Bow to your partner, do-si-do! Allemande left and promenade. Walk around your corner — pass through!
To those unfamiliar with square dancing, some of that terminology, also known as “calls,” may sound like Greek.
But members of the Pelican Squares — a Harahan square-, round- and line-dance club — say learning the calls is well worth it.
“The lessons usually take about nine months to complete, as there’s quite a list of calls to learn,” explained Dennise Kearney, president of the Pelican Squares. “Halfway through the lessons, class members have learned a sufficient number of calls and are encouraged to begin dancing with club members to gain experience and improve their dancing skills.”
“Square dancing was fun for me from Day 1,” said Barbara Yambra, vice president of the Pelican Squares. “And honestly, square dancing isn’t really dancing at all. It’s more like walking to the beat of the music while doing one formation to the next, depending on the calls from the caller. And there are a lot of calls to learn and new ones are added week to week.”
The Pelican Squares, founded in 1965, began a series of square dance classes on Sept. 7. The classes are held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays in the gymnasium of Faith Lutheran Church, 300 Colonial Club Drive, Harahan. There are about 30 members.
“I’ve been square dancing since I was 14,” said Kearney, a Kenner resident. “My brother Ken and I took lessons at the Gernon Brown Gym on Marconi Drive near City Park with Tony DiGeorge, who is one of the callers for the Pelican Squares. We had several friends who came with (us), and we had a great time. And in 2015, my husband, Michael, and I joined the Pelican Squares.
“The classes teach all the basic and mainstream calls. There are eight people (four couples) in a square. We dance modern Western square dance that is directed by a square dance caller. It’s choreographed with individual square dance calls danced to a variety of music, including traditional, pop, Broadway musicals, country, contemporary and even hip-hop.”
Yambra has been one of the group’s callers for 17 years.
“My husband, Noel, and I joined the Pelican Squares in 1989,” Yambra said. “Some friends of ours were members and wanted us to join. And from the very beginning, we have thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Yambra, 77, said when the club held an “amateur night” for those interested in calling, she thought she would try it.
“I really enjoy singing, and when the amateur night came around, people kept telling me I should try (calling), so I did it just for fun,” said Yambra, who lives in Kenner. “You don’t have to be a good singer to call — you just have to have a love for music, which I do, especially country music and the music from the 1950s.”
Both Kearney and Yambra said they find many people have a misconception about square dancing.
“For some reason, people seem to have a negative perception about what square dancing is about,” Kearney said. “Yet, if you ask someone if they have ever square danced, most will have fond memories of square dancing in P.E. class in elementary or middle school.”
There are only two other square dance groups in the area, both on the north shore — the Tammany Twirlers in Slidell and the Ozone Squares in Covington. There are also clubs in Hammond, Baton Rouge, Picayune, Gulfport and Biloxi, Kearney said.
“Some of us travel to these clubs on the weekend to mingle with other square dancers and to hear other callers,” she said.
The Pelican Squares don’t perform, but Kearney noted they did bring a group of members to the Academy of Our Lady on the West Bank for a father/daughter hoedown in October. "We had 18 squares of dads and daughters dancing, whooping and hollering. It was a great night for us," she said.
“And in May, we hosted a square dance troupe from Germany with 50 traveling square dancers. Our club prepared for months in anticipation of hosting 'An Evening of International Dancing,' and it was a huge success.”
There is no fee to join the Pelican Squares, but participants are asked to pay monthly dues of $13 per person to defray costs, including the rental of the hall.
The average in the club is 60 and older, but Kearney is hoping to get more families involved. “We encourage children 10 and older to join us with their parents,” she said.
“You don’t have to have any prior experience. We just want people to just come and see how much fun it is to square dance.”
For more information, email Kearney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And to learn more about the Pelican Squares, go www.pelicansquares.com.