Amid the do si do, promenade and swing, a family tends to form.
So say members of area square dance clubs who meet regularly as dancers and friends. McHenry County offers both the McHenry B’N’B Square Dance Club, a chapter of Bachelors ‘N’ Bachelorettes International, and the Woodstock Squares Dance Club.
Each has about 40 members and always is looking for more.
“The people you meet are fantastic,” said Barbara Zamastil of McHenry, who’s been dancing with her husband, Donald, since 1970. The two have been involved with Woodstock Squares since 1996.
The club will celebrate its 30th anniversary in April.
“It becomes a family after awhile,” Zamastil said. “You become very involved in who they are... This is our square dance family.”
Both area clubs have upcoming dances, with the Woodstock Squares meeting 8 p.m. Jan. 10 at the McHenry Township Senior Center, 3519 N. Richmond Road, Johnsburg, and the B’N’B club hosting one at 8 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Johnsburg Community Club, 2315 W. Church St.
Both clubs also offer lessons for beginners with students ultimately “graduating” to become club members.
That’s how Lynn Bowles of McHenry began with the McHenry B’N’B Square Dance Club about 10 years ago. A couple of work friends suggested it to her after her divorce.
“You don’t want to go to the bar scene,” they told her. “You’ve got to come out and have fun.”
“I went to see what it was like and I found things I liked about it,” Bowles remembered. “I thought if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it well.”
Geared toward singles, the McHenry club, like most, doesn’t turn anyone away. It includes couples as well as singles, just as the Woodstock Squares club of couples also includes singles.
“I’ve found when I go to dances there’s always someone who will dance with you,” said Christine Steffy of McHenry, a new member of Woodstock Squares. “Couples will spit up so singles can dance.”
Steffy started lessons last September, learning about 100 calls, or the basic steps of the dance. The “caller” prompts the dancers and basically provides the dance steps.
“It was one of those things I always wanted to do, but I thought you had to have somebody to do it with,” Steffy said. “I didn’t realize single people could do it.”
Once a graduate, you’re free to go to any club, including the many throughout the Chicago suburbs. Club members often are challenged to “steal” the banners of other clubs. The club with the stolen banner must retrieve it by attending the dance of the club that stole it.
Many club members travel together to different dances, even throughout the country.
The Zamastils hunt down square dance clubs wherever they go, including Florida for the winter.
Members enjoy both the social and physical aspects of the club. Each week, dancers can learn two to four new steps, Steffy said, and can dance with beginners as well as more experienced dancers.
Square dancing can burn up to 5,000 calories a night, Zamastil said. At least that’s what she’s heard.
“It hasn’t proven to be so in my case,” she said with a laugh. “Elastic in skirts works really well.”
And it’s an activity both men and women enjoy, she said.
“We always say we women drag the men and then after they get involved, they start dragging us,” she said.