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Hip to be square?

New square dancing club puts notion to the test

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The American Legion, Department of Washington, 4th District, is forming a new program called "American Legion Squares," which is being sponsored by Doughboy Memorial Post #138 in University Place, Elk Plain Post #118 in Spanaway and Rainier Post #264 in Rainier.

What is "American Legion Squares?"

It's a program to support and unite Servicemembers and their families, veterans and the community at large and is centered on a particular activity. So grab your partners and get ready to ...

Square dance! 

Yes, really.

For those who don't know what square dancing is, here's a brief tutorial. Four couples (eight dancers) are arranged in a square, with one couple on each side facing the middle of the square. A "caller" calls out various movements that the dancers perform. There are many different styles of square dancing, and moves can range from the simple to the more complex. Here in the United States, the music used for this style of dancing is typically different genres of country and western-style music.

For those who are familiar with square dancing, you might be wondering - isn't this kind of thing for our grandparent's generation? Who does square dancing anymore?

You are in for a surprise.

According to an article by the Wall Street Journal, in surveys conducted by the United Square Dancers of America, about 36 percent of square dancers were under the age of 60. Less than 1 percent were between the ages of 19 and 29.

That statistic is changing.  Younger folks are joining the fold, with a twist. Some square dancing clubs have incorporated pop, rock, hip hop and alternative music in place of the standard country fare. Others have given special pins for mastering moves. Dress styles have taken on modern elements as well, and other incentives like food, games and prizes add to the fun.

Some of the older generations (and some square dancing purists) don't care for breaking with tradition. However, there are a number in this group that embrace the changes and welcome a new community to interact with. Plus, once folks get hooked, the older generations can show them a thing or two about the dance. It appears that it creates more community in the long run. Younger members keep these clubs going and the tradition alive.

Who else can show us something about square dancing and has some strong influence? Europeans love the square dancing tradition (the dance originated in England and France in the 17th century). According to Stars and Stripes magazine, square dancing clubs are wildly popular overseas for people of all ages. The United Kingdom and Germany boast the most clubs, closely followed by Eastern Europe.  Square dancing clubs have even made their way into such countries as Japan and down under in Australia and New Zealand.

Think you may want to give it go? Try it with friends and family?  

The American Legion Squares Square Dancing Club will offer meetings, dances and lessons for military and their families, veterans, and the general public Thursdays at 7 p.m. at Doughboy Memorial Post #138 in University Place just off Cirque and Bridgeport Way. Costs for lessons and dance will range between $3 to $5. Lessons officially start Dec. 6;  and membership in the American Legion organization is not required in order to participate.

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