Dancing Activities On Hiatus

There has been some growing support among dance organizations to cancel events through the use of “social distancing” to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus amongst participants. The decision to put our own square dance events on hold has been made for us, due to the closing of PS3 to outside organizations for the remainder of March. This news will be a relief to some, and a disappointment to others. Although we can’t satisfy everyone, we can do our best to keep everyone safe.

Please watch for announcements of new and re-scheduled events for the coming months.

“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.

2020 IAGSDC Convention Will Not Be Stopped By COVID-19

A traditional event in the gay square dance world usually takes place over the Fourth of July weekend — the International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs (IAGSDC) convention. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the convention to be held in Denver has been transformed into a virtual convention that is conveniently, and safely, accessible from your home.

The Take A Peak 2020 Denver – Home Edition is taking place over two weeks from June 30 to July 12. There will still be Opening & Closing Ceremonies, the Banquet, dancing, discussion groups, and more. View the schedule of virtual events, as you’ll need to pre-register to access them.

If virtual events aren’t your cup of tea, here are some other ways to connect to conventions past:

Check out the IAGSDC History Wiki, where you can find information on every convention held starting with All Join Hands, Seattle 1984.

Take a peek back at all the Times Squares convention club photos going back to 1985. Our club did not attend the first convention in 1984 because the club was not formed yet. Also, there is no 1989 photo because the photographer took the money and ran off without providing the contracted goods. True story! >insert sad face<

One aspect of convention is the pinning of badges of departed members onto the Memorial Panels. While we will have to wait until next year to do this, you can view our updated “In Memoriam” list, and add some remembrances of your own.

You can also support the amazing callers by purchasing an exclusive “Take A Peak Home Edition” t-shirt. Or purchase the standard logo to complete your convention wardrobe collection.

A special thanks to the Take A Peak Committee for taking a lemon of a virus, and turning it into some sweet square dancing lemonade. “See” you in Denver.

Jeopardy! Times Squares/ IAGSDC Edition

As a prelude to the “Take A Peak : Home Edition” convention that begins this week, let’s test your knowledge of Times Squares and IAGSDC history through this time-honored trivia game. Similar to the television show, there will be three rounds – Jeopardy!, Double Jeopardy! and Final Jeopardy!

Kudos to Bob Bauer (Alex Tresbon) and Ping DiBella (Art Flaming) for providing the inspiration, the clues/answers, and acting as hosts. Jim Babcock (Sapphire Cochon) will operate the board. We hope this will take but one hour. Minimal chatter following the answer reveals will help achieve this. After the game is finished, we will have time to reminisce more about our favorite convention memories.

Join us at 6:30pm on our Zoom meeting

Some house rules:

  • Folks who want to play should start to arrive at 6:30pm to be assigned to a team. Team assignments will be made as people join the Zoom meeting.
  • The game begins at 6:45pm sharp. Late arrivals will be welcome to watch, but not answer.
  • Any team member can submit an answer. The first correct answer will be accepted, points awarded to that person’s team, and the team member who answered correctly will choose the next clue. Points will not be deducted for incorrect answers during the Jeopardy and Double Jeopardy rounds, except for Daily Doubles.
  • Answers must be submitted in the form of a question through the chat function. Verbal answers will not be accepted and will result in loss of points for the team of the person who speaks out of turn. 
  • The board will be played out to completion in each round.
  • Daily Doubles will simply be worth double the value posted. No wagering here.
  • After the Jeopardy round, there will be a five minute break while the Double Jeopardy round is set up. The game will resume promptly after five minutes. 
  • After the Double Jeopardy round, there will be another five minute break. During this break, teams will be sent to breakout rooms to make their wagers and choose one person to represent the team in Final Jeopardy. The game will resume promptly after five minutes.
  • When teams return to the main room, each designated player will send their wagers to Jim via private chat.The Final Jeopardy clue will then be revealed, and each designated player will submit their answers to Jim via private chat.
  • Decisions of the hosts are final.

“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?