Here’s the logo from the one and only time that Times Squares hosted an IAGSDC convention.
In this article Arthur remembers beginning his love affair with square dancing.
Well, I was “like a virgin”, figuratively speaking of course, until I graduated from the Mainstream Class this past May. Phew! It took nine months to birth this baby.
Last September, four days after the break-up from a ten-year relationship, two dear friends who are in Plus literally dragged me to the open house. I guess they thought this was cheaper than therapy and since I am the caretaker/referee type I agreed to show up at PS 3 just to calm then down.
Square Dancing! I remembered doing it at the November Club in Andover, MA where I grew up. I was ten years old and the girls would line up on one side with the boys on the other. Even then I knew in my heart that all I wanted to do was dance with the boys. We, too, had club uniforms. Blue blazers, white shirts, grey dress pants, those hideous crisscross ties that snapped in the middle and white gloves. The thought of do-sa-doing and allemande left-ing, left me mildly nauseous. So, on that fateful September evening, I girded my loins, took a deep breath and danced m first square dance as an adult.
To tell the truth, the whole night’s a whirling blur and when the dance was over, I found myself stumbling down Christopher Street in a half-daze and worried to death. What was the problem? I loved it! I loved the dancing, the people, the geekiness (excuse me), the silliness of it. I just loved it. And I thought, what the hell do I Do ow? Well, you go back. And I did. Again, and again, like to many of the other new club members.
But the early weeks were rough. I had mixed emotions. Trying to make every Thursday night available, exhaustion from work, awkwardness with meeting strangers, performance anxiety, and angels breaking squares down. (Tee-hee!) Some weeks were easy, others seemed like an unbearable struggle. But that allowed us novices to complain to one another and bond quickly.
And then there were the dances… Peel the Pumpkin, Boxing Day, Sheldon Green Valentine’s Dance, St. Elmo’s Fire … each allowing us to dance to new callers, with different members and slowly but surely gain more confidence.
Enough so that I mustered up the courage to volunteer for the exhibition dance. At the first rehearsal, I feared that I was in way over my head until I looked around and realized that everyone else was just as discombobulated. Thanks God the choreographer did not yell at me! (Just kidding!) I’m glad I stuck it out because it was challenging, and I met more new friends and it took me to … Trenton!
Good old Trenton, where I mastered the art of dancing with no hands with not just one but several straight male dancers. I still have mixed emotions about the trip. It was definitely a “psychological whack” but the experience was important for me. I too, must keep my mind open and my prejudices in check. To be fair!! I also danced with some straight men that held me tighter and closer than most gay men! (I have their phone numbers if anyone is interested.)
Most recently I did my first fly-in to Rehoboth. It was terrific to see so many of my Mainstream class members there. I had a great time. We danced to fabulous callers with friendly strangers from several different states and all at the beach! Who could ask for anything more? By now you’re probably thinking that I’m hooked I am. I’m addicted. Call me madcap but I’m going to the convention in Las Vegas, looking forward to Square Dance de Soleil in tights the nude Moonshine tip and all the people I’ll meet.
But now I’ve graduated Mainstream and will move on to Plus in the fall. I may be having nightmares about learning new square dance calls but I’m grateful that the club has allowed me to emerge from a self-imposed cocoon. And maybe my friends still snicker when I tell them I’m off to square dance, but I just smile because I know I’m the lucky one. I get to spend the evening dancing with the girls … and the boys.
Take this little quiz and find out how well you get along with other dancers.
Where have all the advice columns gone? We need someone to help all of us cowboys with our square dance problems!
“Every letter guaranteed genuine!”
Dear Danny Dee,
I’ve been dancing with the Times Squares for some time and have become an enthusiastic advocate of Square Dancing. Feel like I’m getting some good, healthy exercise and having a lot of fun in the process. Have made may friends in the club, and trips to fly-ins and conventions ha e really been a joy. Truly a great way to meet some terrific men and women.
However, some of these folks arrive at the events smelling as tho’ they just rode in off the range, and while a “natural” smell may be a turn on to some, and everyone perspires during a vigorous “tip”, there’s also a point where it can be a real turn OFF.
Can Danny Dee suggest a tactful way to hint, “Partner, you’re pretty ripe” or “Your breath would stop a herd of Buffalo?”
Bucko, I showed your letter to my mother. She said, “At last.”
“Momma,” I said, “Do I offend?”
She said, “Son, sometimes you come home in that pink polyester gut-up of yours smellin’ like compost. Baby, it’s your life. But I dread the day one of your square dancin’ friends recognizes me at the Piggly Wiggly.”
It was an epiphany, S.C. If your letter was directed at me, thanks. If not, I thank you just the same.
Gentle readers, B.O. is a no-go. As ol’ Squeaky here says, square dancin’ is “good, healthy exercise.” Let’s keep it that way. We don’t want partners careening off into the next square, woozy from lack of oxygen. Or crossing arms with the rest of the square at the end of a tip and while you’re sayin’ “Thaaaaank you!” he’s sayin’ “Peeeeeee U!” Sometimes, we’re just too close to our own funk to perceive it. I was. Let’s clean up.
On the other hand, if I can sort of float a suggestion-easy on the toiletries. Between the perfumed deodorant soap and the “fresh scent” underarm stuff; the scented hair mousse and the ‘lightly’ scented body talc; the ‘lemon’ scented laundry detergent, the “April fresh” fabric softener, the “lavender” spray starch, the “mint” mouth wash and the $50 designer cologne … you can end up some kind of floral stink pot.
These scented things sound soothing and urbane. But compadres most of these prods would give a small child a rash. From now on, let’s think “Baby clean.”
Thanks again S.C.
What a great snap shot of where we were almost 30 years ago!
Well, we asked for it and you gave it! Your opinion, that is, about the Club and what we are doing right and what we can do better. The response was very good – 122 respondents (better than 43% of our membership) took the time to fill out the survey. Thanks to Kath Klein for getting the ball rolling on the survey and to all of you who care enough about the Ties Square to come and dance and give us a piece of your mind!
Here’s an article thinking about the use of inclusive language in square dancing.
Since the advent of feminism, many organization and disciplines have attempted to show solidarity with their female friends and associates by adopting inclusive language, i.e. language which is free of assumed male dominance. While I can accept the principle of inclusive, non-patriarchal, non-gender-specific language, some of the implementations have been severely flawed. Let’s take Gay Square Dancing, for example.
The common custom used in all gay clubs (and by the callers who call for these clubs) is to call the people dancing the Boy’s part LEADS and the people dancing the GIRL’s part FOLLOWS. This particular custom should be dropped for three reasons (one political and two dance-related):
- Calling those dancing the Boy’s part LEAD and those dancing the Girl’s part FOLLOWS is chauvinistic, patriarchal and all of those other things inclusive language tries to avoid!!! Naming dancers in that way assumes that one person must lead and the other person must follow. Do the Girls really follow the boys when dancing a Teacup Chain???When dancing Cloverleaf, how can the girls be following the boys if they’re moving in the OPPOSITE direction?
- Using LEAD and FOLLOW instead of Boy and Girl is confusing and inaccurate. LEAD and FOLLOW can get confused with LEADER (one looking OUT of a formation) and TRAILER (one looking INTO a formation). If I call Heads Star Thru, Double Pass Thru, LEADS U-Turn Back – I don’t mean those dancing the boy’s part, I mean the couple in front. If I have the Sides Square Thru 4, Swing Thru and have the LEADS run or trade, I am referring to the one boy and the one Girl looking out of the wave, not to those dancing the Boy’s part.
- The terms Boy and Girl which I use almost exclusively when calling do not sound at all alike. These terms are readily understood by the dancers – even at the back of the hall. Boy and Girl are also easy to say when quickly delivering instruction s to the dancers and that keeps the flow of the dance intact.
Square Dancing does not lend itself readily to inclusive language. Square Dancing involves Goys and Girls, Men and Women, Gentlemen and ladies etc. If you want Square Dancing to be truly inclusive and an equal opportunity activity, insist on All Position Dancing and Dancing By Definition in which a square survives only if all members are able to dance all parts of all calls. Lt eh boys be courtesy turned by the girls once in a while; let the girls recycle the boys; and by all means let the men scream their way through a Teacup Chain. AAAAHHHH! Now, didn’t that feel good?
Here’s an article that will help you think about the best way you can volunteer to help make Times Squares better.
I continue to be amazed at the variety of individuals who decide to square dance, as well as their talents and other interests. We are such a diverse group that square dancing is often the only thing we have in common. Sure, friendships – even romances – form, but so do less-positive relationships. And often one can hear complaints in the air, either about individuals or about the way this or that was done. I enjoy dish as much as the next person; my sister, Blanche, and I have been known to pass large parts of an evening sitting in the corner making “observations” about eh world. Still, in an organization like ours, it can be very damaging. I’m convinced that one reason people seldom volunteer for things is an overriding sense that whatever they do will be picked apart by other well-meaning members. Because of our current poor financial situation and decreasing membership, it’s critical that we do everything we can to strengthen our sense of community, even though it is built around a single interest. Here are some questions for each of us to ask before we offer complaints, comments or criticism:
- Is the event/situation over? If it is, it’s a done deal and nothing can be done to change it now.
- Do I have a concrete idea for improving the situation? If so, share it!
- Am I willing to work to implement my ideas? Terrific!
- Could I really do a better job than the person who ran the event? Would I be willing to put in the effort to do it?
- Am I really just venting? If so, admit it! The person who’ listening to you may not mind nearly so much if they know you only expect them to listen.
- This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for the occasional complaint (and the Board will of course continue to listen.) But we all need to be more supportive of each other’s work within the organization. Otherwise, we are in for some very unhappy times indeed.
I recognize that this is not the most upbeat topic, but I thought it was important to broach the issue. After all, Spring is the time to chase the dust and cobwebs from the corners. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.
Howard has indeed “done us proud”.
We really should be grateful for all the wonderful callers who have called for us over the years. And remember that it wasn’t always like this!
How things have changed for the better in the last twenty years! “In the olden days,” Times Squares only enjoyed national callers by playing their tapes and records. Homophobia and/or fear of the unknown prevented the Bid Cats from calling for us. The came Betsy Gotta!
Following in the tradition of social responsibility set by her father (one of the first callers to actively encourage Jewish couples to join the dance, breaking the unwritten code of anti-Semitism rampant in the nation), Betsy started calling regularly for us. In recognition for her support of Gay Square Dancing, Betsy was the recipient of last year’s GOLDEN BOOT award at the IAGSDC convention.
And once the door was opened, other callers worked up the courage to start calling for same sex couples. Don’t forget: those were the days when straight couples usually wore “twin-look” western garb, making it a lot easier for callers to recognize who was whose partner. To suddenly be confronted with a floor of same gendered couples, many of whom kept change “roles” during the evening, presented a significant new challenge for callers.
Praises be: homophobia is no longer sanctioned in the larger square dance community and we regularly have some of the best callers in the word at our dances.
For example, did you know that Mike Jacobs is the Chairman of the Board for Callerlab, the largest and most influential association of square dance caller in the word. Todd Fellegy, Anne Ueberlacker, Saundra Bryant, Ben Rubright, John Marshall, Ron Libby, Lee Kopman, Vick Ceder, Barry Clasper, Deborah Parnell Carroll, Lloyd Sparks, Ed Foote, and … and … and … – are among the international callers who have shaped the word of square dancing as we know and love it – and called for us.
Among the big cats, not to forget our own home-grown cubs – Nick Martellacci, Howard Richman and Geo Jedlicka – who qualify as international callers too.
Geo, regularly calling at the highest levels for those clubs here and I Europe who can field C-4 dancers; Howard, on stage at The Met; and then there is Nick.
Many of you who started dancing under Nick’s tutelage may not yet appreciate how incredibly gifted he is – not only as a teacher, but as a choreographer and performer. We have every right to be proud of our pride of Kings and Queens.
This is the last in our series on drag in Times Squares. View previous article.
A dress code has been adopted by the Board of Directors, with input from interested members of the club. On behalf of those who cross dress, Antonio reported that they will not wear drag where the Club is being represented publicly, including the Gay Pride parade and the Grand march at the annual convention. They would like to wear drag at regular club meetings and Club socials. The Board unanimously agreed.