Blount County’s Wagon Wheeler grads earn Ph.D. in Do-Si-Do
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A group of graduates at Springbrook Recreation Center in Alcoa recently proved they have all the right moves.
The 12 men and women donned graduation caps and took the stage during the special ceremony for Wagon Wheelers Square Dance Club, which holds its dances there at Springbrook. The couples took western-style square dance lessons weekly for eight months to complete their graduation requirements.
Betty Bowers is president of the club and has been a local member since moving here in 2005. She said the club dates back to 1956 here in Blount County. Back then, the classroom upstairs at Springbrook could barely hold all the dancers who came for this social activity that also gets your heart rate going. The crowds might not be as large these days, but the enthusiasm hasn’t waned.
More than fancy footwork
“The social aspect is wonderful,” she said. “You always have a good time full of laughs. But you also have to listen to the caller because he will sometimes say something different. That keeps your mind sharp.”
The Wagon Wheelers meet each Tuesday at Springbrook, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. The first hour is devoted to lessons while the remaining time is all about the dancing.
There are some who want more than a weekly dance, and surrounding communities are more than happy to accommodate. Bowers said Knoxville, Lenoir City, Morristown, Oak Ridge and Kingsport have weekend dances. Many couples in the area will make their way to these nearby cities for an extra night of fun on the dance floor.
Local caller is Allen Tipton, who at 84, hasn’t slowed down. He also teaches the lessons and is known nationally as one of the best.
Bowers is hoping there are others out there who want to learn to square dance. The Wagon Wheelers will be starting classes again soon, on Sept. 17. All are invited to participate, regardless of level of talent.
The first three weeks are spent teaching the basics and repeating them until all have gotten the knack. Then it’s time to build on that, Bowers said. She said by the time the lessons are complete, the dancers will be able to dance 68 different calls.
Anybody can do it
“People will come in saying ‘I don’t know how to dance,’” Bowers said. “They say they don’t know their left foot from their right. We always welcome them and say ‘Everybody here is the same way.’ Before the evening is over, they are dancing.”
What is learned can them be applied to any square dance event across the globe because it is always taught in English, Bowers said. You can go to Japan or China and the caller will be speaking the familiar do-si-do and allemande left lingo.
The latest graduates included Mark and Nancy Coleman, Jim and Edna Davis, Bob and Penny Kimsey, Ron Lynn, Gary and Phyllis Ringler, Judy Robertson, John Seus and Marcella Sholtes.
Their graduation night included a written test along with two demonstration dances. One of the dances had to be performed with their hands behind their backs, which is no easy feat, Bowers said. The second dance was the closed knee shuffle. The men were required to hold grapefruits between their knees while the women held oranges.
“There was heckling from the sidelines until they were asked to get up and demonstrate the same thing,” Bowers said.
Good, clean fun
It was an evening full of laughter and good times, this president said. All had great senses of humor as the night wore on. The graduates even wore the paper graduation hats made by Bowers.
She said the atmosphere is one that welcomes young and old.
There is no alcohol, tobacco or drugs allowed so families can feel good about attending.
Hundreds have probably learned to square dance at Springbrook Recreation Center over the years. The fact lessons are only $5 should convince others to join in the fun. Bowers said many times it’s the husband who needs convincing. Once they come, they wish they had done it sooner, she said.
This activity that can be traced to English, French and Scots-Irish roots, is fun to watch but more fun to experience. Bowers said folks are welcome to come on a Tuesday night and see what it’s all about. There is still time to sign up for the classes that start in September.
These recent graduates are now moving ahead with the chance to continue learning through the next level of dancing.