Times-Herald News
Vallejo, CA
August 27, 1995

Local enthusiasts say it's hip to be square

Solano Country dance groups celebrate statewide demonstration

by Kelly Sullivan

Vallejo -- Circle skirts and cowboy boots pranced across the state on Saturday as more than 30,000 square dancers took to the streets.

The demonstration -- sponsored by the Northern California Square Dancers Association and the California Square Dance Council -- was the largest square dance exhibition and the first progressive square dance in the state.

The celebration was in full swing in Solano County as well. Local squares dance enthusiasts danced through Vallejo, Napa, Fairfield and Vacaville on Saturday.

Amidst the produce stands on Georgia Street, boots stomped and skirts swished to lively music.

"I've been square dancing for the past 20 years," Don Gregory of Napa said. "I stopped for a long time then picked it up with my wife."

"We've now retired. We travel a lot. We've danced in Wyoming. We've danced in the British Columbia," his wife Pat said.

The couple said square dancing has allowed them to meet new friends.

"You meet very nice people -- pretty congenial," Don said.

The Gregorys encourage young people to give square dancing a try.

"We're a lot of fun even though we have gray hair," Pat laughed.

Usually a trend setter, California is one of the last states to catch on to the newest dance craze.

"Other states have been doing it for years," said Dianne Akzam, a member of Vallejo Pioneers, a local square dance club.

"Most people don't realize it's done in the cities. It's done everywhere."

Square dancing has come a long way from the old, traditional, "hillbilly" style, Akzam said. Today's version is more hip, energetic and paired with modern country music.

"It's not your father's dance routine," Akzam said.

Square dancing is gaining popularity with the onset of line and country and western dancing, Akzam said.

The state has 12 square dance associations with each association having 12 districts.

In Solano County alone, there are eight square dance clubs. They include "Vallejo Pioneers," the "Benicia Old Capitol Squares," three in Napa, two in Fairfield, and one in Vacaville.

Local clubs are a member of the Northern California Square Dancers Association and, in turn, the California Square Dance Association.

They dance all over the world and go to weekend festivals every month.

"Our biggest one for our area is in Oakland over Memorial Day weekend. People come from all over. Last year we had 15,000 visitors," Akzam said.

Whether you were born with two left feet or twinkle toes, Akzam insists anyone can square dance.

"Someone is always telling you how to do it. I was a wallflower all through school. I never knew it could happen."

It took Akzam ten years to try square dancing until she learned how much it had changed.

"I've been doing it for three years and having a lot of fun."

Square dancing has more than 3,000 calls or dance steps. The first 200 are being revised, Akzam said.

Surprisingly, more men than ever before are learning to square dance, Akzam said.

"Once they learn how to square dance, you can't stop them."

The Vallejo Pioneers practice at the Vallejo Community Center at 225 Amador Street on Monday nights from 7:30 to 10.

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