Coronavirus · My Thoughts · square dance

Will Square Dancing Survive the Pandemic?

Lin and Larada square dancing
Lin and Larada Square Dancing!

To date, the coronavirus has taken 555,296 lives in the United States. Losses continue to mount; loved ones have died. In the wake of this horrible pandemic, will we lose square dancing too?

In my heart and in conversations over the phone with friends, I’ve lamented the future of square dancing. I’m a firm believer that square dancing with survive, but in what form is the question. Before the pandemic, we saw pockets of successful growth across the square dance world, but our numbers have fallen off in most places.

Many years ago, CALLERLAB, the international association of square dance callers, created levels of dancing: Basic, Mainstream, Plus, Advanced and C. Each level adds new calls to the level before, enlarging the calls at that level. The push for years has been to move up to the next level, then the next, then the next, leaving Basic and Mainstream to be introductory stop overs for Plus, Advanced and C.

I’ve seen big beginning classes come and go and the retention of the dancers at any level has statistically been sad.

Now change can happen, a strange opportunity because of this year’s interruption.

In preparing for this post, I canvased several square dance callers/leaders on the subject, purposing this question to them, “Will square dancing become another casualty of the pandemic?” and this is what they had to say:

Jerry Junck: Nebraska & Arizona:

Jerry Junck, square dance caller
Jerry Junck

I do not believe square dancing will be a casualty of the pandemic. It will be different, to be sure, but square dancing is too good an activity to come to an end because of Covid 19. There is no doubt it will be smaller, as we resume dancing again. To be sure, there will be clubs and callers who will leave the activity for other forms of entertainment.  

However, there are many dancers anxiously awaiting the opportunity to resume dancing, and renewing old friendships. The need for social interaction is strong, and something we have all missed. The pandemic may actually have given us an opportunity to reflect on what we have been missing during this hiatus. My hope is that we will resume dancing with a kinder and more gentle spirit. That we will be more appreciative of what we had and make a sincere effort to make everyone feel welcome.  

*****

People of all ages will hunger for any form of social interaction—square dancing fits the bill!

Jon Jones & Deborah Carroll-Jones – Texas:

Jon Jones & Deborah Carroll-Jones, square dance caller
Jon Jones & Deborah Carroll-Jones

I believe the square dance activity will come back real strong in the Fall of 2021. People have been staying at home for more than a year and will be looking for an activity they can get into that will be fun. Square dancing does just that and it is the very best mind changer for the dancers as they cannot think of anything else while dancing.

Deborah and I both believe the Social Square Dance Program (SSD) is the way to go. It is and easy program to learn and provides good variety in the choreography and it does not take very long for the new dancers to join a club. We believe this is a golden opportunity for the activity to grow. If the Associations, Clubs and dancers will advertise with demos and publications, we will see good participation.

*****

After 2020, we all need a fun activity.

To learn more about the Social Square Dance Program (SSD), go to the CALLERLAB website:

Also, visit the Social Square Dancing Facebook page for active back-and-forth conversations about the SSD program and its effect on square dancing’s future:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/319491818505954

Daryl Clendenin – Oregon:

Daryl Clendenin, square dance caller
Daryl Clendenin

“Will Square Dancing Become Another Casualty of the Pandemic?”

I certainly hope not. Will SSD become the activities “cure?” I have serious doubts. Actually, the patient was terminal long before contracting the pandemic. It was on a steady decline that in my recollection, began with the introduction of the Plus Program. That, in essence, not only divided the dancers, but the callers as well. 

The SSD Concept is not just a program, it’s a solution. Many folks think that following the SSD guidelines to the letter, is essential. I don’t agree. The concept, as I see it, identifies the problems, and leaves open a variety of ways to apply them.

The SSD concept is not new. The pandemic may have made it, to some folks, more acceptable. That acceptance in itself, is a positive. Square dancing is not a “goner” yet. It can be revived.

*****

I totally agree with Daryl that we can revive square dancing!

Noah Siegman – Wisconsin:

Noah Siegman, square dance caller
Noah Siegman

Square dancing (as we knew it pre-2020) will definitely be a casualty of the pandemic. In order to rebuild and get it started again, there will need to be a shift to a simpler, more easily attained style of dancing that doesn’t require 20 or more weeks of lessons. Coming out of the pandemic, many people are looking for something to do to be social again, and I believe square dancing is something that fits the bill perfectly to satisfy their craving for community!

*****

The social aspect to square dancing needs to be emphasized! Yes, we take lessons, learn to dance, and I’ve made lifelong friends all over the world through square dancing!

In Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, “Flippo’s statement, ‘We took ten lessons, and we were square dancers’ demonstrated the evolution in square dancing.” We need to return to that mentality.

Tom Manning – Iowa:

Tom Manning, square dance caller
Tom Manning

I don’t believe square dancing will be a casualty of the pandemic. Square dancing has been on the decline for many years, and I believe this is our chance to renew it. I have said publicly that square dancing would have to die to survive. Many of us in this activity, including myself, have been involved forever, 50 years last month, wanted something bigger and better from the activity. Wanting more of a challenge, more nights a week, more conventions and plus weekends. Now is our chance to get back to the basics of square dancing, fun and friendship. I can see by using the Social Square Dance program, we can bring new people into the activity, show them a good time, and have our drop-out rate diminish. Show the dancers a good time using the SSD program and not rush them to other levels.

I have been using this program for the last 3 years. Our group went from maybe having one square every Tuesday night to having four to six. Along with the program, it does take some promotion, arm twisting and begging to get people in the door. I have kept in contact with all these new dancers over the last year, and it sounds like they are all ready to return to dancing when this thing is over. I think square dancing will survive, but now is the time to make some changes.

*****

Sometimes change has to come to make something better. I love statistics and Tom’s movement from one square to four to six using the SSD program is exciting. If your club experienced the same ratio of growth from the SSD program as Tom’s, and prior to the pandemic you had four squares, you could have twelve to twenty-four squares! How about that for an increase! Even worst-case scenario, you could increase to double figures.

Mike Seastrom – California:

Mike Seastrom, square dance caller
Mike Seastrom

I’m excited about the future of square dancing after the pandemic. We have all been deprived of social connections during this pandemic, and square dancing is one of the best activities to socially connect.

It’s long been known that the key to happiness and to keeping from being depressed is the quality and quantity of our social connections. Square dancing is a perfect activity for being connected to people, fun, and exercise.

With our new Social Square Dancing Curriculum and the ability to start our new dancer programs 2-3 times a year, we can open our doors and make it easier for people to join us and bring their friends. 

This is a perfect time for our forward-thinking leaders and callers to seize the moment, reboot, and grow our activity!

I’m excited!

*****

Mike’s enthusiasm is contagious. He stresses the social connection of square dancing and how we can increase the frequency of classes because of the SSD program which means more dancers!

*****

What a variety of responses I received from these caller/leaders from all over the United States. Social connections, fun and the SSD program weave their way through many of them.

I’ll leave you with a parting comment: Are we as dancers more interested in saving our level of dance or saving square dancing? Or can we do both? As a person committed to the activity for years, I pledge my support to the activity, not to the individual levels I enjoy. I want square dancing to continue and flourish for generations to come.

What’s your thoughts on this? Do you have a favorite hobby/activity that the pandemic has threatened? What is it? What’s your prediction for its future?


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