Plains Promenaders Square Dance Club has been swinging their partners round and round since 1974, almost 20 years before the style was decided as the official state dance of Virginia.
Today, the club celebrates its 45th anniversary with two dancing events led by an international caller.
Vance McDaniels is a worldwide caller based in North Carolina who has spent 53 years calling in Germany, Japan and Australia.
“It’s all over the world. And in the United States, every state, every city in every state pretty much has at least one square dance club, sometimes two or three,” McDaniels said.
Larry Heatwole, vice president of the Plains Promenaders Square Dance Club, joined the club in 2000 and has been an officer on its board for 11 years.
“Square dancing is good exercise, good food, good fun and good fellowship,” Heatwole said.
Plains Promenaders are a member of the Shenandoah Valley Square and Round Dance Association, which consists of 11 clubs across western Virginia that practice modern western square dance.
Clubs of SVSRDA are encouraged to attend each other’s events because of a banner stealing program. Each club has its own logo and a banner, and if a group brings a full square, which is eight people, to another club’s dancing event, then they can steal the host’s banner and bring it back to their club. At a later date, the robbed group is expected to attend with a full square to retrieve their banner.
Heatwole has a “chief thief” badge for organizing various raids against other clubs, so today opens up the opportunity for other clubs to get even.
Circle ‘8’ Square Dance Club in Waynesboro is one of the elder organizations in the Valley and celebrated its 65th anniversary last year. Keith Krabbenhoft, vice president of Circle ‘8’, said square dancing is a supportive and fun environment that’s welcome to anyone.
“It’s mostly just fun. You know, nobody gets mad at anybody for messing up. There’s like seven other dancers out there. We all help each other along,” Krabbenhoft said.
While dancers are encouraged to wear frilly skirts for women and Western shirts for men, casual dress is allowed. Even the most basic square dancing requires a minimum knowledge of 50 calls, so people cannot walk off the street and join a square, but each club offers open houses.
Plains Promenaders will have its next open house family fun night in January and continuous workshops throughout the year. The group meets at the fellowship hall in Grace Mennonite Fellowship.
The fellowship hall has room for 16 squares and Heatwole expects up to 64 dancers will attend today. For visitors, there will be cake and finger food such as deviled eggs provided by the community.
From 2 to 4:30 p.m. there is a dance by definition portion and from 7 to 9:30 p.m., intermediate dancers will follow a more traditional and relaxed style of square dancing.
Dance by definitions is an emerging and complex square dance style that requires focus and a thorough familiarity with the dance calls.
“It’s kind of new, especially to this area. A lot of conventions and stuff like [the Washington Area Square Dancers Cooperative Association], they’ll have callers that’ll do namely that,” Krabbenhoft said.