PROMENADING ON THE DANCE FLOOR
Clenched jaws at square dances are harder to find than 78 rpm records by Hank Williams Sr.
The Observer/DICK MASON
Nevertheless, members of the La Grande Star Promenaders emerge from square dance sessions with a sore jaw or two.
It is a price that they enjoy paying.
All members of the Star Promenaders make an occasional mistake while square dancing, but they learned long ago to laugh off their
Sometimes people get charley horses in their jaws from laughing so hard (at themselves). If you dont know how to laugh at yourself you will learn, said Eloise Stolsig, a member of the Star Promenaders since 1995.
Mistakes can liven up already lively evenings.
Nobody cares. Everyone giggles and moves on, Stolsig said. ...You learn to laugh at yourself and with yourself.
It is easy to make a miscue because square dancers are responsible for knowing at least 72 moves. The moves are announced by a caller who essentially choreographs each dance.
Your caller is doing all the thinking for you. You just relax and have a good time, Stolsig said.
Dale Counsell of La Grande, the Star Promenaders square dance caller for the past nine years, strives to keep everything operating smoothly while making things challenging and interesting.
Its like a chess match. I try to keep about three steps ahead of myself, Counsell said.
He closely watches the reactions of his square dancers to keep everything moving smoothly.
You rarely see a frown on their faces but sometimes you get some blank looks, Counsell said.
Counsell often does singing calls. While doing them he sings a country song while interspersing instructions. People who have square danced for years dont have to analyze what they are doing, they just have to listen.
It is a matter of repetition. You react, Counsell said.
Counsell is one of the top square dance callers you will find anywhere, Stolsig said.
We are very fortunate to have a caller of his caliber, Stolsig said.
You realize how good he is when you travel and hear other callers.
Counsell is recognized by many outside the Star Promenaders as an outstanding caller. He gets offers from throughout the Northwest to call square dances.
When Counsell cannot call for the Star Promenaders, Bill Williamson of Cove fills in.
About 20 to 25 people regularly attend the Star Promenader workshops. The total includes five married couples who met at the
Stolsig and her husband, Les, are one of these five couples. Eloise Stolsig says that square dances are a great place to meet people because everyone is there to enjoy each others company.
Its a great social time, said Stolsig, whose husband is president of the Star Promenaders.
Eloise Stolsig noted that no alcohol or cigarettes are allowed at square dances, which allows people to focus on dancing and having fun with others.
Star Promenader Ray Fenn noted that alcohol and square dancing dont mix dancers have to be able to keep up.
The Star Promenaders workshops also feature round dances, which are conducted between square dances. Round dances consist of the fox trot, the two step and other dances. Round dances are derivatives of ballroom dances. Don Berry of La Grande skillfully calls the round dances.
The square dancer group has about 40 members, down from 120 in 1980. Square dancings popularity throughout the United States has declined over the past two decades. Counsell attributes the drop to the popularity of line dancing and home videos.
Counsell noted, though, that there has been an uptick in the popularity of square dancing recently.
The Star Promenaders, who have been meeting regularly for decades, conduct workshops every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. In addition, formal square dances take place twice a month. All of the Star Promenader events occur at Bash Hall behind Family Hair and Skin Care, 1009 Adams Ave.
For information on joining, call Counsell at 963-6279 or the Stolsigs at 568-4415.