Square dancing with the Independence Squares (“IS”) should be listed in guide books as one of “The Top 10 Best Things To Do in Philadelphia for $10 or Less ”. Garnering some of the best callers in the nation, IS consistently draw an eclectic crowd from PA, NJ, DE, (see end note*) and at least this New Yorker. James O and I were Times Squares members in attendance for the Saturday Jan. 28th All-Program Dance. Regular callers include the best on the East Coast and just this season boasts: Bill Harrison (MD), Dayle Hodge (MD) , Betsy Gotta (NJ) , John Marshall (VA) with some from-far-away guests like Barry Clasper (CAN) Rick Gittleman (AZ), and Kris Jensen (NM).
The IS format is Mainstream through C1, occasionally with C2 star tips. Tonight there were 2 squares at each program consistently. Dances are usually once a month, on a Saturday from 4-8:00 pm, including a pot luck dinner break at about 5:30 for an admission of $10.
IS dancers and friends are quite good dancers, with MS through C2 programs rotating classes and workshops. Most occur simultaneously on Tuesdays nights, in 2 rooms at the dance space, with Joe Bradshaw (DE), Dane Bragg (PA) and club caller Betsy Gotta (NJ). The events are coordinated with a well-planned schedule allowing attendees to navigate between programs and serve as angels, or dance. Two Wednesdays a month feature alternating C1 Workshop/C2 Class sessions offered by caller Drew Allen, in the Unitarian Church across the Street.
There was also a special series in the 2016-2017 season, focusing on Mainstream and Plus All-Position Dancing, helping to re-enforce the Clubs’ already strong dance community.
IS’s outreach effort recently recorded about 15 new students for Mainstream Class with quite good retention. They owe their success to a recently implemented Meetup presence, and it seems to work.
The sweetest surprise of the evening was a caller new to some of us, Mark Franks. Hailing from Egg Harbor, NJ, he was a pleasure to dance to. Calling MS through C1 his lively choreography jived with upbeat tunes and his pleasant, relaxed, and positive style. Everyone enjoyed him. Here’s a video of the final MS tip with Mark.
A note about Mark’s music: it sounded good! His amplifier is a high tech, sleek black Bose Subwoorfer/speaker combination. The 6″ or 8″ speaker sits perched upon a collapsible 6-foot high 3″-square stanchion, which disassembles into two 3-foot sections, all supported by the impressive woofer box. The great audio quality, combined with caller-quality, professional non-vocal recordings propelled the floor. Much of his music is in the 2/2 meter (that old hee haw beat somewhat prevalent among square dance callers) but spiced with the occasional familiar contemporary dance tune, again, in non-vocal, good professional caller quality tracks.
As always, an array of casserole crock pots took center stage as mainstays of the pot luck dinner break.
IS All-Program dances happen once a month, peppered with special additions. In February, Saturday the 25th brings us Bill Harrison (MD) with “For the Love of Chocolate”, a recurring Theme Dance, which usually draws a sizeable floor from many Clubs. Kris Jensen (NM) is the guest caller on March 11, for a special C1/C2 afternoon session 1:30-3:30 PM, followed by the usual 4-8 PM Mainstream through A2 and C1 star tips.
And don’t you dare miss the IS Fly In, March 31st – April 2nd, 2016 at the Double Tree in Wilmington DE, graced by the stellar caller staff of Saundra Bryant (IL), Chris Phillips (FL), and Jet Roberts (CA) – accessible by Amtrak, Light Rail various Bus Services from NYC. IS members will usually offer car pools to/from 30th St. Station on the Friday of the of the weekend. IS website IndependenceSquares.org provides lots of information about this, and other events.
This dynamic Club’s pièce de résistance (that’s French you know!) is that they secured the bid and are the Host Club for “Belles Run”, the 2019 36th Annual IAGSDC Convention to take pace in Philadelphia at the Sheraton in Center City. Complete details can be found at www.philadelphia2019.com.
The regular dance space at Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion is at 2111 Sansom Street, one block away from Chestnut. It’s easily navigable by Public Transportation by NJ Transit from Penn Station NYC with a transfer to SEPTA at Trenton to 30th Street Station, Philadelphia. The more direct and costly Amtrak gets you to 30th Street much more comfortably in less than half the time. A short walk down Market Street across Schuylkill River Bridge (look for the eagle statues from the original Penn Station, NYC) with a right turn on 21st, brings to you Sansome Street, and the back entrance to the Church, which is the dance space. Neighboring garages offer special parking rates for those who drive and attend IS dances – you’ll need to get a pass from the door person at the dance.
Hope to see you at some of these fine events! Yellow Rocks, George
* Endnote: Bridge Tolls are typically $4 or $5 on NJ/PA, DE/PA Bridges. Bridge Tolls for NYC-Entry bridges and tunnels can be as high as $15 for cash tolls, a deterrent to folks driving into Manhattan. I was told by one suburbanite “I’m from New Jersey and I don’t do Public Transportation”. Watch the video