, Salem, MA


March 13, 2014

Swinging their partners


A square dance begins with four couples arranged in a square, whom the caller sets in motion, eventually returning them to their original positions.

Kutz started square dancing when she was in college in the late 1960s and came back to it in 1999. She trained as a caller at a four-day course in Sturbridge and does the calling when the Riverside Squares put on demonstrations.

“You start in a certain place,” Kutz said. “The caller throws a couple pieces of jigsaw puzzle up in the air, and ultimately, he has to get them back in place.

“The dancers don’t know what they’re going to be asked to do. They know the calls, and the caller will just tell them what to do.”

This style is called modern Western, as opposed to traditional square dance, said Ingrid Barry of Danvers.

“It’s more structured than contra dance,” she said. “It is a listening skill, after you have learned the calls. And many things we do in Irish set dancing are things we’re doing from square dancing.

“Which came first? I don’t know.”

Each set of calls directing a square dance, from start to finish, is called a tip, said Peter Schwind of Andover, the club president. After two tips, there is a break, during which some members do round dances, which he describes as “choreographed ballroom dancing.”

“They’re called ‘round’ because you progress in a circle around the floor. The cuer will tell you what the figure is, and these things get quite complex,” he said.

“Some people prefer the round dancing, and that’s all they do. There are other people that only do the square dancing.”

Barry, a past president of Riverside Squares, started dancing with her husband after he retired in 1992.

“We probably have 40 active dancers,” she said. “Our oldest dancer is 91, and she’s quite active — Phyllis Manoogian from Peabody. Most dancers, I would say, are in their 50s and 60s, but we’ve got a number of new dancers in their 30s and 40s.

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