Square dancing club promenades toward youth revival
LOMBARD – If there’s one tip Pat Semple can give people about square dancing, it’s that it’s not an activity just for old people.
Fueled by this determination to prove that square dancing is something people of any age can enjoy and find challenging, Semple and other members of the Oceanwaves Square Dance Club are working to dispel the stereotypes of square dancing being about country music, funny outfits and a pasttime strictly for the elderly.
“We’re trying to appeal back into a younger generation,” said Semple who formerly served as club president and now sits on a regional square dancing board.
Oceanwaves Square Dance Club has been based in Lombard since the 1950s, and members meet bi-monthly to dance together. At each gathering, there’s a caller who picks the music and leads the dancers. There are several clubs throughout the Chicago region, and Semple said people frequently travel to dance with other clubs. The partnership between neighboring clubs is important to helping sustain the groups, she said.
“It’s all based on the history of our country,” she said. “It is almost our national dance. It really is like playing a game of chess to music.”
For the past several weeks, Semple has been visiting other square dancing clubs and telling them about Saturday’s Harvest Festival in Lombard, which is being sponsored by the Prairie Food Coop and the Lombard Historical Society and will feature square dancing. She’s hired a national caller to be at the event and hopes this will be an opportunity to gain interest.
The caller will lead many dances appropriate for beginners and a few more complex ones so that people can see the skill required for square dancing.
Kristy and Gary Moore are members of the Downers Grove Square Thrus and came to dance with the Oceanwaves on Wednesday night. Kristy Moore is pregnant with the couple’s second child and they frequently bring their young son Charlie out dancing with them; he rides in a carrier on his dad’s back.
The Moores are beginning their fourth season of square dancing, a hobby they picked up after learning about its social and health benefits.
“We see a lot of families out at the dances, especially the big ones,” Kristy said. “We see a lot of kids who are taking lessons with their parents.”
Janice Cha, a member of the Glenview Squares club in Glenview, was also dancing with Oceanwaves with her husband James Cha. They’ve been dancing for about 10 years and are working to revitalize their club in the hopes of generating interest.
Janice Cha said they’ve danced at zoos and participated in a flash mob at Millennium Park, all in the hopes of generating dialogue about square dancing.
The Chas plan to come out and dance at Lombard’s Harvest Festival
“(We hope to) have a good time dancing and show people how fun it is,” Janice Cha said.
Whatever the attendance of square dancers on Saturday afternoon, Semple is determined to gain more interest in the dancing and build a base of young people interested in getting involved.
“It’s not just a dance,” she said. “You don’t have to wear the funny clothes. I’m hoping that it gets us out and people can see how fun it is. That’s what I’d like to get out. This is a Lombard club that has had fun in exercising since the 50s. We’d just like it to have a revival.”