Arts and Entertainment

Friendship set to music

Put the petticoats, Stetsons and checked shirts down.

You won’t need them to enjoy an evening of fun, rhythm and movement with the newly created Snoqualmie square dance group that meets at Cascade View Elementary.

This group of Valley residents and dance lovers from all corners of the Eastside is definitely not your grandmother’s square dance group.

The attitude is casual, beginners are welcome, and dancers range in age from 8 to 90.

As dancers gathered at Cascade View for a dance on Friday, Feb. 13, caller Cliff Nichols, who leads the dances, is the only one who remotely looked like the stereotypical square dancer.

Golden, embroidered guitars gleamed on his black shirt, and he sported a black hat. But the music Nichols cues up isn’t just country waltzes — it ranges anywhere from Frank Sinatra to Aerosmith. His only priority in picking tunes is to make sure it’s something you can dance to.

“Square dancing traditionally has a boom-chick, boom-chick, boom-chick,” said Nichols. “It helps your feet move.”

A new lingo

As caller, Nichols teaches new dancers the lingo that is the secret to square dancing.

“Square dancing is like a foreign language,” Nichols said. “You’re not really learning a dance, you’re learning a language. The caller teaches that language and uses it to move you around the floor, and help you have fun.”

For their first lesson, dancers need to learn the difference between a “partner” and a “corner.” In the dance, men and women alternate in a small square. The woman on a man’s left is his corner, and the woman on a man’s right is his partner. For ladies, the rule flips. Moves proceed from instructions to you and your partner, or you and your corner.

The rhythm of the music makes dancers want to kick up their heels. Nichols advises them instead to slide their feet. Otherwise, legs will tire after a good night of dancing.

Friendship of dance

Dancing may be fun, but for many participants at Snoqalmie dances, the real enjoyment is the people.

“We dance to share each other’s company,” said Linda Nold of Bellevue. “It’s friendship set to music.”

Nold said the biggest lesson she tries to instill in new dancers is patience in learning the lingo.

“Amen!” added fellow dancer Perry Spires.

Spires, who has been dancing since he was a boy and has been teaching the moves for more than 35 years, said he loves the waltz.

Square dancing has been around for hundreds of years, and it was popularized by U.S. carmaker Henry Ford, Nichols said.

Square dancing takes place throughout the region, and dancers drive far to get to regular events. The style of dancing has become an international phenomenon.

“You can go to China and square dance,” Nold said.

Square dance is popular in Japan, and Germany hosts a huge square dance camp every year.

Several dancers at Snoqualmie said they have dinner out, then come to laugh, move and enjoy each other’s company at dances.

“I love dancing,” Nold said. “It just gives you such a good feeling.”

• The next square dance is 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28 at Cascade View Elementary, 34816 S.E. Ridge St. For information, contact Joan Pliego at joan.p@comcast.net or (425) 281-3317.

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