Whether it be round dancing, contra line dancing or square dancing, Mary Anne and Nick Turner love to dance.
In fact, Mary Anne and Nick met through dance and have spent many years in the lakecity teaching others the fun of this wholesome, social form of exercise.
Mary Anne came to the Cariboo from Langley where she had been an elementary school teacher for almost 10 years. During those years she had taken workshops in folk dancing and enjoyed passing these skills on to her students.
She was familiar with the Williams Lake area because she had often visited her dad, who was a radar technician working at the RCAF station on Puntzi Mountain.
On one of those visits, deciding it was time for a change, she stopped by the School District 27 board office in Williams Lake to see if there might be a job opening.
As it happens there was, so in the fall of 1978 Mary Anne moved to Williams Lake and started teaching grades 4,5 and 6 at Wildwood Elementary School.
This was a job she held for almost 20 years, retiring after six more years as the teacher/librarian at Poplar Glade Elementary.
Throughout these years Mary Anne continued to teach folk dancing to her students and to hold workshops for teachers
Nick developed his love for dance living in the Chilcotin. He first came to Canada from England in 1959/60 during a gap year between high school and university.
He ended up working on the forest fire suppression crew at Alexis Creek.
“I fell in love with the Chilcotin,” Nick says.
He went back home to England where he earned his degree at Cambridge University, then, in 1964, emigrated to Canada.
Once again he worked on the fire suppression crew and in the fall of 1966 began teaching at the school in Tatlayoko.
After a further 12 years of teaching in the Chilcotin, Nick moved on to teach at Crescent Heights Elementary in Williams Lake before becoming the alternate education teacher for 10 years at the former Anne Stevenson Junior Secondary School (now Thompson Rivers University).
Around 1988, Mary Anne says her father suggested she might like to try square dancing as a way to meet lots of friendly people.
As it turned out, Nick was the square dance caller for the Williams Lake Club.
He had developed a passion for the dance while living in the Chilcotin, and attending dances hosted by various people in the Alexis Creek area.
During this time he started to call the dances – a skill he taught himself using vinyl 45 rpm records.
He has called for the Williams Lake club for 34 years and now uses a laptop computer as his music source as Square Dancing moves into the 21st century.
Nick and Mary Anne also discovered that they were each, in their separate worlds, going around the district holding dance workshops for students at various schools.
Mary Anne was teaching folk dancing and Nick was teaching square dancing.
Inevitably, they got together to teach dancing in the schools.
Romance blossomed and they were married in 1993 at a square dance wedding held at Crescent Heights Elementary, complete with a pot luck supper for which square dancers are famous.
After their wedding the couple continued putting their talents together to host folk and square dance workshops for teachers on professional development days and for students during school enrichment events.
While hosting these workshops they soon realized that busy teachers would have difficulty finding the time to research dances well enough to teach them to their students.
So once again they put their heads together and developed an instructional dance program for teachers and community leaders to use.
The program is called Moving and Grooving and includes a curriculum binder plus eight CDs of music and calls.
This non-profit program was made possible with financial contributions from the B.C. Square and Round Dance Federation and donations from Margetts Meats, Springhouse Women’s Institute and the Poplar Glade Parent advisory group as well as other private donations.
More than 300 copies of Moving and Grooving have found their way into various schools in this district and around B.C., Canada, the U.S. and even Saudi Arabia and Australia.
“Every province has at least one copy,” Nick says. “That’s quite exciting.”
Through the years Nick has continued to “call” the square dances and Mary Anne “cues” Round dances (choreographed ballroom) for the Williams Lake Square Dance Club’s regular Thursday night dances.
“Mary Anne is one of the best round dance cuers in the province,” Nick says.
Over the years she has collected some 3,000 instrumental pieces and songs for round, folk, and contra dancing (traditional dancing in parallel lines) and has written the choreography for many of the rounds she cues.
Nick has amassed some 1,500 singing calls, arranged from popular songs for square dance and has over 300 tunes for patter music.
Both are constantly searching out new music to use and now find it in modern songs such as Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone.’
Recognizing a growing need in B.C. for more square dance callers, Nick recently got together with some callers in the U.S. to write a program that can be used to teach people how to call square dances even if they have never square danced in their lives.
The hope is that communities that do not have a caller will encourage perhaps a recreation director to learn to call and thus bring back this fast disappearing art form and traditional dance form to their community.
In their spare time, Mary Anne and Nick enjoy gardening.
“I’m the hauler of rocks and digger of holes and Mary Anne is the landscaper,” Nick says.
They also enjoy traveling and have taken guided tours to places such as South America, the Galapagos Islands, Ireland, France, Italy, Morocco and Iceland.
“After all our trips, we have decided that Williams Lake is as good a place as anywhere in the world to live,” Nick says. “We have four seasons and no poisonous snakes, earthquakes, hurricanes or tornados.”