, Salem, MA


March 13, 2014

Swinging their partners

Square dancers have a lot to remember.

To dance at the “mainstream” or basic level, they must know how to Box the Gnat, Slip the Clutch and perform 63 other maneuvers the caller asks for.

To dance at the next level, known as “plus,” there are another 35 calls to learn, and the “advanced” level requires an additional 50.

“It is actually a good mental exercise and physical exercise,” said Joyce Kutz of Hamilton of the Riverside Squares, a square dance club in Danvers. “My doctor said the best things to do to help people not have memory loss are controlling blood pressure and weight, and doing aerobic exercises and mental exercises.”

The Riverside Squares get plenty of both, practicing every Wednesday night at All Saints Episcopal Church in Danvers, where they also hold dances the first Saturday of each month.

They were named for Danvers’ Riverside School, where their first class of six couples were graduates, Ed and Phyllis Sullivan wrote in 1994 in a 30th anniversary program.

The group will celebrate 50 years of square dancing this Saturday at the North Shore Community Baptist Church in Beverly, where the public is invited to watch them perform.

After recruiting 14 new members this January, at one of two open sessions they hold each year, they are also looking toward the future.

“Part of what I’m trying to do to get young people involved is to get rid of that stereotype of Western square dancing — its boots and cowboy hats and bandanas,” Kutz said.

To help change that image, she consults on music with the club’s youngest member, who is 17 and just got her permit to drive at night.

“She was excited last night at class review,” Kutz said. “I was doing ‘Just Dance’ by Lady Gaga and ‘Broken Hearted’ by Karmin. It’s rock, but it’s got the beat, and people were fine with it.”

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