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Dancers square up in Fairbanks

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Posted: Friday, March 12, 2010 5:39 pm | Updated: 1:33 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

FAIRBANKS - In Fairbanks, an old fad is taking new roots as people mark their calendars for more and more square dancing festivities.

Santa Swingers Square Dance Club president Roger Christian admits that while the dance style is no longer in its “hay day,” — and the stereotype of overall-clad, straw hat-wearing folks kicking it around hay bales never really was representative — there are still ways to get one’s square dance on. Christian said his club is more mainstream, catering to beginners and intermediates. They also hold square dance classes throughout the season, and graduation comes for some this Sunday.

Christian’s group, and the more advanced Prospector Plus Square Dance Club, could be classified as “Hollywood,” because their dance style is more modern and standardized. The clubs meet every other week.

Typically, it works like this: The caller calls “Square ‘em up” and four couples form a square. They will dance about two dances before taking a break to sit down, socialize and eat some food. The next set of couples takes their place.

Christian said his favorite part of the dances is getting to socialize and laugh with friends. He began square dancing in 1984.

“My wife and I both like to dance, but neither of us like to go to a noisy bar,” he said. At the Pioneer Park Square and Round Dance Center, there is no alcohol involved.

For a more traditional feel, there is an Appalachian-style square dance out in Ester, held on the first Saturday of each month (information at 479-7959 or 455-6528). Lost Dogs band member Thomas Hart said part of the square dance joy is the old time feel of the music and dancing.

The Appalachian dancers don’t hold classes and are a lot looser on the dance floor as new people join in all the time. The Lost Dogs string band actually funds the dances. Hart and band mate Pete Bowers got together a year or two ago and have been gathering friends in cabins for dancing get-togethers since. Just recently the Appalachian dancers found a regular home at Hartung Hall in Ester.

Square dancing originated in Western Europe and evolved through the isolation of communities. In America, the dances evolved even further across the widespread country. This genre of dance is related to contradancing and in some ways to clogging. “It has roots everywhere,” Hart said.

Both Hart and Christian agree that while their groups’ styles differ, they would be able to pick up on the dance in each other’s company. Christian said that after taking the club classes, “you can go any place and be welcomed as a square dancer.”

In fact, at the most recent Summer Folk Festival, as Hart played with the Lost Dogs, he watched as one of the clubs came and danced. “We could go to their dances, too, and fall in,” he said.

So why is “Squarebanks” becoming square-dancing central?

“I think it’s everywhere,” Hart said, “It’s all over the country.”

Hart has the unique perspective of performing the music at the dances, and experiences something different than most dancers. He feels himself becoming a part of the rhythm of the music. “I feel how old it is,” he said, “it’s almost a magical place to be.”

Christian added that he really enjoys the dances. There really is no dress code, but some like to wear frilly skirts, slacks or Western wear. “The bottom line is that we do it to have fun,” he said.

Contact News-Miner intern Reba Lean at 459-7572.

IF YOU GO:

What: Square Dancing in “Squarebanks”

When: SSSDC, Saturday; PPSDC, Tuesday; 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Where: Pioneer Park Square and Round Dance Center

Tickets: $7

Information: SSSDC, Roger or Kandie at 455-7046; PPSDC, 458-7727

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