Read the May minutes. September 0utreach event: Fun Dance at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), which serves the NYC LGBTQ community. Weekend Mainstream Blast Class in October. International Friendship dance with visiting Japanese dancers in October.
Read the June minutes. Memorial gathering at the IAGSDC Convention set. More Mainstream Blast Class information. What about a Plus Class?
Doris Nixon became everyone’s grandmother as she joyously danced with Times Squares. Here, in three parts, is her story.
Before moving to New York City, I was an elementary school
teacher in California. The year I retired, my son and daughter-in-law asked me
to live with then in Manhattan. They needed someone to stay with their children
and watch them during the day.
Square dancing had always taken up all my spare time. I
danced every evening of the week and on some Sunday afternoons. I mistakenly
thought dancing did not exist in Manhattan. I’d looked everywhere until I read
a flyer posted n my church bulletin board. I could barely believe what I had
read. A social club in the church I attended announced they were having a
square dance on Friday night. I could hardly wait for Friday night to arrive.
To my delight, they had hired a live caller. While the
caller set up his equipment, I talked with him. I saw several records in his
collection that were familiar to me. From this I gathered he was a caller
attuned to the type of dancing I did best.
Once the caller began, a woman asked me to be her partner.
Secretly I had hoped one of the men would ask me. The woman who asked me was a
good dancer, but nothing beats dancing with a man. There are always so many
women at most of the dances I attend.
As I looked around the room at the other squares, I
discovered that men were dancing with men and women were dancing with women. I
thought this was unusual, but it didn’t yet register. I kept right on dancing,
hoping one of the men would ask me.
When I asked Ron the caller, about this, he said he was a
teacher, so it was natural for him to teach square dancing. He said most of the
dancers were men. Then he invited me to come and dance with his club, called
Times Squares, and explained that the club was a lesbian and gay club.
At first, I was taken aback. I had never suspected such a
thing existed. When lesbians and gays dance, the disregard gender. The man’s
part is called the lead part and the women’s part is called the follow part.
Most of them can dance either. This saves a lot of confusion when acquiring a
partner. I saw squares with all men and squares with all women dancing
together. I also saw squares with about half and half, but none of them were
dancing in the traditional positions. One square I danced in was composed of
seven women and one man, and he was dancing in the follow position.
Once time when I came back from vacation, after I had been
dancing with the club for a while, Dick, another dancer, called me and
volunteered to pick me up and take me to a dance. I was happy about that as it
is so much easier to have someone drive me to the dance than to go by subway.
Dick said his lover, Gene, was going to nursing school and was too busy
studying to go dancing. Dick was already a nurse and had inspired Gene. Dick
and Gene had been together for twelve years and were prone to brag about it.
At one dance I was surprised to see Ken. He looked great. He
was in remission of AIDS. Ken had sparked the creation of the Times Squares
dance club. In the beginning, Ken traveled the city on his bike, posting flyers
at the Center and in the bars and bookstores. Thirty-five people showed up for
the first dance.
When the Times Squares Club first started, they danced in
the Times Square area of Manhattan, hence the name. later they moved their
dances to a public school near Christopher Street, in the Village.
While dancing on the Christopher Street Pier on Sunday, a
nice, older couple watched for a while and then announced that they were square
dancers, and immediately were invited to join in. After a false start or two
(mainly caused by the Times Squares, in a state of shock, dancing with a woman
who was not wearing balloons or a mustache) things went very well, and two sets
were danced with gusto. It was quite wonderful to dance with this friendly
couple, maybe happenings like this will occur more often. Turns out that the
couple dance with the KING SQUARES, a Brooklyn group, they were delighted to
know that there is a Manhattan based Square Dance club. Addresses were
exchanged, and this may be the start of a cultural exchange!
Here’s an article from very early in our history when we were dancing to records. I can’t imagine having to dance up to speed from the very beginning. Or that you’d have to go back to the beginning of the record every time you broke down.
Since most professional square dance callers reside in suburbs and small towns, we mainly dance to recorded calls by “name” square dance callers. For the past year we have relied on Evan Schwartz, Dick Scott and, for Plus, Ken Pollack, to sort through the mass of square dance records in the club library and put together a coherent evening of dancing each week. While most of us dancers may take the music for granted, a great deal of thought and planning goes into each program. Putting together an evening of dancing usual requires about three hours. The first selections are generally easier warm-up dances followed by calls with more challenging combinations until later in the evening, as dancers tire the pace eases, sometimes ending with a few familiar old favorites. In selecting the program, the DJs also look for balance and variety so that most of the calls we know come up at some point in the evening. They also check each selection to see if there are any particularly tricky sequences than they want to point out to us before we start to dance.
Putting together a Plus program requires somewhat less time since there are fewer selections available. While Plus is a more advanced level of dancing there are actually many more challenging Mainstream combinations available on record. That is one of the reasons why an evening of recorded Mainstream dancing can be just as much fun – and or satisfying to get through without a breakdown – as dancing at the Plus level
Howard does such a great job as an experienced caller it’s hard to think of him just starting out.
Thanks to the continued support of the Times Squares,
calling opportunities are beginning to unfold before me! I have joined the NJ
Callers’ Association and am now a listed NJ Caller. This has gotten me two bookings
so far. Thanks to Chick’s recommendation, (and Peg and Barry’s trust in that
recommendation) I found myself calling my first upper level dance outside the
gay community! Eight squares were present at the Sind Fun Timers Plus and A-1
dance Friday April 5th. Thanks to Patrick, Sheldon, Mario, Chick,
Geo, Jim … friendly faces are always nice! I was so nervous the needle
almost missed the record for the first tip. The dancers didn’t quite know what
to make of me the first two tips, but by the end of the third hast her were
rolling! People started to come up and ask for my calling schedule where I’d be
in the coming months. Not wanting to embarrass myself saying “You’re the first
outside club who’s booked me” I said I’d be at the NJ Convention and then in
Most clubs are not familiar with “all position dancing” and
feel awkward even when executing the moves correctly. The Singe Fun Timers are
good dancers and after assuring two men that it was alright to be holding hands
at the end of an ocean wave. And that I wanted them there (on purpose, too!)
the material I was using began to work. To sum up the dance, before the end of
the evening they had invited me for two more dances!
On to Grand Rapids to call for the Grand River Squares fly-in! A very small club (two squares almost) Friday evening saw just the locals for an intense workshop for some of the dancers I was the first live caller they’d ever heard (what s shock dancing to my Madonna numbers!) I had been picked up by Patrick at the airport (without a sing out with my name on it as requested though) who played host for the afternoon. I was then dropped off with official host John Chapin where I stayed in beautiful accommodations for the weekend. … I think having a live caller has put some extra enthusiasm in the Grand Rapids club plus my visit got me two invitations to all at upcoming fly-ins. I’m on my way! So exciting!
In this article by Harry Simmons we are reminded of the horror of the AIDS epidemic and its effect on the gay community.
The contrast in our monthly newsletter between the fun and
humor of the square-dancing article and the pain and sadness of the tributes to
those lost in AIDS remind me of a remarkable day during which I experienced
intensely both the joy of the dance and the pain of bereavement.
I was in Washington DC for the final AIDS Memorial Quilt
display in October 1989, and spent a full Sunday morning with the quilt,
locating the two panels I had contributed for two lovers (lost in 1984 and
1986), and experiencing all the old grief and sadness at their loss as well as
the overwhelming impact of the vast expanse of the quilt itself, representing
the thousands and thousands of people I didn’t know.
That afternoon the DC Lambda Squares held a dance in honor
of the Quilt Weekend and I went and
spent several hours surrendering to the joy of square dancing, two-stepping,
and boot-scooting, with the customary abundance of socializing, warm hugs, and
smiling faces. It certainly was a fun dance in and of itself, but my sense of
enjoyment was heightened by the contrast with my hours spent with the quilt! By
the time I walked back to my car my senses were those of physical tiredness,
but with my mind racing and whirling in a sense of dream-like unreality!
Finally, on my drive back to New York that evening, I was
able to calm down and reflect on such a remarkable, intense day and conclude
that it represented “both sides” of the extremes of life- my quilt experience
was a confrontation with pain, suffering, and death, while the square dancing
was (and actually continues to be for me) a celebration of the joys of living!
I cannot remember a day when I experienced both so intensely and for such
prolonged periods within hours of each other!
I was also reminded of the following incident that occurred
in the PS 3 gym one evening during the past year. Another of the sad
announcements was made about a Times Squares member lost to AIDS, and this was
followed by a brief awkward pause and the comment “It’s always difficult to
know what to say next after such announcements.” After a briefer pause, a
response came from one of the listeners, “Square ‘em up!” I was delighted to
hear that! Not only did I wholeheartedly agree, but I felt that my whole
Washington DC quilt-plus-dance experience and all that it represented had been
neatly summarized in just two minutes! It occurred to me that perhaps I should
change my will to read that square dancers would be allowed to visit my own
final resting place only in groups of eight – or in groups of seven and I could
be a phantom dancer (unless they were seven beginning dancers and I could then
be an angel!)
As a club we’ve been around quite a while. In this occasional column we’ll look back at some of the serious and not to serious articles from past issues of Times Squared.
Trapped in PS 3 by Michael J. McKeon
It was a dark and stormy night (no, this isn’t a Snoopy
novel) … well actually is was dark but the only storm brewing was inside the
heads of Michael Coan, Sheldon Green and Michael McKeon. You see for all any of
us knew, it wasn’t even 9:58 or 10:02 pm – and the three of us were hurriedly
scurrying around inside the closet at P.S. 3 trying to get everything put away
and straightened out for yet another square dance day.
Finishing before the others, I quickly grabbed my large and
cumbersome 55-gallon trash can and headed for the Hudson Street exit. As I
approached the door, I noticed the center door was chained – no problem, there
are two more sets of doors. Pull, pull, pull, hmmmmm?! These doors are all
locked too, not to worry (or should I?), there are plenty of other exits and
Sheldon and Michael C. will know another way out. Running around the building
with a ghetto blaster, a briefcase and a 55-gallon trash can, we quickly
searched all the exits – unfortunately, we experienced the same results at all
possible passageways – plain and simple there was NO WAY OUT. We were indeed TRAPPED
IN P.S. 3!!!!
The three of us, looking like lost puppies complete with
dismay on our faces, weighed our options. Sheldon suggested the fire alarm,
Michael C. just looked perplexed, and I and my 55-gallon trash can was willing
to do almost anything short of jumping off of the roof (specially in Cowboy
boots). To me the idea of pulling the fire alarm was just fine (even a little
exciting), well, except for all the noise, which was a reservation shared by
Finally, there was the suggestion of exiting through a
window. The only problem posed was how to get through the gates which barred
window access. This seemed to be no problem for Sheldon and Michael who finally
found a gate which was unlocked, the only problem being the scaffolding which
hampered the possibility of fully pushing the gate out of the way.
This really seemed to pose no problem for the two “little
guys”, however, my 55-gallon ice bucket and I were another story. Putting the trash can back into the closet
and taking long deep breathes, I managed to begin squeezing up and out the
window. Bending down, squeezing up,
sucking in and pushing, I was finally halfway through. Now my only problem was
the protruding six-inch bar which was jabbing into my stomach. I can only be
grateful for my recent return to running which seemingly made my efforts a real
possibility – and a successful one at that, as I sucked in once again and
squeezed the rest of my body through the narrowness to freedom. Whew, free at
last, Thank God I’m free at last (feeling a little like Martin Luther King) or
so I thought.
Taking another deep breath and looking around I soon
realized we were essentially back to square on. We were finally out of the
building, but now trapped a bout 12 feet in the air by 40 feet of planked
scaffolding with approximately a three to five-foot wall surrounding our
prison. Not only did we gingerly have to walk around on the flooring, but we
also had to be on the lookout for loose pointy wires, jabby nails, holes in the
floor, nosey neighbors and uniformed police officers on local patrol. The gate
between exterior of the building and the scaffolding looked to be about eight
to ten feet at its widest – unfortunately, scrutinizing these “escape botches”
only opened our eyes to steep jumps, sloped walls, bends in the building’s
structure and a host of other obstacles impeding our easy access to an
Not to dismay, as Michael and Sheldon both scrutinized the
situation and between the two of them located 2 or 3 potential escape routes. I
was only experiencing a sense of relief that I had left my great ice-can behind
and all we really had to worry about was the boom-box, the briefcase and the
small but interested crowd of 5 or so, which had gathered around on the street
below to witness our escapades.
Fortunately, Michael and Sheldon narrowed our escape
possibilities down to what looked like a potential flight to freedom. Narrow as
the opening may have seemed, my two partners in crime managed to squeeze down
and gingerly jump to the ground – and I knew, since I had already squeezed
through a similar crack at the window that I could handle this with no problem.
The only other consideration was the bump in the building’s exterior which
loomed between me and a six-foot jump to freedom. Growing more and more tired
and not looking forward to a 15 mile and ½ hour drive home, I expediently
slithered down into the crevice and shoo-ing Sheldon’s helping hand away with
my boot, I jumped to the safety of the NYC street below. (And I did it all by
myself, thanx anyway, Sheldon.) However strange it may seem to use the word
safety in reference to the NYC street I can assuredly assume this was the
general feeling shared by all.
I guess there is no moral to our story, but just a warning:
make sure the P.S. 3 janitor knows you’re “out” or “in” because if he doesn’t,
you might be “in” permanently. But on the lighter side, we didn’t – or at least
I didn’t – notify any P.S. 3 officials where the window was that served as our
escape to freedom – so if you’re ever unfortunate enough to be trapped inside,
just look for a heater on the upper level and … good luck!
We are expecting the first snow storm of the season in New York City. It promised to be a messy wintery wet snow, and the rain later will make traveling even more treacherous. We’ve decided to cancel the Advanced/C1 workshop tonight. Be safe and stay warm everyone!
“I forgot how much fun it is to be surrounded by squares and dance in a full hall.”
It was all hands on deck as Times Squares hosted a Bon Voyage dance for a group of dancers from California the night before they set sail on a Fall Foliage cruise up the east coast to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The trip’s organizer, square dance caller David Mee, and four squares of travelers joined us for the dance. David offered to call, and it’s always great to dance to a new caller. His calling was challenging without being overwhelming and he has a great singing voice. We hope he returns to New York soon, so we can dance to him again.
Kudos to George Voorhis for all his hard work to make this event such a success. The hall was decorated beautifully with bon voyage banners and luggage with stickers from far off destinations. And the cake was delicious.