Square dancers find fellowship, fun, fancy footwork

By From page C1 | June 15, 2014

SUISUN CITY — Fun, fellowship and some fancy footwork is the framework for the Twin City Steppers Square Dance Club, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

Like American society, square dancing has evolved. Swing skirts with thick petticoats are still worn by the women, but members of the Twin City Steppers also wear casual clothes, such as knit tops and pants, for dancing.

The music still favors the country genre, but pop artists such as Lady Gaga and Robin Thicke are also played.

Club caller Bert Swerer has gone from carrying vinyl records and a record player to a briefcase with a laptop that holds 200 to 300 songs. Gone are the days of toting huge box speakers weighing 30 to 40 pounds. Today they are not much bigger than a shoebox and weigh about 15 pounds.

One thing that hasn’t altered is getting young people involved in square dancing. Carolyn McWalters, and other members of the Twin City Steppers, would like to see that change.

McWalters, who is president of the Northern California Square Dancers Association, started square dancing 30 years ago, when she was 14.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “You get to spend time with people. You get to know them. You can end up walking a mile (square dancing) and not realizing it. It’s good exercise.”

It also affords her the chance to explore new locations. Square dancing, and her post with the Northern California Square Dance Association, put her in touch with other area clubs.

Friends Willise Morrison and Nita McVay joined the group last fall. They graduated at Wednesday’s dance, having demonstrated a required level of skill.

As part of their graduation, they danced with their feet in brown paper bags. That was followed by holding balloons between their knees while dancing.

Morrison square danced in the 1960s and 1970s, she said. When she decided to try it again, she opted for the Twin City Steppers because of the caller, Swerer. She likes his style, she said.

“I came to watch,” McVay said.

She ended up dancing.

Katie McGroot went in search of ballroom dancing, but couldn’t find a group that focused on that style. Instead, she found the Twin City Steppers were a perfect fit.

Brancy McGee said square dancing benefits her physically and mentally.

“You are exercising the mind and body,” she said.

The social aspect is fun, too.

“These are happy, nice people,” McGee said. “We laugh for two hours. We have a lot of fun.”

Swerer has been calling since 1967. He didn’t like dancing prior to that. On one occasion, his former wife begged him to go square dancing with her. He didn’t go. She came home and couldn’t stop talking about the fun she had. So, he went with her the next week and was quickly hooked, he said.

He then taught square dancing to his wife Ronda Swerer. Today, he spends most of his time calling.

“I used to dance a lot,” he said. “Now the hips don’t work as well as they used to.”

His role involves a lot of memorization as Swerer said it’s his job to know where the dancers are in the square.

“You never get to the point where you say, ‘I know it all,’ ” he said, of giving instructions to the dancers.

More information on the group can be found at www.twincitysteppers.com.

Vacaville is home to the Vaca Valley Ramblers Square Dance Club, which was founded in 2008. According to the group’s website, the next beginner’s class gets underway in January 2015.

More details on the classes and events can be found at www.vacavalleyramblers.com.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.

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