Making squares is not for squares.
While the dictionary describes square as being “boring, rule-abiding or lame,” it is a notion musician and music promoter Denis Severino hopes to dispel with a family friendly square dance Dec. 29 at Carlin Hall.
“There is a bit of a stigma and some people are scarred by their memories of school gym class and feel awkward,” says Severino.
While square dancing was first introduced to North America by European settlers, an online history site notes that square dances were first documented in 16th-century England.
They were common throughout Europe but have undergone considerable changes in North America, including the most popular form in the western United States, which is closely connected with the country-western lifestyle.
But other square dancing styles flourished in the Eastern U.S.
“Old families in Appalachia brought the traditions from Europe and Africa that were integrated into the square dancing culture,” says Severino. “The African rhythms contributed a huge amount to the syncopated rhythm of Appalachian string band music.”
Severino, his wife Myra Morrison and Darrin Herting will accompany dancers as the Wayne County Hog Tie Band, named after a square dance move from Wayne County Ohio.
Morrison is a fiddler who honed her skills in Appalachia, Severino plays guitar and banjo and Herting will be on bass.
When the band isn’t playing, the crowd goes through figures or patterns with the caller so they know what to do when the music starts.
Talented caller Sean Fen is flying in from Ohio.
“Sean is hilarious and he’s got a good way about him,” says Severino of his friend who is a plant geneticist with a calling for square dancing. “And, having learned many regional varieties of dance calling, Sean is taking old traditions and breaking new ground.”
Like coffee houses, Severino says square dances encourage a sense of of community and are great events for young, old and whole families. Don’t have experience or a partner? Neither are necessary, so go anyway, says Severino.
“We want to keep it open and welcome for everybody,” he says, noting he held his first square dance last year in Revelstoke. “A total of 172 people showed up and had a great time.”
The event begins at 7:30 p.m., with an informal concert and dancing begins at 8 on Sunday, Dec. 29 at Carlin Hall, 4052 Myers Frontage Rd.
Tickets at $15 are available at Acorn Music in Salmon Arm. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Coffee and treats will be available by donation.