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“Why No C-2?” by F. William Chickering reprinted from the December 1993 issue of Times Squared

If you ever wondered why Times Squares doesn’t offer C-2, here’s the reason. Decided in 1993 and still valid.

I have heard lots of questions over the past few months as to why there was going to be no C-2 class, was there going to be an Advanced class, and why Plus is starting so late. Three weeks ago, I was asked “Why isn’t the Plus calling we get very ‘Plussy’?” In this column I hope to offer a few answers.

Nationwide there is much comment about clubs rushing dancers through the programs so fast that they really never develop proficiency, confidence, and a sense of the pleasure, and yes, the challenge at every Callerlab defined program (level) what they dance. As Times Squares has become more sophisticated in terms of having ‘live” callers every week, we have danced to more forgiving, and often, less challenging materials than is available on tapes and records. As a result, at most levels we have not pushed ourselves to be stronger dancers. When most callers come to present a dance for us, their professional good manners cause them to call the most difficult level that most all of the dancers can dance, rather than their hardest material. Since we have not really worked hard, as a club, particularly at the Plus program, callers find that relatively easy Plus is what most of the dancers (floor) can do, so that’s what they call. That is why often the Plus is not very “Plussy!”

To remedy this situation, the members of the Board who work on programming have tried to show the club what really exiting material there is at the various levels. We have invited some notoriously “hard” callers, such as Dave Lightly and Rand Dougherty in August. Interestingly enough, the Mainstream dancers rose magnificently to the occasion The A2 and C1 dancers had some trouble, but many Plus dancers were shocked. I heard a dancer say of Dave Lightly, “That’s not fair. He’s really calling Challenge stuff!” OF COURSE HE WAS! That was the point. He was, however, calling it using Mainstream and Plus definition that we all have been taught and all are expected to know and to be able to execute. (Have you ever noticed that Advanced and Challenge dancers say “Quack” when the caller calls “end circulate and center s trade?” The reason for this is that this combination of calls has a name at Advanced: Acey Deucy. The sound effect is a pun on an earlier name for this call, acey ducky).

Ergo, Plus will begin on January 24th, after a full fall of Mainstream programming and some major workshops, including opportunities for ‘sex change’ workshops. By the same logic if a sufficient number of people prepared to go through the Advanced teaching program at its recommended speed sign up, there will be an Advanced class.

There will, however, be no C-1 or C-2 class. Why? On Advanced and Challenge Club nights attendance has been between eight and twelve, dancers, not squares, in recent months. This number is insufficient for two squares. Also, this number usually does not include eight C-1 dancers, so the past two times there has been no C-1 dancing, so the C-1 dancers either don’t come since they don’t get to work on their C-1, or they quit square dancing. What a pity. Certainly, we don’t get any more skillful this way. With all of the classes that Times Squares has given in the past three years, we should have more than two squares of C-1 dancers and more than eight squares of Advanced dancers, yet the club cannot sustain an A/C program. Since this is the case, shouldn’t we wait of offer C-2 and C-1 again until we have dancers really ready and

“Why Mainstream?” by Sheldon Green printed in the June 1994 issue of Times Squared

Even before the turn of the last century, dancers were worried about rushing through each dance level and lower the quality of dancing for the whole club.

The gay clubs are nearly unique in dancing multiple levels. Most straight clubs (and a few of the gay ones) dance only a single level; if you want to dance MS you dance with club A and if you want to dance Plus you dance with club B. Fitting tips at various levels into an evening of dancing creates problems that we have been trying to overcome for years with only moderate success. The most obvious problem is that dancers who do not dance the highest level offered cannot dance every tip. Trying to deal with MS and Plus as bad enough, but adding Advanced and Challenge made it virtually impossible, and a decision was made by the Times Squares a few years ago to limit each dance (with few exception) to no more than two levels. There has been much discussion recently among the different IAGSDC clubs about how the problem of dancing multiple levels could best be solve, but good solutions have not been forthcoming.

A corollary problem with our current system is that it puts (undue_ pressure on new MS dancers to learn Plus as quickly as possible. And learning a new level before adequately mastering the previous level leads to poor dancing skills. It is possible to make the choreography at each level very challenging; many of Times Squares’ current Advanced dancers would be hard pressed to keep up with some of the Basic records to which the club used to regularly dance. The general decline of dance skills with the IAGSDC clubs, not just the Times Squares) has been noted for several years among our own members, gay and straight callers, and the straight square dance community, sometimes in embarrassingly public forums.

It is not just the IAGSDC clubs which have suffered from a decline in dance skills. A glance at any of the square dance magazines or the Callerlab newsletter tells the same story; dancers are rushed to higher levels before they are ready. In some areas of the country there really is no MS dancing and new MS dancers are rushed through Plus immediately after beginner classes. Similar complaints about Advanced and Challenge are voiced in the magazines geared to dancers at those levels.

“Like a Virgin” by Arthur Wooten printed in the June 1997 issue of Times Squared

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.

Danny Dee’s Advice Column from the October 1990 issue of Times Squared

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?”

Yours truly,

Squeaky Clean

Dear Squeaky,

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.

-D.D.

“The Survey Results are In!” by Michael “Mikie Pearl” Weyand reprinted from the October 1990 issue of Times Squared.

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! 

“PC Uber Alles … Not!” by Nick Martellacci reprinted from the August 1994 issue of Times Squared

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):

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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?


An article on volunteering by Steven Skyles-Mulligan reprinted from the May 1998 issue of Times Squared

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.