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 Grand Rapids.
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 all.
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 expedient escape.
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!
Overheard at our recent dance:
“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.
Read about our October meeting. Business cards are available to hand out. See you archangel for them. Fly-in registrations are much ahead of last year. There is a courtesy van from the Manhattan Midtown Hilton to the hotel in Fort Lee. Reserve a seat here. The Election Committee is forming. Contact Lester Strong if you want to join the committee or run for a slot on the board.
Read about our September meeting.
Susan Gill and Alain Buzzard have agreed to be Archangels for the A2/C1 Thursday dances.
Read about our proposed Blast Mainstream Weekend for Spring 2019.
A committee is forming to find ways to standardize our club shirts. Talk to any board member if you want to volunteer.