People hollered and laughed while square dancing to the sounds of live folk music at ARTS/West, 132 W. State St, on Thursday.
The monthly square dancing event brought in about 20 people to dance the night away. Attendants danced to the sounds of The Corndoggers, a live folk band based locally in Athens.
Emily Beveridge, the program specialist for ARTS/West, loves to see people come together for the event.
“I’m someone who likes to see the community coming together and interacting through art, so seeing people square dance together in all different ages and genders who just want to come together to do something fun means a lot to me,” Beveridge said. “It truly is a lovely event.”
Between the months of September and April, ARTS/West hosts an indoor square dancing event on the third Thursday of every month with live music and dancing callers, or instructors of the dances.
ARTS/West started the event three years ago to celebrate Athens’ heritage by showcasing old-time music and dancing.
The past square dance in October, ARTS/West decided to include an open string jam an hour before the event began as a way for people to bring their own musical instruments and just let loose together through music. Beveridge believes it’s a great way to lead into the dance.
The November caller was T-Claw Crawford, from Elkins, West Virginia. He taught the dancers a few different square dances, including classical moves like a dosey doe, a right and left hand around, a promenade direction march and a four couple square.
However, Crawford didn’t limit the dance to only square dancing. He also included other styles like polka and waltz.
Each dancer smiled and laughed the entire time, weaving each other around and making connections with different partners. Crawford’s favorite part of dancing is seeing people come together and simply holding hands with strangers.
“Holding hands with strangers, it’s something that doesn’t happen very often, but I think it does people some good,” Crawford said.
Crawford has been calling dances for about 10 or 12 years after picking up square dancing in college. He loves to dance and wants to use his influence of calling and dancing to break down social constructs to fill the generational gap between now and the time in the past when people would go out dancing every week.
With more than just a love for dancing, Crawford believes dancing can be a great opportunity to break out of one’s own shell and experience a form of entertainment that engages its audience.
“A lot of people feel socially isolated with social media and there’s a lot of really tantalizing, passive entertainment like movies, concerts and plays,” Crawford said. “There’s a lot out there that will content you. It’s fine to be a recluse, but if there’s a chance you might want to have an in-person experience, a community get together where you start and don’t know anyone but get to know new people, then you should take it.”
The event featured people of all ages, from children to adults. Though square dancing was an enjoyable activity for everyone in attendance, it means the world to Athens resident Mary Van Doren.
Van Doren has always loved dancing and met her husband square dancing in 1976 when she was a graduate student at the University of Illinois. The two got married in 1978 and danced together for a long time.
They had four daughters who all love to dance, and though they’re •spread out between Ohio and Michigan, they try to get together and dance when they can.
Van Doren saw the notification of the event on Facebook, and plans to come to more of the dancing events to relive fond memories of dancing her whole life.
“Dancing is a very basic human activity and it just makes people happy,” Van Doren said. “The music is wonderful, and Athens has a lot of great musicians in the area. It’s good for community building. Everyone should get out and dance.”
The next square dancing event at ARTS/West will be Thursday, Dec.19 with the open string jam at 6 p.m. and the square dancing from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event bring your own beer, and is $6 admission.