Cheltenham American Square Dance Club

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Square dancing is not done by straw chewing cowboys and their dames!! It is an ideal pastime for keeping the mind and body in good health. We are simply a group of people who enjoy mixing with others, learning new dances and having fun.

No particular skills are needed and no previous dancing experience of any kind is necessary-provided you know your left from your right, you can learn to square dance. Although square dancing is a ‘couple’ activity, ‘singles’ will always find a welcome at clubs, and many new and lasting friendships have been made. Many ladies learn the man’s part so as to be able to balance the common mismatch between ladies and men.

Clubs usually dance to recorded sound tracks with a caller who adjusts the choreography  the needs of the dancers. At Cheltenham we have been fortunate to have a top caller in the club for 40 years, and this has resulted in the club establishing a good reputation for dancing.

It’s Healthy - as with all regular exercise, square dancing can lead to slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol profile. It is a low impact pastime but the movements of many square dances can strengthen your weight-bearing bones. It is a positive alternative to aerobics or jogging. Above all it is good fun- we laugh a lot, which is the best medicine of all.

Read more about the health benefits of Square Dancing.

It burns off calories – During an hour of dancing you can burn between 400 and 800. Square dancing combines all the positive aspects of physical exercise because it is low impact and requires the constant movement and agility that keeps the body in shape.

It’s a mental challenge  and stress reliever– Reacting quickly to the square dance caller keeps you mentally on your toes.. The mental challenge is similar to completing puzzles and is proven to keep the mind active. Whilst concentrating on the moves you escape from your worries and pressures of the week. It is a proven way to combat stress.

It’s teamwork – Your team of eight dancers depend on each other to keep the dance moving.

It’s sociable – Square dancing contains a social component that solitary fitness endeavours do not. It is very tactile and friendly which contributes to self-esteem and a positive outlook. In a dance you will usually have hand contact with many of the other seven. Body contact tends to be avoided in our British culture, and increasingly so as communication is done through cyber space. But touch has been shown to be good for us and have many therapeutic benefits. Few dance evenings go by without laughing either at the callers challenges or our own mistakes. Laughter is still the best medicine for many ills!

How do you do it?

Four couples form a square and dance a pattern of moves presented to the beat of the music by a caller. As with most activities, lessons are required to learn the basics.

The team of eight follows the calls – the moves flow from one to the next and the dancers move smoothly around the square changing partners as they go, and as the pattern concludes everyone finishes back with their original partner.


What skills do you need?

Absolutely none other than a willingness to learn, the time to keep up classes for 9 months, the tolerance to work as a team member and know we all make mistakes. Being a non-impact and non-stressful activity, Square dancing can be enjoyed by all ages and even by those who have undergone heart surgery or knee replacements or other health problems

And once I have learned the basic moves?

Once the basic moves have been mastered, a dancer is enabled to graduate and this opens up  many opportunities to travel to other club dances, usually Saturday evenings, when a visiting caller leads the dancing. Local dances attract between 60 and 120 dancers. There are organised dance weekends, where dancers from all over the country meet and accommodation is arranged in a hotel, holiday park, caravan park or college etc.

and then…

Square dancing calls are categorised at different levels. When you graduate, you are said to have completed the mainstream moves. At Cheltenham we have many dancers who have learned also the next tier of moves called ‘plus’ level. The club will teach you these moves on a Friday evening after you have been dancing for a couple of years if you are interested. We meet also on Wednesday evenings to dance only plus level dances. There is then more levels above this, but currently anyone interested would ned to travel to the Bristol area to learn them.

Most dancers enjoy the challenge of mainstream and plus. Because square dancing depends on teamwork for success, once you have learned the mainstream moves, you will find yourself teaching the next generation of new dancers-this is in itself challenging and a great way to consolidate your own skills. There are also many opportunities for the more adventurous to travel further afield. If on holiday in this country or anywhere in the world, you will always be welcome to join any club evening or dance, and there will never be a problem with language because American Square dancing is always called in English, whether you are in Europe or Japan!”

and then…

The Square Dance community need a regular supply of willing volunteers to learn to call, for the enthusiast there is a lifetime of challenge and money to be earned by becoming a caller.

A1, A2, C1, C2……


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