Seniors square dance for health and fun |

Seniors square dance for health and fun

Arline June Gordon, Special to the Tribune
Provided to the TribuneMembers of the Cowboys and Petticoats square dance club, Betty Shelley, Jim Duke, Rudy Shelley and Ann Baer, from left, promenade at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center.

Why do people take up square dancing? For most it appears that the appeal is the fun of moving to music in a special way, in a definite pattern, led by a caller who also plays the music. A square is made up of four couples facing each other, moving forward and back and in circles, sometimes changing partners. Although the dances are designed for couples, individuals can find partners by attending the dances and/or taking instruction before the dances begin. Two of the couples in the “Cowboys and Petticoats” square dance group, that meets at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center, met originally through square dancing.

Tina was the contact person for square and round dancing in Savannah, Ga., when Richard McBride, who was there with the National Guard, called to find out where the square dancing was. Richard was working with Sierra Pacific at Lake Tahoe, where he danced with the square dance club. They were married and are such a good match they have won bronze, silver and gold medals in the Senior Olympics at St. George, Utah. They give a lot of exhibitions and last October they danced at an exhibition at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City to benefit Meals on Wheels. They also have performed at a nursing home in Gardnerville. Tina is the president of Cowboys and Petticoats.

In another situation Evelyn, a widow, was asked by her friends to start taking beginner square dance lessons. She did and found it to be lots of fun. After she graduated in April 1978, she quit dancing because she didn’t have a partner. In November 1979 her friend asked her to come to the next dance — they had a partner for her. She was very leery, but went anyway and met her partner, Don Cook. They had a great time and he invited her to other square dances in Carson City, Reno and Gardnerville. They danced three or four times a week. Don lived in Minden, but picked her up in South Lake Tahoe and drove her to and from all the dances. On Feb. 14, 1981, Evelyn and Don were married at Lake Tahoe and this past Valentine’s Day was their 21st wedding anniversary. They each have served as president of the Cowboys and Petticoats and Don is a past president and current vice president of South Lake Tahoe Senior Citizens, Inc.

The square dance club is not only for seniors, but for people of any age from high school up. The club started by meeting at Al Tahoe Elementary School, but it was not available in the summers. They tried other locations but they weren’t satisfactory. Finally, they talked to Gary Moore, director of the senior center, who agreed to rent them a room. Each of the dancers pays $3 toward the weekly rent. On their breaks they have refreshments brought by the participants and enjoy socializing with one another.

Betty and Rudy Shelley, who have been dancing with the club for quite a few years, said, “It’s fun and we’ve met a lot of new acquaintances. Many have become good friends and it’s good exercise.”

The caller, Jim Marwin, has been square dancing since 1969. He was ready to retire from the police department when he started square dance calling in Reno. Then, the Lake Tahoe group asked him to come up here. He loves “calling,” sometimes sings along with the music, enjoys interacting with people and would like to see more people doing it. Marwin said that three hospitals in Los Angeles use square dancing for cardiac rehabilitation because it is good, light exercise. Every dance is equal to 7 to 10 miles of walking, and probably a lot more fun. According to Richard McBride, “Square dancers live 10 years longer because of the exercise.”

The Cowboys and Petticoats square dance club dances from 7 to 9:30 p.m. every Wednesday, except the third Wednesday of the month when they meet at 6:30 p.m. and have a potluck before dancing. A beginning class will start April 17 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the senior senior, 3050 Lake Tahoe Blvd. Regular square dancing will be available from 8 to 9:30 p.m. For more information call Evelyn Cook at (530) 541-2153.

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