Putting the 21st Century and square dance together may seem like a stretch, and for many people today, a Do-si-do is a type of Girl Scout cookie.
However, for the Union Squares of Creston, square dance is an art form that is alive and well.
The Union Squares was formed late in the 1970s with the merging of the St. Paul and Creston Mixers Square Dance clubs. The club has members from Creston, Corning, Clearfield, Afton, Lenox and Osceola. Occasionally members from other clubs, such as the Clarinda Circle Eight club, will join the group to dance.
A common theme within square dance is one of lasting friendship and fun.
“You meet a lot of good people,” Cecil Sunderman said. “We had friends that dance and they wanted us to dance and they got us started. We had a good time. Of course, there was more young people our age then. We sure enjoyed getting together with them.”
Sunderman and his wife are from the Clarinda club and have been square dancing for 35 years. They will occasionally join the Union Squares for their club dances.
“It’s a terrific activity,” Square Dance Caller Dave Riley said. “I’ve been doing it since 1972. I love to square dance. With both my legs bad now, I don’t get to dance as much as I used to, but I thoroughly enjoy calling.”
A caller in square dance is the person who sets the tempo and tells the dancers which steps they are going to perform.
Riley also used to teach and said it takes only about 40 hours to learn the steps.
“If you can walk, you can dance,” Riley said. “Square dance is timed to a 4/4 beat just like marching.”
Many of the club’s members are in their 70s and 80s, and expressed fear that the practice is dying out because of lack of interest from younger generations.
However, occasionally a young couple will join the group and keep the spirit of square dance alive.
Amy Holley and Scott Warnke joined in October at the urging of a friend and are the newest and, at 25 and 27, the youngest members of the club. Once they started, they were hooked.
“We had fun and thought we’d come back and keep going,” Holley said.
Like all other forms of dance, square dance is an aerobic exercise and can improve cardiovascular fitness. It provides mental stimulation and can also help reduce stress.
“You have to think, because the caller is going to be telling you what to do,” Bernadine Behlers, president of the Union Squares said. “So, you have to think all the time, so that keeps your mind occupied.”
The Union Squares meet from 7:30 to 10 p.m. the first and third Friday of each month in the basement of the United Methodist Church in Creston and anyone, regardless of skill level, is welcome to join them.
“It’s the best place to create friendships,” Belhers said. “The exercise is wonderful. You can come to a dance tired and you forget you’re tired by the end of the evening,”