558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Kicking up their heels
The Sagebrush Shufflers celebrate their 44th year together in April, and will offer lessons to the public
Tuesday evening, the Sagebrush Shufflers began their series of lessons for newcomers who wish to learn more about square dancing. Jim Steele, the club’s caller, facilitated the class.
March 21, 2013
It’s a sure sign that spring is almost here — the Sagebrush Shufflers just offered the first square dance lesson of the season, and the room is filled with anticipation, excitement, and camaraderie.
The Sagebrush Shufflers are a local square dance group who has now been kicking up their heels for 44 years. They will be celebrating their anniversary in April with a birthday dance, but this week, they began offering lessons for members of the community at the High Desert Dance Arts Studio.
Square dancing became popular in the United States in the late 1940s, including various modern forms and the addition of the square dance caller. The Sagebrush Shufflers established their group in Powell Butte at the old Grange Hall in 1969. Since that time, they have remained strong, dancing at various locations throughout Central Oregon, with their most recent venue at Ochoco Elementary School.
Square dancing is not for the faint of heart. It requires concentration, and according to many dancers, they can walk (and dance) the equivalent of several miles in a night of square dancing. Long-time member Ann Odegard emphasized that square dancing is not only good physical exercise, it is good mental exercise as well.
Members Larry and Mary Stadler echoed this sentiment. They come from Redmond to join the group each month.
“The benefits are you get physical activity, plus it’s mental activity, because you have to listen, process, and do in a very short time frame,” said Mary Stadler.
With the advent of the square dance callers becoming popular in the middle of the previous century, it was also a tradition to bring the entire family to the gatherings. Local resident Jim Steele grew up in such a family, and he began dancing when he was five years old. He fell in love with square dancing, and became a caller in 1961. He has continued that tradition for the past 52 years, and is the Sagebrush Shufflers’ club caller.
“By the time I reached age 12, I was intrigued by the caller,” stated Steele. “I decided that is what I wanted to do, and my mom and dad put me in caller school in 1960, and I graduated in 1961.”
Steele said that although he did it professionally for approximately seven years, when he got married it was too hard on his family being gone each weekend. Now he does it as a hobby, which he enjoys tremendously. He calls for other clubs in Central Oregon, as well as all over the Northwest.
“We are lucky to have Jim here with us,” said local member Gayle Kvarme. “He is one of the very best.”
Sagebrush Shufflers member Linda Dannon described square dancing a little like learning a foreign language.
“It’s a new language you are learning,” she indicated.
Dannon added that modern square dancing is growing, and new ideas are continuously introduced, ensuring that square dancing remains vibrant. She emphasized that it draws interest from all ages and backgrounds. Their club has a wide spectrum of members, and the first lesson of the spring also reflected a wide variety of ages, complete with smiles by the end of the evening.
The Shufflers will continue to offer square dance lessons throughout March, and into the last part of May. They welcome all who wish to join in the fun, and Kvarme stressed that even if they missed the first free lesson, interested participants can get a lesson free if they come during the next two sessions.
The Sagebrush Shufflers are offering the square dance lessons on Tuesday and Thursday night from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The lessons continue through the end of May.
The location for the lessons is High Desert Dance Arts Studio, 320 N. Main St., Prineville
Attire is casual, and lessons are open to ages 10 and older.
The Sagebrush Shufflers dance on Saturday nights each second and fourth Saturday at Ochoco Elementary School, 440 N.W. Madras Highway.
For more information, contact Gayle at 541-447-6963 or Robin at 541-923-8570.