re all smiling and they seem to know left from right, so that’s a good start.”
For Turner, the club has endured for so many years because square dancing is “the perfect activity” that checks all the boxes. Combining gentle exercise with a strong social element, Turner said that everyone who attends is friendly, kind and most of all sociable, giving like-minded people a chance to get to know one another and take part in an activity that’s off a screen.
Costs for the classes going forward is only $5 per adult, while students get in for $2.50 a night, which Turner thinks is pretty reasonable.
“The more dancers on the floor, the more fun it is for everybody, so we welcome everybody,” she concluded.
Tyla Garreau and Phoenix Sim were new to dancing and some of the dozen first-timers that came out for the free night. Their grandmothers brought them out and while a group of friends who promised to attend had not made an appearance, the two were enjoying themselves a lot.
“I think it’s really fun and educational,” Sim said, adding that she was interested in continuing with the lessons.
“It gives me something to do on a Tuesday night rather than just sit at home,” Garreau said simply.