EAST WENATCHEE — Four couples arrange themselves in a square, every move dictated by an on-stage caller as country music plays.
“Heads, move up to the middle and back. Heads, pass through and courtesy turn. Promenade halfway ‘til you get back home.”
Sides do the same, and then they all join hands and circle to the left and then to the right. The pace gradually builds as the dancers get accustomed, and the caller and his wife break into a duet, interposing cues between the lyrics.
“It’s a good day for singing a song. Swing your girl and promenade her along. Yes, it’s a good day, how can anything go wrong? It’s a good day from morning ‘til night.”
For the last two weeks, the Appleland Promenaders have offered free square dance lessons at the East Wenatchee Grange, 3400 Sunset Highway. This coming Tuesday is the last freebie; it’s $5 a lesson after that.
John Syrstad, 77, of East Wenatchee, was the caller this past week. He said lessons will continue through the winter, and then students can join the club to dance on first Fridays and second and fourth Saturdays.
Syrstad’s wife Wendy, 76, joined him on stage Tuesday evening. She said they first took lessons back in 1979 or 1980 and found that square dancing was something they could enjoy together.
John Syrstad said he likes getting exercise and meeting new people.
“My parents danced when I was young, so I was exposed to it, and then we just decided to try square dancing,” he said. “What it did is it opened up a whole new circle of friends for us, so lots of other activities are involved with it. We go camping and that type of thing. Just about all of our closest friends now are dancers.”
About 16 people danced Tuesday evening, a mix of experienced square dancers and beginners.
Wenatchee couple Teena and Brad Hauck have been square dancing for about 10 years.
“We were looking for something to do,” said Brad Hauck, 56. “I had square danced as a child, and my parents square danced and her parents square danced. We came out and it was fun ‘cause people were real nice to us. Nowadays people join a club and they kind of look at you like, ‘Who are you?’ They’re kind of standoffish. Not with square dancing. They’re very open and welcoming, and that’s what’s so cool about it.”
Teena Hauck, 57, said they travel around the state and dance with people from a variety of ages and backgrounds.
This week was the first square dancing lesson for Heidi Stentz, 40, of East Wenatchee, and fiancé Ty Hedges, 47.
“He did it in school, but that was it,” Stentz said. “I used to do the Elks dances, but I’ve never done this. Never anything close to this. We saw them on the floats at Apple Blossom, so I just thought it would be fun. ... Something to do together.”
Tuesday was also the first square dancing lesson for Ethan Richmond, 27, of Malaga, though he’s done swing dancing for several years.
“You get to talk to people. It’s a lot slower paced in a way,” he said of square dancing. “It’s great exercise, and then I’ve got to admit I do have a spot for the music they play.”