It's hip to be square, say the Allemanders
IF you like to have fun, keep healthy and make new friends, then modern square dancing sounds just the thing for you.
Exeter's very own Isca Allemanders American Square Dance Club is set to celebrate its 32nd anniversary just before Christmas with a regulation "knees up" at their base at the new Kenn centre on the edge of the city.
Brian Bradford, who with his wife Ruth has been square dancing with the Allemanders (named after a square dance move) since 1995, said they were particularly keen to attract more dancers – particularly men.
Mr Bradford said: "We could really do with some more men. We have ladies who are keen to dance.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
"It is great fun and it is a great social get-together too. We are all very friendly."
Those who fear they may have two left feet need not fear, for modern square dancing is similar to folk dancing with two thirds of the basic moves the same.
Mr Bradford said: "The main difference is that with most folk dancing, and many other dances, you have to learn the whole dance first.
"In a modern square dance you learn a few simple moves to start with so you can follow the calls made by a caller.
"You can then add a few more moves as you progress. It's as simple as that."
The club was originally formed in 1980 by John and Marion Greenaway, who had been involved with The English Folk Dance Society and felt the need to start an American Square Dance.
The first venue was Exwick Middle School, Exeter. The group soon moved to the scout hut in Wellington Road, St Thomas, then the St David's Community Centre before a move to the skittle alley at the Seven Stars at Kennford, and on to the Kennford Village Hall.
The caller was John Greenaway, with dancers coming from a wide area, including Torbay, Exmouth, Sidmouth and Wellington in Somerset.
While the people who dance regularly at the club and pay their annual subscriptions have changed considerably, the number of members has only fluctuated a little, growing from about 50 in 1990 to 70 in 2000.
In 2005 the membership fell slightly to 62 members.
Over the years there have generally been three or four social events outside dancing, including skittle evenings, walks, treasure hunts, cycle rides, boat trips and barbecues.
It was three years ago Mr Greenaway announced he had decided to retire as club caller.
It looked like the club might have to fold, but Mr Bradford had recorded a large number of dances and said he was prepared to run the club for six weeks using his prerecorded material from a laptop.
This was a great success, as suddenly the dancers could dance to top callers from all over the world and, on top of that, the club was able to move in to the new centre in April 2010.
The bad news was they had to change their meetings from Friday to Tuesday evenings, which inevitably meant a loss of some members who were unable to make the switch.
However, an ongoing recruitment drive has proved a success, and now the club are holding open evenings this month.
Mr Bradford said: "We use a simple ABC method, so people can learn the basic moves quite simply. It is suitable for all ages. "Isca Allemanders has always been known for its friendly atmosphere, so why not join in for an evening of fun and even have a cup of tea or coffee?"
The club meets weekly on a Tuesday at the new Kenn Centre, Exeter Road, Kennford, Exeter, EX6 7UE and open evenings are 7.30pm every Tuesday.