There was a festive air in the aerobics room at Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta a few weeks ago, the scene of the 49th anniversary dance for the Delta Hubwheelers Square Dance Club. Ladies were dressed in a colorful array of skirts, their turns on the dance floor setting the room aflame in swirls of blues, pinks, reds and purples. Their gentlemen dancing partners were dressed to the nines as well, the sounds of their boots stomping and hand clapping bouncing off the walls. Without fail, everyone in the room had a big smile on their face. The music beat out of the speakers at a steady tempo, the caller's voice melodic, keeping everyone twirling and spinning, stomping and clapping and cheering, dancing to beat the band. In between dances, those gathered enjoyed a potluck of finger foods and a delicious anniversary cake to commemorate their 49 years together.
More than a simple club, the members of the Hubwheelers are a family. They gather twice a month to dance, on the first and third Saturdays of each month. Newcomers are welcomed with open arms, romances have blossomed through the Hubwheelers, and lifelong friends made.
Helen Chandler has been square dancing for 55 years. Her mom and dad took lessons when she was a teenager, and she decided to take lessons too. When she and her husband moved to the area in 1995, one of the first things they stumbled on was an ad for the Hubwheelers. They've been members ever since, and Helen currently serves as the president.
"It's fun!" she said. "I wouldn't have been doing it for this long if it wasn't fun."
Nikki Minch, the vice president of the club, has only been square dancing for two years. Her sister, who lives in Germany, is a big fan of the dance, and when she made plans to visit Nikki, the two wanted to see if she could handle the American version of the square dance. To prepare, Nikki began taking lessons, and the two had a ball dancing during her sister's visit. Nikki had so much fun, she continued after her sister left. "Square dancing has made a big difference in my life," she said. "It's really helped me in getting out and meeting people. And it's a heck of a lot of fun!"
Dick and Barb Klopshinske moved to Delta from Texas and immediately set out to looking for a square dance club to join. The couple has been dancing for 16 years together. For a while, they were full time RVers, and wherever they went, they were able to find a community group to dance with. One of the things Barb most enjoys about the square dancing community is that it's understood that men are expected to be gentlemen and women are expected to be ladies.
Barb also serves as an "angel" at the dances, which means she helps out people who are new with their steps.
Some of the members of the Hubwheelers are the first to admit that square dancing as an American pastime is struggling, but they want to change that perception. "For some reason, people think that those who square dance are squares," said Naaman Moorehouse, who has called the Hubwheelers dances for the past three years. He wants people to throw away their preconceived notions about what square dancing is and learn just how fun the activity is. It's one of the last wholesome, family friendly, multigenerational, inexpensive entertainment activities around. Square dancing can be mastered by anyone at any age, from five years old to 95. "Anybody can square dance," he said. "If you can walk, you can learn to square dance."
This type of dancing is also great physical and mental exercise. In the course of the evening at one of their dances, dancers can walk up to four miles while spinning and twirling, Moorehouse said, making for a low impact aerobic workout. Square dancing entails walking and turning to a beat while also listening for the cue from the caller, forcing dancers to really pay close attention to what the caller expects, and also be able to respond quickly to a change in steps or direction.
"It's great intellectual stimulation," he said.
A dancer has to hear the caller, interpret the call, react to it, do the same thing seven other people are doing at the same time, all while stepping in time to the rhythm and beat of the dance. "There is a tremendous amount going on," he said.
"It's a great thing to learn," Barb said. "Square dancing is caring for your whole body."
For Moorehouse, part of the appeal of the dance is the mathematical equation the dancers make up. In a square, there are eight dancers. "As a caller, you mix them up and then try to get them back to where they started in a mathematical sequence," he explained. This math-in-motion is like a Rubik's Cube, he said.
Moorehouse also teaches the dance for all ages. The class he just graduated included children, a young engaged couple, and several others. The class is about 30 lessons, and take place either once or twice a week at Garnet Mesa Elementary. Moorehouse patiently takes his students through each step and turn, and students come to the Saturday dances to try out their newfound skills. At the end of the lesson period, the Hubwheelers host a graduation dance, where the new students showcase what they've learned.
Hubwheelers have about 68 different moves under their belts, and they can dance any of those moves at a moment's notice, based on Moorehouse's calling. Most of the dancers are in the basic or mainstream level of square dancing, but there are 12 different levels of square dancing, each one more intricate than the previous. Moorehouse teaches basic and mainstream steps.
The Hubwheelers is comprised of dancers from all over Delta County, and several members make the trek from Grand Junction and Montrose. Conversely, many Hubwheelers dance with the Levis & Lace Square Dance group in Grand Junction and the Black Canyon Twirlers in Montrose.
If you'd like to try your hand at one of the most fun dances around, the Hubwheelers welcome anyone to their dances on the first and third Saturdays of the month at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center from 7-9 p.m. "We're not too serious," Nikki said. "It's all about fun. We laugh a lot together." Helen stresses that both couples and singles are welcome at the dances -- there are always partners for everyone!
For more information, contact Helen at 970-856-4187 or Paul at 970-773-4495.
Delta's second annual "Kickoff to Christmas" takes place Saturday, Nov. 25. This event is sponsored by the Delta Area Chamber of Commerce and First Colorado National Bank.