Thursday, January 18, 2018
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“Swing your partner, Do-si-do!”

The words of square dance callers can be heard throughout the Rio Grande Valley as the peak of the winter season gets underway. With the full line-up of square dance opportunities available it is no wonder McAllen is considered “The Square Dance Capital of the World.” While the square dance jamboree that was once a custom in the Rio Grande Valley is no longer, there is still plenty of square dancing taking place at resorts all across the Rio Grande Valley.

20150105 Square-Dance KO IMG 6679The Winter Texan Times decided to look into the amount of square dancing was going on in the Rio Grande Valley after an email from a reader questioning why the Winter Texan Survey printed in a previous addition of the paper said there were fewer square dancers in the Valley than in previous years. The answer to that seems to be fewer square dancers took time to answer the survey than in years past, giving an indication square dancing was waning.  

Caller Darryl Lipscomb said his classes are full and there is a full schedule of square dancing opportunities across the Valley. There is a square dance somewhere every day of the week. He said he calls a minimum of 10 dances a week.

And for anyone interested in learning to square dance, there is ample opportunity as the Valley has 14 callers employed in different resorts, from Mission to Brownsville, who not only call dances but teach the various levels of moves needed for the types of square dances. Lipscomb explained the various programs.

For those who have never square danced before, Beginners is the level to look for. Callers at that level will be teaching the basic moves in a square dance. Once a couple has mastered the basics in Beginners they move up to Mainstream where moves get a little more advanced. After Mainstream comes Plus, Plus-DBD, Advanced, C1, C2, C3a and C3b. At each level the calls get more complex. It is necessary to go through all levels because dances get more complicated and dancers are expected to be able to do all the maneuvers learned in previous levels.

Lipscomb was conducting a Challenge-1 workshop at Tropical Valley Acres when the Winter Texan Times visited. He said the typical calls for a Challenge-1 such as Scootin’ and Plenty have about four different steps that were required when he made the call. In order to be able to know how to do the sequence, the dancers had to have learned parts of it in other levels of dance.

Listening as he called his first dance calls included “quarter through,” “work in tandem,” “explode the wave.” “step and slide,” “girls crossfire,” “horseshoe turn,” two-thirds recycle,” “counter rotate’” and “scoot and plenty.”

After the dance, Lipscomb explained that because this was a Challenge-1 dance, the commands each required several actions to complete. He added there are only two levels above this one so these dancers are pretty advanced in skills.

“At this level, square dancing is similar to puzzle solving,” Lipscomb explained. “The dancer must follow the calls to solve the puzzle and end up back with his original partner at the end of the dance.

The Winter Texan Times also spoke with some of the dancers. Mary Ann Drake of Indiana said she loves to square dance because it keeps her healthy.

Harlan Bower agreed. He and his wife have been coming from California for 10 years to square dance. At 80, his doctor attributes his good health to the time he spends square dancing.

Ed and Marge Egolf agreed, at 89 and 91 square dancing keeps them on their feet and moving.

Judy Lonnway said she enjoys the friends she makes while dancing. “I can go to a dance almost anywhere in the United States and find someone I know. A former nurse, she started dancing 10 years ago when she retired, and dances in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois when she is not in the Rio Grande Valley. She lives at Fun N Sun but comes to Mission to take part in the challenge dances. She enjoys dancing six to seven times a week in Harlingen, Pharr, McAllen and Mission as well as in San Benito.

Lynn Wilding of Winnipeg, Canada said Canada does not have as much square dancing and especially not at the challenge level. She enjoys spending three months in the Valley square dancing, while her neighbors in Canada are shoveling snow.

Lipscomb is not the only caller in the Valley. Other callers include Ron Betzelberger, Butch Danielski, Randy Dougherty, Nelda Eaton, Nick Hartley, Wiley Hutchinson, Rich McCoy, Lynn Nelson, Joe Saltel and Jerry Story. They can be found at various parks around the Valley.

Square dances are held at Alamo Palms; Alamo Rec-Veh; Bit O Heaven, Donna; Casa Del Sol, Donna; Casa Del Valle, Alamo; El Valle del Sol, Mission; and Fiesta Village, Mission. Others include Fun N Sun, San Benito; La Hacienda, Mission; Lakewood, Harlingen, Leisure World, Weslaco; Llano Grande, Mercedes; Long Island Village, Port Isabel; Magic Valley, Weslaco; Mission West; and Our Savior Lutheran Church, McAllen.

Square dances can also be found at Paradise Park, Harlingen; Park Place, Harlingen; Pharr South; Pine to Palm, Weslaco; Plantation, Pharr; Siesta Village, Weslaco; Sunshine, Harlingen; and Split Rail Park, Mission. Look for more dance opportunities at Texas Trails, Pharr; Tip O Texas, Pharr; Tropic Winds, Harlingen; Tropical Valley Acres, Mission and Winter Ranch, Alamo. To find the level of dance needed from beginner to the top level, check with the resorts for times and levels of dance.

There is no shortage of square dancing in the Rio Grande Valley.

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