Square Dancing with the Sundancers
Remember learning to square dance in elementary school? There were giggles, smashed toes, and more than a few missteps culminating in brief moments of synchronized brilliance. But when the lessons were finished, terms like “do-si-do” and “promenade” faded into fuzzy childhood memories. Not so with the Sun City Sundancers, who not only continue to learn square dancing but take it to a whole different level. Four levels, to be exact: Mainstream, Plus, Advanced 1, and Advanced 2.
The Sundancers’ dedication to a dance form steeped in American history and tradition began in 1997. With only a handful of couples and a caller—the person who announces each dance move or “call”—they formed the Sundancers and opened up classes for people who wanted to learn square dancing. At a time when Sun City was beginning to blossom and community activities were scarce, social dancing—without the rigid rhythmic constraints of dances like a waltz—attracted both experienced and novice dancers.
“In square dancing, you march to the rhythm or you walk to the rhythm, but it’s not critical. You’re not trying to lead your partner into a step. You can enjoy the music and just do the dancing,” says Howard Wagner, treasurer of the Sundancers.
They “do the dancing” most Monday nights. For two hours, the dance floor ripples with reflections of the Sundancers’ steps—approximately 7,500 steps per person, or the equivalent of walking three miles. The unhurried pace of the music and the melodic voice of their caller, Brad Caldwell, creates an active, social atmosphere representative of the Sun City community. But ask any of the one hundred and one Sundancers why they dance and the answer’s simple. “You enjoy the people, and it’s good exercise mentally and physically,” says Jodie Morrison, the club’s co-president.
Howard, a square dancer with eight years under his belt, explains the challenge and enjoyment of square dancing this way: “It’s four couples dancing together in a square to set calls, but you’re not always in a square. You’re also in lines, circles, waves, and columns; as much as squares.”
Sound confusing? That’s why, before venturing onto the dance floor, anyone wishing to dance with the Sundancers must attend twenty weeks of basic classes or already be a trained square dancer. The Sundancers aren’t trying to discourage or exclude others from joining them. They believe that square dancing is not about learning a few dance steps—it’s about learning a new language.
Phrases like “allemande left,” “dosado,” and “right and left grand” aren’t gibberish; they’re the sparks that turn eight people into a living Rubik’s Cube. By the time classes are over, participants have learned over eighty calls. As the Sundancers gain experience and move to higher levels, learning even more calls, the dancing becomes an increasingly complex series of movements. “When you reach the advanced levels, people actually call it puzzle working. It’s sort of a puzzle working to music,” Howard says.
Take a glance at the sea of faces as the Sundancers riddle their way through a dance. A few brows furrow with concentration as dancers work to take the caller’s instruction and translate it seamlessly into dancing. “The caller is trying to exercise your mind. He keeps your mind going and keeps you alert,” says Howard. Any occasional missteps are graciously acknowledged and quickly remedied with a helping hand to the proper place. When the song ends, joyous shouts emanate from the Sundancers as their physical and mental efforts result in the formation and transformation of dance squares. The last puzzle piece falls into place, and the picture’s complete.
Non-Sun City residents can join the square dance club Shirts ‘n’ Skirts, which meets on Wednesdays at the old McCoy Elementary School.
Shirts’n’Skirts MS, +, Rounds, and Line
7:30 – 9:30pm
All Plus on 5th Wednesday
Dance Location: Georgetown ISD Admin Annex, formerly McCoy Elementary School
1313 Williams Drive, Georgetown, TX 78628
President: Tony and Martha Burghart
Caller: Jim Hayes
1st & 3rd line dancing between tips
2nd & 4th rounds between tips