Are you familiar with the terms allemande left, square your sets, and promenade? Well if you haven’t heard these before, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. These are only a few of the terms you’ll learn when you join the Desert Squares Square Dance Club located right here in Pahrump. Whether you’re an experienced dancer or a total rookie, you’ll have fun participating with this group.
The club is made up of dancers from 9½ years old to folks in their 80s. Many of the members have danced for years and have participated in clubs around the country. It’s a physical activity, and you need to be in pretty good shape to participate. It’s a great way to get exercise.
According to the Mayo Clinic, here are just some of the benefits from square dancing:
• Burns calories
• Improves the cardiovascular condition
• Strengthens bones
• Can help the rehabilitation process from certain surgeries
• Increases sociability
Of course, before you start any kind of exercise, you need to check with your doctor to be sure it’s the right thing for you. But assuming it is, then why not give it a try!
According to the Alzheimer’s Project Journal, in 2012, the results of two different studies concerning the relationship between health and dancing were published. Here are a couple of excerpts from the report:
“For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise. More recently we’ve seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.
Most recently we’ve heard of another benefit: Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter. A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit. Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.”
So, there are good reasons to look into joining the Desert Squares. Keep your mind stimulated and your body fit.
To help you get started with this new adventure, there are usually two beginner classes offered every year. One begins on the fi rst Tuesday after the
“Beginner classes are held at the Bob Ruud Center…on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 and goes for 15 weeks.”
Fall Festival in late September or early October. The second one is generally in the February/March timeframe. Enrollment for beginners is open for the first 2-3 weeks of the new session. After that, you must wait until the next class begins.
Beginner classes are held at the Bob Ruud Center at Basin and Highway 160 on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 and goes for 15 weeks. If there is another event going on at the center, they temporarily move it elsewhere. Once you pass the beginners course, you graduate to the Mainstream Group. This group is for people who know the commands but are still learning how to put all of the moves together.
The more experienced dancers are in the Plus Group. The Mainstream dancers and the Plus dancers meet every Thursday evening from 6:00 to 8:00 at the Pahrump Valley United Methodist Church at 1300 NV-372. The caller, Wayne Walker, will alternate the “tips” (which is the name for every time you get up to dance) between Mainstream and Plus dances.
On special Saturday night dances, they also have line dancing between the tips which are called by Pahrump resident Teri Rogers.
When a member becomes experienced, they have the opportunity to become an Angel and help the newbies move forward. Sometimes, if the new students are struggling over some of the moves, there will be additional classes to help them along.
The Club is sponsored by the Pahrump Arts Council and is also a member of the Las Vegas Square and Round Dancers Association. Both the Arts Council and Square & Round Dancers Association are non-profit 501-C3 organizations.
Desert Squares is a self-funded organization with reasonable fees. The group meets weekly year round. One Thursday per month they hold a party night where they serve refreshments, and everyone comes in their appropriate square dancing attire. Women wear the full skirts over layers of petticoats, and the men come in their Western-style shirts with bolo ties and sometimes wear cowboy hats. As the membership changes, some of these outfits are handed down to the younger up and- coming participants. Other members have made their own costumes over the years. They are colorful and full of life adding to the festival-like atmosphere.
In speaking with the members of the square dance club, I discovered various reasons people join the group. A 13-year-old young lady said the main reason she participates is that she enjoys it! Her mother and 9½-year-old brother took the beginners class with her. It was a family affair. She noted how nice everyone is and feels it’s a great way to meet people…especially when you’re new in town.
When she initially contemplated joining, she hesitated for fear of being unable to learn how. She is shy, but her mother said the dancing really brought her out of her shell. She still gets nervous about making mistakes, but no one seems to care. Everyone laughs to help correct the errors and moves on. She has a lot of fun.
Her brother and another boy his age are both trying to encourage their friends to join. The organization is looking to expand the group and are especially interested in getting more of the youth involved. These boys are enjoying the experience and looking forward to becoming Angels and helping others learn how to square dance. Some of the adults in the group have been dancing for a long time. Richard and Deborah Van Matre have been involved for years and dance four times a week. They belong to two clubs, one in Pahrump and the other in Las Vegas. They also travel around the country and participate in many square dance festivals including places like Bakersfield Fiesta, the Annual Silver State Square and Round Dance Festival in Reno, and activities in Branson, Missouri. By participating in specific events, you can earn badges.
Functions like the different festivals each have their own badge or ribbon. Dancing in certain places can earn you one as well. These are called Fun Badges or Dangles. For example, Richard and Deborah have badges for dancing in an elevator with nine others (including the caller) and a dog, dancing on a basketball court at Pepper Jay and John Michael Ferrari’s Water Rock Ranch in Pahrump, and dancing in the High Roller Observation Wheel in Las Vegas with 31 people. Other fun badges include dancing in a pool, dancing around a pole, dancing in the moonlight, etc. They’ve also danced in Indio, CA with 1200 dancers, the Annual Silver State Square and Round Dance Festival in Reno with 70 callers who rotated every 15 minutes, and with the Ghost Riders band.
The President of the club, Gaylon Hutchens and his wife Georgia have been dancing for 12 years. They started in California and continued when they moved here. At one time, they were participating in three different clubs simultaneously which meant dancing every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday night. They finally narrowed it down to one club because it was just too much driving.
They both feel it’s excellent exercise. According to Gaylon, two hours of dancing equates to walking about five miles. The dances last approximately 12-15 minutes each with 5-minute breaks in between. He says currently there are about 34 active members in the club, and they are looking to grow the group.
Square dancing was in its heyday in the 1950s and has lost some popularity over the years. It’s a cultural event and has its own protocols that you learn. For example, you always shake hands and say thank you at the end of a dance. It helps kids with their social skills and social graces and also offers an opportunity for young boys and girls to interact with each other in a positive manner. It teaches structure to the young as well as to the more mature.
Dancers must concentrate on the present and focus. You need to listen and make decisions quickly as the caller calls out the different movements. It stimulates the brain. It’s okay to make a mistake as everyone is cordial and helps each other out.
Other reasons the members shared for belonging include:
• It’s a great way to get out of the house in the evening
• It’s a positive activity
• As mentioned before, it’s great exercise
• It’s a reason for dressing up fancy
• It provides a community feeling
• Everyone laughs
• You have fun with people you don’t even know
• It’s a great way to meet new people
• You can go anywhere in the country, even worldwide, and participate in a square dance
• You don’t need a partner; there’s always someone to dance with
• It offers an opportunity to let your hair down and let loose
• It’s affordable family fun Robin Niedecker, who is an artist, says that the dancing inspires her artwork. She sees the geometric patterns and uses them in her painting and drawing. Wayne Walker has been involved with square dancing since 1968. He was never a caller until he came to Pahrump, and he’s been doing it for five years. Before he arrived, the group was using CDs and looking up the various movements. Wayne decided to teach himself how to become a caller. He watches other callers and takes advice from the dancers. He’s also had to learn how to teach the dances to others.
He has danced with people from all over the world and with many different partners. Some didn’t speak English even though square dancing is always called in English. He enjoys the friends he’s made throughout the world as well as those he’s made in Pahrump. He doesn’t dance much ever since he became the caller. He only gets to dance when a guest caller visits.
According to him, there are no set patterns to square dancing; you have to do what the caller says. You have to pay attention and Wayne says, “never trust a caller. They like to trick you for fun.”
So, if you’re looking for an inexpensive, fun, and healthy way to meet friendly new people, consider joining the Desert Squares Square Dance Club. By looking at the smiles on the members’ faces…you’ll be glad you did.
If you would like more information concerning the Club, you can call Gaylon Hutchens, President, on 775- 764-7879 or Wayne Walker, Caller, on 702-403-2146.