Not square anymore: Local group shatters stereotypes
Mike Halley and Angie Clark have a great idea for a Christmas present - square dance lessons.
The two are members of the Oaky Doaks, a square dance club based in Oak Grove, and they say there are plenty of advantages to learning to square dance.
'Studies have been done showing that square dancing helps prolong cognitive abilities, especially in adults. It also helps maintain physical agility and balance,' said Halley, who is the group's square dance caller.
Clark has a slightly different take on it, saying, 'You meet new people, develop lifelong friendships and it is fun.'
The classes are taught at the Oak Grove Community Club, located on the corner of Cedar and Maple streets, just behind New Urban High School.
Lessons begin on Thursday, Jan. 5, and participants will meet once a week through the middle of May, Halley said.
'We teach 68 moves, and the club is solo-friendly. We welcome singles, couples and families, although children should be 8 and older, and accompanied by an adult,' he noted.
Clark said there is also the opportunity to practice those moves every first and third Saturday of the month, when the Oaky Doaks hold dances at the community club. Many of the dances have themes, she added, when the dancers bring canned food for the food bank, or in the fall when they bring school supplies for students heading back to school.
The Oaky Doaks have almost 50 members, most from the local area, although some people drive from Vancouver, Wash., Halley said.
The club is actively trying to recruit new members, and Halley wants to break down some misconceptions people might have about square dancing.
'We are not all hayseeds and we don't dance to just country music. I have called everything from Beethoven to the Beatles - we dance to country, blues, jazz, classical and '60s rock 'n' roll,' he said.
And ladies, he wants you to know that you do not have to wear the huge skirts. In fact, he and Clark noted that people are urged to dress for comfort when dancing or taking lessons, and that athletic shoes work just fine.
Another problem the group has is people thinking square dancing is just for old people.
When Halley was part of another club in Sandy, he and the group participated in the Sandy Mountain Festival Parade.
'When I came home I had a message from a woman who had seen our float and said she was interested in learning to dance, but her father told her she was not old enough. When I found out she was 31, I told me wife that we have to get some kids on the float next year,' he said.
Square and round dancing
The Oaky Doaks club was founded 51 years ago by the Oak Lodge Fire Department, and the actual name of the group is the Oaky Doaks Square and Round Dance Club, Clark noted,
The club has always met in the Oak Grove Community Club, Halley said, adding, 'It was an old grange hall that fell into disrepair and the Oaky Doaks played a great part in revitalizing the building.'
In 2009, the Gladstone Happy Rockers joined forces with the Oaky Doaks, because their own club was dwindling, Halley noted. The set-up at the Saturday night dances includes both square and round dances, he said, noting that he calls the square dances, and his wife, Helen, cues the round dancers.
In square dances, people change partners according to the calls, while in round dancing, people keep their own partner for the whole dance, Clark said, adding that round dancing is like ballroom dancing in the round, usually alternating between waltz and the two-step.
For the Saturday dances, the group uses recorded music, and Halley will give commands to the dancers, calling to the rhythm of the music. He also does singing calls, where he sings a song and inserts the commands within the song.
Halley and Clark are hoping that people will sign up for the classes, get interested in the group and join in on the Saturday dances.
They noted that it is an activity that a family can get involved with, it is good exercise and Halley added, 'It is cheaper than going to the movies.'
Take square dance lessons with the Oaky Doaks
When: Thursdays, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., starting Jan. 5
Cost: The first class is free, and after that it is $5 per person.
Where: The Oak Grove Community Club, located on the corner of Cedar and Maple streets in Oak Grove, behind New Urban High School.
Dances are the first and third Saturdays of the month at the community club; the cost is $5 per person. Ballroom dancing starts at
7 p.m. with the combination of round and square dancing starting at 8 p.m.