Not-so-square dance: Teens blend old, new for fun, competition

DAVID WICKERT; david.wickert@nullthenewstribune.com * 253-274-7341

Published: May 11th, 2008 01:00 AM | Updated: May 11th, 2008 06:32 AM

They scooted. They circulated. They Ferris wheeled and loaded the boat. In short, they turned the White River High School gymnasium into the region’s biggest dance party Saturday. But this was not your typical high school dance. The Pacific Northwest Teen Square Dance Festival in Buckley drew 260 competitors from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. They competed for dancing, calling and other honors. And they showed that while square dancing retains some of its traditions, it’s evolved into something these teenagers get a kick out of.

“We don’t dance in barns,” said 16-year-old Dustin McGifford of Penticton, B.C. “We’re not hillbillies. There’s no hay around.”

Indeed, some of the songs they danced to sounded more like drum machine-driven disco than traditional country. And even the country numbers were light on twang. But with the girls wearing poofy skirts that twirled when they spun, and with the boys wearing dressy Western shirts and bolo ties, there was no mistaking this for anything but a square dance.

Teams danced to the orders of pre-recorded callers who put them through a series of complicated maneuvers.

“Scoot back. Linear cycle. Load the boat.”

With each command the dancers executed a series of intricate steps, waiting to hear what came next.

“We have no idea what’s going on” as they wait for each call, said 18-year-old Annika Ball of Bothell, who competed with the Shirts-n-Skirts team.

Annika first learned square dancing in physical education classes. Now she practices at least three hours a week with her teammates, who are like a second family to her.

“Family” was a theme mentioned often by participants. Diana Remington, an adviser for the Shirts-n-Skirts team, said her husband competed in this same competition in the early 1970s. She said many teens come to square dancing through their families.

Dustin, the British Columbia teen, said he enjoys the socializing, the workout and the singing he does as a caller. On Saturday he sang a fine version of Sammy Kershaw’s “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” while calling for several dozen dancers.

“You just have to put yourself out there,” he said.

Reasons to Dance

1. Social Aspects – Square Dancing & Contra Dancing are great ways to meet people in a non-threatening, relaxed social atmosphere.  You never know who you are gong to meet.  ...

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