Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Square Pegs: The Real L7!

If I told you to "Weave the Ring,"  would you know what to do or would you stand there, panic stricken, furtively glancing around the room hoping that someone close to you would understand the direction?  Dazed with fear, would you grasp desperately for the nearest basket-weaving materials as your trembling hands fumbled in a futile attempt to fashion a crude ring before you melted into a weeping mass of tears and humiliation?  If you would find yourself doing the latter, I would have been in your company - before Saturday night.

A strange and undeserved bit of luck befell my family as we enjoyed my birthday weekend in the California desert.  I love the desert of Southern California; it is breathtaking in its beauty and is magic in its ability to offer up some unexpected opportunities that are not to be had in more humid climes.  We were there but a few days, but the exciting sights, sounds, and senses we experienced were so varied and plentiful that the next few posts will be dedicated to our adventures.  But at wacky tacky, rule #6 is "When in the desert - Dessert First!"  So, here is the highlight of our desert vacation!

A room with a view - of gray skies and rain.

The weather was less than desirable when we arrived at our destination.  It was raining at home as we were preparing to leave and we were hoping that we would not take the inclement weather along.  Our hopes were dashed by the pouring, desert rain.  As we sat by the fire regrouping and determining how best to spend our rainy weekend, my brother got a call from his friend whose in-laws were participating in a local square dance.  All we had to hear was "square dance," and we were in the car and on our way before we even got the particulars.  Well, the last time I square danced was over 20 years ago in the music room of my elementary school to a record.  I have heard the terms "Right & Left Grand" and "Promenade," but to be perfectly frank, I didn't know my "Allemande Left" from my elbow.

Little did we know that this was the biggest square dance festival in the southwest;
couples and square dance groups came from all over to attend.
The picture above shows one of the two dance halls.
Ben, Erika, Mary & Mr. Tiny
You might be wondering, " Why, if you had no idea there would be a square
dance, Mr. Tiny, would you have taken square-dance-appropriate clothing?"
I tend to be a bit of an "over packer" so I have options should an occasion arise. 

We were not sure what to expect.  Would we be learning to dance?  Were we merely spectators?  The packed floor of expert dancers deftly twirling through the most-complicated of formations told us that we were far outclassed in the dance department and our lot was to spectate only.  Any disappointment was whisked away by the constant flash and flurry of endlessly-ruffled petticoats providing more entertainment than was deserved by the cost of admission - FREE!

Vendors were present and selling all the skirts and petticoats that a square dancer could need.

The waves of pure joy that crashed over me as we entered the main dance hall were so powerful that I spent the entire evening with a smile on my face and my camera at the ready.  

Petti-pants & Petticoat
I have seen vintage square dance dresses but the current
crop of square dance fashions have reached new heights -
in hemlines.  The prevailing trend is short skirts. 

The hall was a wacky tacky wonderland of crazy square dancing dresses.
Average looking seniors who normally wouldn't be caught dead at Hometown Buffet wearing these outrageous, and often homemade, frocks wore them without reservation at the dance.  Every person there was also highly decorated in badges and ribbons.  Because it is a social dance, square dance protocol dictates that dancers all wear name tags and badges indicating their dance group, their city, and state.

Hand-painted silhouettes of dancing couples, decorated
with miniature sombreros and boots, were adhered to every available surface.

Typically, I would call myself a bit of a purist; I expected (wanted) hillbilly fiddlers and a grizzled, old caller with straw in his mouth clapping out the beat.  What I got instead was a new generation of callers who called to pre-recorded tracks on their laptops.  The caller in a square dance directs all of the movement on the floor.  The neat thing about this aspect of the dance is that, while there are traditional progressions, there are limitless variations because the caller can call whatever movement he desires - and what the caller says, goes!  Standard square dance calls like "Bow to Your Corner" were heard but with new callers come new calls; our favorite calls of the night included "Merry-Go-Round," "Jump the Ocean," and "Acey-Deucey."

The callers rotated and the dance floor was relatively-full the entire evening.  There was one "young" caller in particular who had the entire floor packed.  In honor of Veteran's Day, he sang Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" while he was calling.  One would have thought that he was a rock star; it was apparent from the overheard whispers that he had more than one lady's heart doing a full "Do-Si-Do."

The star caller in action.

This lady is spun from the very fibers of wacky tacky.
I saw her across the crowded hall and forced Mary
to hunt her down so we could snap a photo.
You might notice that her badge reads "Boy."
In the square, it is of vital importance to know who is a
"boy" and who is a "girl."  Since the real girls almost always
 outnumber the boys, many women will dance the "boy" part.
 Some women were even switch hitters and wore badges that
 flipped to "boy" or "girl."  You may also notice the banner in
the background.  Square dancing is especially social and not
limited to couples; "Solo Corner" allows unaccompanied
 dancers to find a partner and join the square.

Speaking of couples, here are some of our favorite couples of the evening.

The first couple whom we asked to pose for a photo
was a bit confused but happy to oblige.

Lucky in love & dancin'!!!

This sweet woman wouldn't let us take her picture
without her husband because they "matched." 

We couldn't catch this couple off of the dance
floor, so we had to settle for an action shot!

A peek-a-boo view of her gold, lame´ petticoat.

I loved this couple.  Her butterfly-covered skirt coordinated with
the butterfly embroidered on the back yoke of his shirt.
It might sound absurd, but their outfits (when compared
to every other couple) were the most wearable for everyday.

My favorite for the best-dressed couple of the evening.
They say the devil's in the wacky tacky details
 and these two were wickedly wacky.
Somehow, I feel that they may have known Lawrence Welk personally.

It is fairly amazing to watch the sea of seniors respond with one accord to the caller.
Doesn't it look like fun?

As you are more than likely aware, it is my belief that there is an occasion for every cartoon and a cartoon for every occasion.  For some reason, however, blogger will not let me upload "Hillbilly Hare," an ideal Bugs Bunny cartoon that shows the true power of the caller, so follow the link and enjoy.

Now just so you leave this post fully informed, to "Weave the Ring" is, in essence, to "Right & Left Grand" without the right and left.  There you have it.


Mr. Tiny


    and HA HA HA at this: "You might be wondering, " Why, if you had no idea there would be a square
    dance, Mr. Tiny, would you have taken square-dance-appropriate clothing?" I tend to be a bit of an "over packer" so I have options should an occasion arise."

    What a great event to get to enjoy. And how cute are old couples? I love them! Now off to hunt down a gold lame' petticoat! I didn't know such a thing existed

    You all look great!

  2. I have seen visions of Matt and my future. I better start collecting petticoats now.

  3. You are at the point where you don't go out to find the wacky tacky, the wacky tacky finds you! Awesome post!

  4. That is fantastic! I love how many of them matched. Looks like a few of them could poke an eye out with their layers of petticoats!

    I grew up in a community of old-time musicians so I'm well familiar with callers and the like, though it was more contras than squares (calling to real bands-- which that scene still does). And MUCH less petticoats. Or matching. Or gold lame. ;)

  5. Yep, apparently, I have found my people. We got invited to join several square dance clubs and were introduced to many people. What can I say? I am SQUARE!!!

  6. Too much fun it great clothes.
    @ Emily...nicely stated.