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All the right moves

Tri Squares step up to teach new generation the fun of square dancing.


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Dale Brabham twirls his partner, Mary Theirl of Milwaukie, at a Tri Squares square dance in December. Square dancing comes in two varieties, teams of eight who dance in 'squares' and 'round dancing' with two dancers. In each type, dancers perform the moves as called by a caller, or cuer, who decides what dance moves should be done, and when.Dressed in petticoats and western-style shirts, the men and women are an unlikely sight along busy Pacific Highway Friday evening as they mosey on into the Tigard Grange.

Inside, the crowd of about 30 stands facing one another when the music begins to play.

On stage, “the caller” dictates a series of intricate movements the dancers execute in unison without skipping a beat.

It’s a scene that would have looked at home 100 years ago, but has long fallen out of the public spotlight in much of the country, and squaredancer Adolf Eppich has a plan to bring it back, at least locally.

The Tigard Tri Squares square dance club is one of about three-dozen square dance clubs across the Portland area, holding onto the traditional style of dance and offering free square dance lessons throughout this month to show folks what square dancing is really all about.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Eppich says. “It’s a great activity.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tri Squares dancers circle left as they dance the night away at the Tigard Grange. The Tri Squares are offering free dance lessons this month at the Tigard Grange.

Great mental challenge

Square dancing has a reputation as an old-timers’ activity, and Eppich admits most of the Tri Squares membership skews toward the 60 and older crowd.

“It’s definitely a gray-haired membership,” says Eppich, 68. “When my wife and I joined in 2000, we weren’t the youngest, but we were in the bottom third.”

At last week’s dance, a small group of teenagers joined the throng. Eppich says they learned some smooth moves in school.

“It’s rare to find young people” on his dance floor.

Eppich wants to teach the younger generation there is more to square dancing than do-si-dos and promenades, Eppich says.

“It’s a team sport,” he adds.

Dancers work in teams of eight — called squares — to visually weave the caller’s jaunty series of steps.

“If one of you doesn’t know what’s going on, you can break down the whole square,” Eppich says. “So you sort of have an obligation to learn the moves. That makes it a lot more fun for everybody.”

Care to dance?

What: Free square dance lessons starting Jan. 13

When: Sundays, 2 to 4 p.m.

Where: Tigard Grange, 13770 SW Pacific Highway

Info: Call 503-625-7626

The moves come, one after another, to form a fast-paced dance.

“Everyone depends on everyone else,” Eppich says.

What most people don’t realize about square dancing is how challenging it can be for dancers.

“You are dancing to the moves of the caller, so you have to listen,” Eppich says. “It’s a great mental activity. It’s an activity that takes some intelligence to become good at.”

Eppich, a retired hydraulic engineer, says square dancing took him years to master — a task that required countless lessons with the Tri Squares.

“Square dancing is one of those events that you have to take time to do,” he explains. “The only way to really learn square dancing is to do a lot of repetition to get familiar with the calls and get to know what’s going on.”

Tri Squares’ free lessons begin Sunday, Jan. 13, and continue every Sunday for the rest of the month. After the free January lessons wrap up, the lessons continue for the next six months for $6 per student per session.

It takes that long, Eppich says, to learn the more than 70 different steps that the caller might shout during a given dance.

“And even then, if you don’t do it for awhile, you’ll forget,” Eppich says. “If you miss a year, you’ll probably have to take lessons again. It’s easy to forget.”

In the past, Eppich says, the free lessons have proven popular, bringing in as many as 30 students.

Down to earth

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The Tigard Grange transforms into a den of swirling couples as members of the Tri Squares get down to some square dancing. The group meets for dances twice a month.

As much as he loves dancing, what keeps Eppich coming back again and again are the people.

“When we joined up with the Tri Squares, we met people we didn’t think existed anymore,” he says. “They are very friendly, very down to earth.”

And no matter your age, Eppich says it’s a fun, healthy way to spend an evening.

“For people my age, it’s a pretty decent evening of exercise,” Eppich notes. “You aren’t going to kill yourself, but you will move and get your cardiovascular system going.”

The Tri Squares meet for regular dances twice a month, and at $5 per dance, it’s affordable.

“It’s cheap,” Eppich says. “You couldn’t go out dancing (anywhere else) for this price.”

For more information about the free lessons or to learn more about the Tri Squares, call 503-625-7626 or visit www.trisquares.com




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