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Swing your partner, do-si-do

Square dance group steps up and steps out

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July 24th, 2014
Members of Ann’s Choice Squares dressed for a hoedown include (from left) Janet and Harold Whaling, Rose Torgerson, Dave Berman, Isabelle Dick, Sharon Brand, Virginia Caldeira, and Harry Shuster.
Members of Ann’s Choice Squares dressed for a hoed

Of the 149 clubs and activities at Choice, the one guaranteed to keep participants on their toes is the square dance group called Ann’s Choice Squares.

The two-hour Tuesday afternoon hoedown sessions at EricksonLiving’s retirement community in Bucks County, Pa., attract an enthusiastic and light-footed group of residents.

Besides the congeniality of being with neighbors, they say square dancing is just plain fun. 

Mastering the steps

It’s Isabelle Dick’s favorite activity. She’d only square-danced about three times before moving from Lower Southampton seven years ago. Her husband doesn’t square-dance, so she partnered with another resident who helped her master the steps.

Mastery doesn’t come immediately. There are 68 moves in square dancing’s “mainstream” program, says the group’s caller, resident Ginny Reaske. 

Most of the Ann’s Choice Squares’ members dance at the mainstream level. But novices are always welcome. “We work them in,” Ginny says. “I offer tips and partner them with more experienced dancers.” 

A decades-long caller with an international reputation, Ginny also calls for other area square dance clubs, teaches beginners lessons, and mentors new callers. 

Ann’s Choice Squares is her most convenient gig because she simply rides the elevator downstairs to the community’s multipurpose room for the Tuesday sessions. And twice a week she and some of the square dancers get together for dinner at a campus restaurant.

Dancers socialize on Tuesdays by chitchatting while they sit out a dance or two to catch their breath. 

Calling the moves

Square dancing exercises body and mind both. Besides remembering those 68 different moves, dancers must stay alert because they never know what move Ginny will call next. 

She can play the same tune over and over and vary her calls each time. 

“People who’ve had a loss tell me that when they square-dance they can’t think about anything else but their dancing,” says Ginny. “Because they have to concentrate on what they’re doing, they can forget their troubles for a while.” 

The group’s most experienced dancers are Harold and Janet Whaling, who dance four times a week.

Veterans of round and contra dancing, they’ve square-danced for ten years, are taking advanced-level lessons, and serve as presidents of the Perky Promenaders based in nearby Lansdale.

They knew Ginny before they moved from Levittown because she called for the Promenaders.

The Whalings’ square dance wardrobe befits their expertise. Janet owns about 20 fancy skirts and blouses and five billowing crinolines. 

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