Although there is not technically a designated square dance month in Maine, if there were one it most likely would be September.
That’s because the weather’s getting cooler, family vacations are over and many people are looking for an inexpensive evening out.
Many square dance clubs do meet in the summertime, enjoying square dance camping weekends, square dance demonstrations at fairs and participating in town celebrations.
But September is the big month for many square dance clubs because this is usually when they offer beginner lessons.
Throughout the country, most square dance club members realize the club’s future is not only in retaining members but also in bringing in new members, who are the lifeblood of every organization.
Maine’s square dance season is usually September to May or June, and that’s when people can learn what it means to “do-si-do,” “allemande left,” “swing your partner” and “promenade.”
“We can’t wait to get back to seeing all our friends from all across the state,” says Bob Brown, president of the Le-Vi Rounders’ Square Dance Club of Hermon and Greater Bangor.
What is it about square dancing that brings in so many new people every year, and why do people take lessons once or twice a week to learn to square dance?
If you asked 10 square dancers why they dance you would probably get 10 different answers. For some, it’s the absolute fun and the ease of learning the skill.
Once you’ve learned the basics, you can go to any square dance and feel comfortable dancing with total strangers, who won’t be strangers for long.
Square dancers are apt to be the friendliest people you could meet, offering an opportunity to form many new, long-term friendships.
Square dancing has no age restrictions and is enjoyed by people from 9 to 90, younger and older. If you can hear and you can walk briskly, you can square dance.
Square dancing is a very social affair, with eight people to a square and a range of five to 15 squares or more at any given dance.
Costwise it’s family-friendly, with many clubs offering family discounts or lower rates for full-time students.
Square dancing is great exercise, physical and mental, similar to low-impact aerobics.
It has been calculated that at a square dance you can walk 3 to 5 miles, depending on how much actual dancing you do, and burn 200 to 400 calories in a half-hour.
The movement and quick directional change help loosen and tone muscles, increase heart function, lower blood pressure and can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Learning the calls and remembering them is the mental exercise of dancing, which can actually help to slow the age-related problem of memory loss.
Dancing is also a stress-reliever, and a study shows that square dancing can add 10 years to your life.
Another benefit of square dancing is that it takes place in a smoke-, alcohol- and drug-free environment.
But, for many, like Bob Brown, it’s the sociability that’s important.
Square dancing is “a social gathering of many people; some I know, some I’ve yet to meet. But before the night is over, I will make some new friends and I will have the time of my life. It certainly beats the stationary bike or treadmill all by myself.”
For those who remember the square dancing of their youth, today’s dances are quite different, with new steps, new music and new patterns to learn, and there is no more dancing in barns. Today’s dances are in schools, church and community halls, resorts and even on cruise ships.
And while square dancing is international, in that you can dance in many foreign countries, the one common denominator is that it’s always done in English.
Many states have enacted legislation making modern Western square dancing the folk dance of their states, and square dancing is on the rise in many parts of the country.
The past two years, Biddeford was the host city for the New England Square and Round Dance Convention, which will be held in Hartford, Conn., the next two years with nearly 1,000 dancers in attendance.
New clubs have been started in Belfast and the Auburn area, and the Le-Vi Rounders is one of the fastest growing clubs in Maine. All 13 Maine clubs offer beginner lessons.
For more information about any of these clubs, visit squaredanceme.us or call Bob Brown or Cindy Fairfield at 447-0094 or 631-8816 for the club nearest you.