It's Hip To Be Square...dancing.

by Jordan Green

There’s a difference between being a square and being a blockhead, as odd as that may seem. Maybe Huey Lewis and the News did the best job of explaining why: “It’s hip to be square.”

When I first learned that a group of Alva-area residents were teaching square-dancing lessons, I was excited. For some reason, a lot of people my age think square-dancing is for squares and blockheads.

But after three months of learning how to do-si-do and Ferris the wheel, I’m having fun boot-scootin’ with my new friends. I met them all on the dance floor. I began taking squaredancing lessons in October, and on Saturday night, I graduated from the lessons alongside two of my peers at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. I speak for the three of us when I say that we’ve just about knocked our socks off having fun, and we hope you will, too.

Square-dancing is far from being an old person’s game. Although most of its members are older, they’re still young at heart because the activity keeps them young and healthy. The same benefits are available to anyone willing to spend a few weeks learning how to make the moves. Square-dancing got its start in Europe in the mid1600s, and immigrants eventually brought it with them to America.

It was highly popular from the early 1900s up through the 1980s. Although participation has waned somewhat, clubs are still around and eager to share with others the joy of this highly engaging activity. Thirteen clubs still exist in the Oklahoma City metro area alone, and several groups remain active in other cities and regions of the Sooner State. The Alva Twisters group is one of several clubs in rural Oklahoma, and the group is looking for new students this spring. Lessons will be offered one night each week and take about 12 weeks, give or take, to complete. The time and day of this spring’s lessons are to be determined. Lessons are free, and good food is served, too. Square-dancing is something I’d wanted to do for a long time.

My friend and fellow square-dancer Lovella Tolle, who used to work in the Northwestern cafeteria, told me about the lessons a few years ago. When lessons were revived after the pandemic, she helped me sign up. I was nervous when I first stepped onto the dance floor. The movements and motions seemed dizzying and fast-paced, and they all had funny names. Ever heard of an allemande left or clover leaf? I wasn’t sure how well I’d do, but the club members were patient, helpful and understanding. They’d all been in my shoes before. The more I practiced and got help, however, the easier it all became.

Before too long, it started to get fun. Really fun. With caring instruction and repetition, my memory and movements got better. I found new levels of joy as we kept learning new patterns. All those weeks and hours of practice came together Saturday night, when my friends and I danced the night away and, for the most part, kept the mistakes to a minimum. We circled, twirled and swirled across the hardwood floor at the Lutheran Church Hall in Alva to the tune of foot-stomping, hand-clapping classics that played over the speakers. Everyone was smiling, laughing and having a good time.

For a little while, the worries of the world outside the dance hall seemed to melt away. We were in our own world, one filled with the thrill of dancing. If you’ve never seen square-dancing, I’d encourage you to watch some YouTube videos of it and see how much fun it is. If I can learn it and enjoy it, so can you. Don’t just take it from me. Gracie Scarbrough, one of the Northwestern students who learned squaredancing with me this fall, said she was surprised by how much fun she had – and how many friendships she made through the activity.

“Square dancing is something they are passionate about, and the members of the club are excited to welcome in anyone they can share their passion with,” she said. “It’s super sweet, and I have a blast getting to learn and be active with them while meeting people and building new relationships.

“I would absolutely encourage anyone who is even slightly interested to come and try it out. The community the club has created is super friendly and welcoming. It’s a really encouraging environment to learn in, too.” Those sentiments are echoed by Rod Ford, our teacher and dance caller, who was inducted into the Oklahoma Square Dancing Federation’s Hall of Fame in November. “It’s just great exercise and fellowship set to music,” he said. “It’s just good, clean fun. The whole thing’s about having fun.” People who are interested in learning how to square-dance should call Twisters club president Melvin Evans at 580-829-3226.

“Come out and have fun,” Evans said. “We have lots of good fun and exercise.” If you’re looking for a way to meet new friends and learn how to square-dance, two-step or waltz, this is your opportunity. Come and find out that, yes, it is hip to be square.