Tri Squares step up to teach new generation the fun of square dancing.
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.
Its 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.
Its a lot of fun, Eppich says. Its a great activity.
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.
Its definitely a gray-haired membership, says Eppich, 68. When my wife and I joined in 2000, we werent the youngest, but we were in the bottom third.
At last weeks dance, a small group of teenagers joined the throng. Eppich says they learned some smooth moves in school.
Its 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.
Its a team sport, he adds.
Dancers work in teams of eight called squares to visually weave the callers jaunty series of steps.
If one of you doesnt know whats 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 dont 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. Its a great mental activity. Its 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 whats 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 dont do it for awhile, youll forget, Eppich says. If you miss a year, youll probably have to take lessons again. Its easy to forget.
In the past, Eppich says, the free lessons have proven popular, bringing in as many as 30 students.
Down to earth
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 didnt think existed anymore, he says. They are very friendly, very down to earth.
And no matter your age, Eppich says its a fun, healthy way to spend an evening.
For people my age, its a pretty decent evening of exercise, Eppich notes. You arent 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, its affordable.
Its cheap, Eppich says. You couldnt 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