“The Obnoxious Dancer” by Alain Buzzard reprinted from the January 2002 issue of Times Squared

Good words from our own “Bossy Betty”.

Having been nominated for the “Bossy Betty Award” for several years running, the following words of encouragement from A Ceder Chest of C-3 Square Dance Definitions by Vic and Debbie Ceder apply to me as well as a few other Times Squares members, both in classes and at dances:

Being a good dancer has nothing to do with level. It has more to do with being a good team member. Dance your part and allow the others to dance their part. A truly good dancer will wait until the last moment … before offering help if necessary. Please don’t be the obnoxious dancer who must help every other dancer in the square whether or not they need it.

The truly important things are the ones we learn after we know it all.

-Yellow Rocks,

Alain Buzzard-Bunny

2020 “State of the Club” Report

04 Jan 2020

Times Squares “State of the Club” Report presented by President Jim Babcock

Thank you all for being here today.  Being present is an important and visible sign of your commitment to this square dance club.

At last year’s meeting, I presented a lot of data about how the club performed, which this year was placed in the January newsletter. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The abridged version of that data is that in 2019, the club drew in more dancers, increased its membership, offered more opportunities to dance, and had a wider offering of callers than the prior year. One data point I do want to mention is that in 2018, there was a grand total of 1838 attendees; in 2019, a grand total of 2389. This last number is something to which each of you have actively contributed. Thank you for being a source of continuity and growth for the club.

Like many organizations today that are trying to remain viable and draw in new participants, the club underwent changes to make the square dance experience more enjoyable, with the hope that more people attend.  Keep in mind no organization can satisfy everyone; but an attempt to create the widest appeal has been the approach. One such change, turning the Saturday combo dances, like this one, into all-skate dancing resulted in an equal or increased attendance at all of these dances. Yes, a few people disagreed with this format – but if more people overall are coming out, it’s a change that has had a positive effect. Adding the potluck dinners was also met with favorable approval, in addition to be able to dance in an air-conditioned PS3 all year long; something some members have been waiting over 30 years to see happen. Perhaps because of this, the summer club nights saw an increased attendance in June, July, and August.

Another change instituted to increase opportunities for new people to try out square dancing, and maybe fall in love with it as many of us here havedone, was the creation of monthly open houses. Because of these, we were able to bring in more people. You may not have been aware, but each open house was unique. Different calls were taught at each of them, in order to create variety. This is something that has been used at other IAGSDC clubs, notably El Camino Reelers in California.

The change to a Blast weekend for Mainstream instruction also saw something that has been effective with other clubs, notably Chicago’s Chi-Town Squares. Condensing the teaching time to present all the calls in one weekend is challenging, but allows for a focused attention and attendance from students. The downside of this seems to be a decreased attendance by current members on the transformed Tuesday club nights. We’ll talk more about this shortly.

And so, while were able to bring in more people through the doors, we do have the continued challenge of keeping people actively participating after graduation. ON one hand, of the 20 new members in 2019, only 4 are here today.  We also have the continued challenge of promoting ourselves. On the other hand, 3 of the 6 Blast weekend graduates are here. While we do have many social media tools, ie. Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, Instagram, and Youtube, as well as our website, a consistent application of these tools is required. These tools work best when many people participate – kinda like having a full square of 8 dancers instead of three.

Now for something different. Of all the happenings throughout the year, the one I am personally most proud of is the new club t-shirt. An updated identity that allows all the members to appear that they belong to the same club was something on my to-do list when I joined the board of directors in 2018. At last year’s meeting, possible mock-ups were displayed. Ultimately, the committee recommended the t-shirt for its lower cost of production, and ease of re-ordering. Plus, it looks really great. The board did stipulate that a formal club shirt should be developed, and anyone who wants to make that happen is encouraged to form a committee.

In closing, I have to share one last set of data, which highlights our current growth.

In 2019, 15 dancers showed up for our first ‘event’ (a Thursday A2/C1) workshop. This year, there were 24 people.

Our second event, last year’s annual meeting, we had 37 members in attendance. This year, there are 47 members present.

The next event, last year it was a Tuesday MS Finishing class saw 28 people on the dance floor. This year it will be a club night. And the bar has been set for you.

Thank you.

“Von Trapp Sightings” by Nick Martellacci reprinted from the June 1997 issue of Times Squared

There was a time when many IAGSDC clubs had exhibition squares that performed at gatherings. Here’s an article about one from Times Squares.

Yes, folks, they’re back and the Times Squares has got ‘em … those fabulous dancing Von Trapps!!

On Saturday, April 19, Pauline Plummer (aka Maria), and her seven Von Trapp boys performed for the New Jersey Square Dance Convention. Since the convention staff failed to provide us with the lavish accommodations called for in our contract, we took over the men’s locker room and yes, Pauline was in there with us! We even had our final run through in the showers!! As we approached the dance floor in our chic Price Jepsen originals, we got lots of quizzical looks from the polyestered and crinolined conventioneers. But once the music started, we were more than forgiven for our non-traditional square dance attire. The crowd went wild enjoying the music, dancing and comic mugging of the performers.

The Von Trapp’s next scheduled appearance will be in Las Vegas. I won’t be able to attend the convention this year, so Todd Fellegy has agreed to fill in at the microphone. We are looking for two understudies to attend the pre-convention rehearsals. In Trenton, Greeley “Ruby Keeler” Walker stepped in for an ailing Michael Coan and learned the part in just 1-1/2 rehearsals! Sometimes understudies DO get a chance to enjoy the spotlight. So, if you’re interested call me.

After that, we’ll probably retire our “curtain-hosen” until the year 2000 when the National Square Dance Convention comes to Baltimore. But that’s another story!!- Nick Martellacci

Response to “Why At My Club?” by Roy Gotta published in the April 1994 issue of American Square Dance magazine

This letter to the editor helps us think about how brave Roy Gotta was to publish his article in a national magazine as early as he did.

Dear Editor:

Okay, let’s cut to the chase about gays in square dancing. This could also apply to the other minorities mentioned. The objection to dancing with any vocal minority is not an objection to the distinguishing characteristics that sets that minority apart. The objection is to the flaunting, taunting and rudeness that some of these individuals seem to feel they must exhibit concerning their minority orientation.

Of course homosexuals have been square dancing with heterosexuals, probably from the very beginning, and heterosexuals never knew the difference. And that, Mr. Gotta (and ladies and gentlemen in square dancing) is precisely the point! We didn’t know the difference because the difference was not being flaunted in our faces.

A square dance is not a political platform from which to launch your particular social or political agenda. There is history and tradition in square dancing, and there are rules and codes of dress and conduct. We don’t allow drunk people to impose their “rules” on us. If we define “Friendship Set to Music” in terms of every special interest group out there being allowed to demand we accept all their friends, rules and music without regard to our own, then square dancing is doomed. Mr. Gotta needs to review the 10 Commandments of Square Dancing and be reminded that they apply to the minorities as well as to the majority.

Happy square dancing,

Larry L. Dunn, DDS

Waycross, GA

“Why At My Club?” By Roy Gotta reprinted from the February 1994 issue of American Square Dance Magazine.

Now that gay and lesbian square dancers can comfortably dance in many venues, we tend to forget that this was not always the case.

Roy Gotta’s article appeared in the February 1994 issue of the national square dance magazine, “American Square Dance”. It was reprinted in “Times Squares” in April 1994. Next time you see Roy Gotta, thank him for his early and enduring support. A critical letter to the editor in the next month’s issue will be published here next week.

Stay tuned for one reader’s response.

“Why do they have to dance at our club? Why can’t they deep to themselves? I don’t mind if they want to square dance, as long as they stay in their own clubs. This used to be a nice family club. If you let one or two in then, before you know it, your club will be taken over by them.”

Do the above statements sound familiar? Have you heard any of them recently at your club or another club where you were dancing? Well, these statements were overheard back in the late 1950’s when my father-in-law had the nerve (or was it the courage) to bring a Jewish couple to a square dance club.

Is there any difference between this and the current uproar over “allowing” gays and lesbians to dance at straight clubs and festivals? I think not. Is there any difference between this and the same uproar in the sixties when Blacks entered the square dance picture? I think not. Prejudice and hatred are the same whenever and wherever they appear. I know of one major square dance festival that has actually had meetings to discuss “the problem”.

Before I discuss attitude, let’s take a look at a couple of facts. Barring gays and lesbians from your club or dance, or segregating them at said affairs, is illegal! It is discrimination! Also, you have been dancing with gay and lesbian square dancers for many years. You just didn’t know it! Gay and lesbian dancers have been coupling up and dancing as “traditionally correct” couples. If you are concerned about coming into contact with gays, keep in mind that a week doesn’t go by that you probably have contact with a gay individual outside of the square dance activity.

I have heard the argument that “I can’t dance in a square with same sex couples.” Two things come to mind when I hear this. One, this person probably didn’t say anything in the past when two women were dancing together, and two, this person is a very poor dancer. Some men are uncomfortable swinging other men. This is not a problem if you just say so up front. It is no different than not swinging someone of either sex who has a physical problem.

Let’s suppose for a moment that your club decides to break the law and ban gay and lesbian dancers from dancing as same sex couples at your dances. Do you now follow the same rules for the two senior ladies who have been dancing together at your club for the last 2 years? How do you know for sure that they are not lesbians? And how about the times when I have jumped into a square to be the needed 8th body? Since that 8th position was the “girl’s” part, do seven people have to sit down, because the rules prohibit same sex couples? Does my 84-year-old mother-in-law have to give up the activity she has been doing for over 40 years because she dances mostly the “boy’s” position?

Finally, whatever happened to “Friendship Set to Music?” Does this mean only my friends, by my rules, and to my music? It is not easy to change one’s attitudes and feelings. It is similarly not easy to accept lifestyles and customs that are radically different than your own. Remember, you are not being asked to accept, condone or embrace anyone else’s lifestyle. However, you are being asked to not deny anyone the right to enjoy their chosen form of recreation. After all, that’s all square dancing is, recreation. It happens to be recreation that involves interaction and interdependence on at least 7 other people. If your prejudices are so great that you cannot even dance in the same square with a person who believes or lives differently than yourself, then perhaps you should be looking for another form of recreation.

“Don’t Cry Over Broken Squares … Fix Them! Part 4” by Allan Hurst reprinted from the May 2004 issue of Times Squared

Click here for previous part.

The Last Resort

Finally, there’s the method of last resort, which I’ve often heard termed “find a hole and fill it”. If you get totally lost during a sequence and can’t possible remember any of the other methods outlined in this article, you always have the option of standing back until the dust settles, then dashing into the only empty spot in the formation. (Hint: If you know who you image dancer is, you can dash into that spot much more quickly!) People may laugh at you for a moment, but at least your square will keep going.

Don’t Ignore the Caller

If your square breaks down, and the caller starts calling specifically to your square (“Just that square, make waves with girls on the ends…”), don’t freak out, don’t argue with the caller, just do what he or she says.

I’ve observed a number of callers having fun with a floor by giving a broken-down square specific instruction, then have the rest of the floor do something different, until finally all of the squares converge. (“In that square only, swing through; everyone else, centers trade…”)

What to Do Next?

Don’t wait until your square breaks down to start practicing some of the techniques in this article. Make a note of your image dancer each time you square up, and periodically notice where he or she is during the top. Once in a while, glance over at another square to see where your mirror dancer is. Start being aware of where the girls are ad where the boy are in your square. You’ll eventually find you can fix a broken square nearly automatically.

The Point is … to Have Fun

One of the unbreakable rules of square dancing is, sooner or later, you’re going to dance in a square that breaks down. Regardless of which of the above techniques you decide to use (or not use), the most important thig is to have fun.

When your square breaks down, don’t get mad, and don’t place blame. Just keep moving, keep on dancing, and keep your sense of humor intact. Some of the most fun squares I’ve ever danced in were broken down during most of the tip, but we were all laughing so hard, we had a great time anyway!

“Don’t Cry Over Broken Squares … Fix Them! Part 3” by Allan Hurst reprinted from the May 2004 issue of Times Squared

Click here for the previous part and here for the next part.

Symmetry and Image Dancers

In his book, The Extemporaneous Caller, Bill Davis defines the concept of “Image Dancers,” which are dancers who are diametrically opposite across the set from each other, and at the dame distance from the flagpole center of the square. Image dancers will always be the same dance genders (e.g. two girls or two boys.) Many people refer to image dancers as “mirror dancers” or “mirror opposites.”

Assuming all called choreography in a given sequence is symmetric in nature, all image dancers will always remain symmetric, and at the same distance from the flagpole center of the square. It doesn’t matter what the formation is.

A formation is considered symmetric if both of the following conditions apply: (A) A line from any dancer through the flagpole center of the square intersects a dancer at the same distance from the center on the other side. (B) Any two image dancers are facing the same direction (e.g., clockwise, counterclockwise, in, out, etc.) relative to the flagpole center of the square.

Using Your Image Dancer to Recover

Now that you know what an image dancer is, you can easily use this concept to review your part of a broken square.

If you’re dancing in a square and suddenly don’t know where you should go or are uncertain that you ended up in the correct spot, just look across the flagpole center of the square. Is that your image dancer? If so, you’re probably OK (unless both of you made the same mistake, in which case there’s nothing more you can do.) If it’s not your image dancer, move into the position in your half of the square that corresponds to your image dancer.

Speaking frankly, this method will only work if you have an image dancer that you know dances at least as well as you do. If you think you image dancer is weaker that you, this method probably won’t work.

Using Your Mirror Dancer to Recover

If you have a weak image dancer, don’t give up – there is still hope!

It’s always a good idea when squaring up to make a mental not of your partner, your corner, and your image dancer. (This is one of the reasons many callers often deliberately draw your attention to those people at the beginning of a tip – for example “Bow to your partner, Yellow rock your corner…”) Let’s add one more person to that list: your “mirror dancer” in another square.

When you square up, after you figure out who’s who in your square, make a point of finding another nearby square, and make a mental note of who in that square is dancing in your position. If you’re the #2 girl in your square, not down the #2 girl in the square next to you. All you have to remember is the person dancing the same position as you.

If you find yourself losing track during a complex sequence, take a quick glance at the other square, and wee where your mirror dancer is. I’ve observed this technique being used frequently in Advance and Challenge dancing, where I’ve heard it termed “checkpointing.” If you get lost, this may be the fastest way for you to get back into the correct position.

Please note: checkpointing, or using your mirror dancer, is not a substitute for knowing dance calls! This is a technique I suggest using on y during complex or unfamiliar choreography, where you think you’re doing the calls correctly, but perhaps missed a call or part of a call and got confused.