September celebrates National Square Dance Month. Modern western square dancing involves four to eight couples promenading around a square, as directed by a caller. However, square dancing has its roots in English, Scottish, and Irish folk dance. Traditionally, square dances were one way a community came together to celebrate the harvest season. Gather your group and “do si do” into fall with the activity ideas below.
NAME THE CALL HANGMAN – Gather your group in front of a whiteboard. Using basic steps to square dancing as your word base, select a phrase and write blank spaces on the board to represent each letter. Participants take turns guessing a letter. When a correct letter is guessed, write that letter in the corresponding blank space. When a letter is guessed that doesn’t belong in the word, draw one line of your hangman. The object of the game is to complete the word before the full hangman is drawn. Here are a few square-dancing steps to get you started: circle left, circle right, promenade, do si do, grand right and left, swing, sashay, bow to your partner.
FALL PLANTING – Invite a local youth group, such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, to plant spring bulbs around your facility. Fall is generally the best time to plant tulip, daffodil, and crocus bulbs. Ask members to observe or participate as they’re able. Serve apple cider, apple slices, and/or apple doughnuts afterward.
DANCING REMINISCENCE – Reminisce with your group about dancing. Did anyone take dance classes, such as ballet or tap? Do they remember dancing at popular dance halls? What dances were popular in their teens? How has dancing changed over the year? Did anyone regularly participate in square dancing or line dancing? Bring props to spark conversation, such as ballet shoes, tap shoes, boas, or saddle shoes. Play dance music as you gather and end with a mini dance party.
COUNTRY SING-ALONG – Lead a sing-along featuring famous old-time country songs. Include favorites sung by Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, June and Maybelle Carter, and Willie Nelson. Here’s a list to get you started: “Home on the Range,” “My Darling Clementine,” “Back in the Saddle Again,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” and “You Are My Sunshine.”
CRAFT A PAPER SQUARE DANCE QUILT – Create a cut-and-paste paper square-dance quilt with your group to display during September. Give each participant a white square cut out from card stock (8×8 or 10×10, depending on how large you want your quilt). Provide colored pencils, stamps, scrap pieces of paper, stickers, scissors, glue, or other craft supplies. Instruct members to decorate their square. When they’re finished, create a pattern using participants’ squares and coordinate with plain squares of color card stock. Tape together and display on a wall.
COUNTRY-STYLE LUNCHEON – Invite members to dine out for lunch at a country-style restaurant to get into the square-dancing spirit. If your group can’t go out, order take-out food, and decorate the dining room to match the theme. Set tables with red gingham table clothes. Ask members to help arrange sunflowers in mason jars. Serve lemonade and sweet tea.
BAKE APPLE CRISP – Nothing smells more like fall than a fresh apple crisp. Gather ingredients and participants to make this recipe. Once it’s cooled, serve with apple cider.
CHAIR DANCING – Help participants get ready for your Square Dance Social by leading chair-dancing exercise classes throughout September. Arrange chairs in a square pattern, one chair on each side of the square. Adapt square dancing calls so that participants use their hands, arms, and legs while remaining seated. Use dance ribbons to add more flare. For example: “circle left” means participants tap their heel out to their left side four times. “Promenade” means members twirl their dance ribbons around. “Do si do” means participants roll their arms in front of them.
CORN HUSKING RELAY – Purchase enough un-husked ears of corn for each player to have one. Line one row of chairs for Team 1 to sit on; chairs should face the same direction. Line a second set chairs in a row, facing the opposing row of chairs. (Participants will face one another). Divide participants into two teams of equal players. Each team player sits in a chair. Give player one on each team a bucket filled with corn (enough for each player to have one). Give the last player on each team an empty bucket. When you say “go,” Player 1 on each team will grab an ear of corn and husk it. Once the corn is husked, they pass the ear of corn down the line to the last player on the team, who places it in the bucket. Once the corn is safely in the bucket, Player 1 can reach into the bucket of corn and pass one ear to Player 2. Player 2 husks the corn, then passes it down the line. Continue on, until the last player receives the last ear of corn. The first team to husk all corn and place them in the bucket wins. Simplify the game by giving each team player an ear of corn to husk all at once.
FALL FOLIAGE WALK – Make the most of the warmer, early days of fall by taking your group on a fall foliage walk. Find a paved trail or walk around your facility. Pause to encourage members to soak in the change of season. What does fall smell like? Feel like? Taste like? Sound like? Look like?
TAILGATE PARTIES – Celebrate the return of football by hosting weekly tailgate parties. Decorate according to your group’s favorite team. Serve mini hotdogs, wings, sliced veggies, root beer, or popcorn. Play games, such as bean bag toss or ring toss. Invite participants to stay and watch the game together.
SQUARE-DANCE SOCIAL – Welcome fall with a square-dance social. Book a professional caller or invite a few members from a square-dance club to provide entertainment. You can also learn a few square dance calls yourself and lead the dancing. Decorate with bales of hay, sunflowers, and gingham tablecloths. Encourage participants to wear their best western clothing. Serve a fall feast, such as chili and cornbread, pulled pork, and hot cider. Host the event outdoors, weather permitting.
SWING YOUR PARTNER INTO FALL TRIVIA
- In square dancing, what is a call used for? To direct the next move of the dance
- Which instrument are you most likely to find at a traditional square dance? Fiddle (or violin)
- From which continent did square dancing originate? Europe
- What style of music is typically associate with square dancing? Old-time Country or bluegrass
- How many couples are involved in a traditional square dance? Four couples
- Often associated with fall harvest, what do you call a dance party that features folk and square dances, accompanied by lively country tunes? Hoedown
- Which square dance move involves two dancers moving in a circle, while facing one another? Do-si-do
- Which famous automotive producer loved to square dance? Henry Ford
- Which U.S. president credits a rural square dance club he joined in 1953 for leading him to run for U.S. president more than 20 years later? Jimmy Carter
- How does a square dance caller refer to the original position of each couple in a square? Home
SWING YOUR PARTNER INTO FALL THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.” ~ Vicki Baum
“Swing Your Partner Into Fall” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2021 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprint Policy: To reprint or republish all or portions of this entry, please acquire written permission and agree to link back to the original source. You can contact us at [email protected] to obtain permission.