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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Representatives from Fairs ’n Squares in Framingham, Single Squares in Billerica, and Heel and Toe out of Manchester NH “raided” the Great Plain Squares “Tulip Twirl” in the basement of Needham’s Carter Memorial Church on Saturday night, leading to almost one hundred square dancers participating in the event.
Raids are a good thing in the square-dancing community, as there is all sorts of pageantry associated with attending another group’s event. Dancers wore name tags that advertised such things as how many raids they have attended, how many conventions they’ve attended, and any positions of leadership they’ve held. Raid participants also take the banner of the group they are visiting as a sign of good will, with participants having to visit the raiding dance group to get their own banner back. There was also a “split the pot” lottery of money that dancers could win, as well as various raffle prizes.
And then there’s the dancing.
Understand this: square dancing is no joke. In modern Western square dancing, as the Great Plain Squares practice, squares of eight dancers must memorize and perform over 70 calls, as well as the occasional predetermined response to the lines the caller yells out.
While some of the calls are self-explanatory, the overwhelming majority are not. Caller Steve Park would declare “ferris wheel," “promenade halfway," “chase," “New Yorker," and “pass the ocean," with many of these calls requiring the crowd to yell back a pre-determined phrase at him. The speed with which these moves were being executed was impressive, especially considering the ages of those involved.
For comparison, think of how often you go to a wedding and see twenty-somethings completely botch the electric slide.
While square dancing is almost always associated with the South and country music - and there were some country music songs played, as well - there were all sorts of different musical genres played at the event, ranging from Elvis and Madonna, to “Hot, Hot, Hot” from Buster Poindexter.
Park (as well as cuer Bev Boudreau) also deserve commendation for both controlling the dances and adding their own little jokes throughout the night. At one point, Park took a sip of water and declared: “You’ve got to hand it to the Great Plain Squares - not only do they give you food, they give you water with a little vodka in it.”
While many audience members laughed at the line (there was no alcohol at the event), one particularly quick member yelled back in faux outrage: “You weren’t supposed to tell!”
The basement of the church had to crack an exit at one point, because the dancers were working very hard. Many people were sweating from the exercise, which is just one more advantage of the activity. In fact, George Rappolt explained it could be life-extending.
“My former doctor commented that it probably added ten years to my life,” he explained, noting that it was a great exercise that was also low impact on your joints.
Classes, which are very necessary, start in September if you want to try to learn. For further information, visit www.greatplainsquares.org.