Some take square dancing for a spin
Jim Brown of Brookline and his wife, Agnes, decided more than 20 years ago to stop “being couch potatoes” and do something active.
They started square dancing with another couple. Agnes Brown and the husband of the other couple since have passed away, but Brown, 78, and the other remaining spouse, Phyllis Murray, also of Brookline, continue to square dance.
They travel to North Hills Community Baptist Church in Ross, where members of the Y-Knot Dance Club meet every first and third Thursday of the month. Brown is president of the club, which features square and round dancing and takes its name from its original incarnation as a YMCA club at the Y in Pine.
Jeanne Maier, 65, of McCandless and Russ Stewart, 71, of Shaler have been dancing together for 35 years, 18 with the Y-Knot club. They participate in the do-si-dos, aleman lefts and rights, promenades and more complicated moves.
“Once you learn square dancing, then you learn round dancing,” he said.
Square dancing has evolved over centuries in Europe and North America, with a “square” comprising four couples. Early settlers brought the four-couples dancing to America.
A unique form developed in the western United States, with a caller who prompts the dancers into performing the next routine. Round dancing, which has a cuer to call out steps, involves couples dancing in a circle and steps related to ballroom dances such as the waltz, cha-cha, rhumba and tango.
Y-Knot is one of 15 square and round dance clubs in the Pittsburgh area, all members of the Western Pennsylvania Square and Round Dancing Federation. Its members say the square and round dances provide an excellent physical workout. Stewart reports occasionally sweating during routines.
“My heart doctor says, ‘Go,' ” Stewart said of the dancing.
But square and round dancing make a difference in dancers' mental acuity, too, Brown said.
“It keeps your mind very, very active; it's a great Alzheimer's test,” Brown said. “You have to be able to execute the moves.”
Maier, Stewart's dance partner for 35 years, said some square dancers go to different clubs because they like the caller.
“The caller makes a big difference,” she said.
“We encourage members to go to other dances,” Stewart said. Most square and round dance clubs have banners captured in “banner raids.” The dance club that owns a banner from another club then hosts a return visit from the club from which it raided the banner.
“It's a way to get people to interact,” Stewart said.
Y-Knot offers lessons the first Monday of the month. A new set of classes will begin on Feb. 3 in Kane Regional Center in Ross.
“If you like it, you like it and continue,” Stewart said.
Some members have found other kinds of commitments at Y-Knot.
“We've had several weddings” of members who met through Y-Knot, Brown said. But Y-Knot is not a couples dance club. Singles can attend, as can folks who are friends, such as Maier and Stewart.
After dancers take lessons, “you can go anywhere,” Brown said. Worldwide, square dance callers give the calls in English. It's the only dance called in English all over the world, Stewart said. It's also the official Pennsylvania state dance.
Members said Y-Knot has had visitors from Germany, France, China, Japan and England.
Y-Knot members allow casual dress during the summer and ask for “traditional dress” the rest of the year. That means trousers for men and either ruffled or prairie skirts for women.
Men often wear long-sleeved shirts with a Western cut, string ties and cowboy boots or regular shoes and decorative belt buckles. Couples often coordinate clothing for holidays, such as red, white and blue outfits to commemorate Veterans Day.
“It's a very fun, festive evening,” Stewart said.
“It's better than walking on a treadmill,” Brown said.
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Young achiever: Amelia Porter Bacon
- Borough takes the reins of Dormont Day
- Upper St. Clair baseball field to be repaired after mine subsidence
- Flag-collection effort gains steam around Pittsburgh area
- Watershed group coordinating efforts to meet Saw Mill Run deadline
- Bellevue to repair library, add play equipment to park
- Groveton VFD receives outpouring of support after station fire
- State program helps Dormont home go from blight to beautiful
- Cost-cutting measures eliminate PR position