New West seniors are invited to put on their dancing shoes and join the Century House Square Dancers for a little fun and friendship on the dance floor.
When folks hit the dance floor at Century House on Saturday afternoons with the “Century House Squares”, they’ll be dancing to tunes from a variety of genres.
“Lots of country music, but we also dance to the big band stuff, Michael Bublé, rock and roll, all kinds of music,” says group president Pat Gerbrandt. “We square dance to a lot of different stuff.”
Square dancing and round dancing (which is choreographed ballroom) are offered at the weekly get-togethers. No experience is required.
“In our case, if you can walk, you can square dance,” Gerbrandt says.
Older adults (aged 50 and up) of all abilities have joined in on the fun, including folks in wheelchairs and people who have visual impairments.
“We walk the steps,” Gerbrandt says. “And when you get more experienced, you sort of bounce along to the music.”
Square dancing is good for people’s balance and memory – but it’s also good for the soul, Gerbrandt says.
“I've had so many people say to me: ‘I came in here and I was ready to spit nails – I’ve just had a really bad day or a bad week and I wasn't going to come.’ And they say, once you're on the dance floor, you don't think of anything but dance,” she says. “So it's a stress reliever, for sure.”
Based out of Century House, the group has been going strong for more than 40 years.
“Exercise, fun and friendship put to music,” Gerbrandt says, when asked to describe a typical afternoon gathering.
The Century House Squares invite folks aged 15 and older to attend their Sept. 16 class for free.
Anyone who is planning to attend is asked to wear comfortable clothing and shoes, but nothing with a black sole because it marks the Century House floor.
Members (who must have a $25 Century House membership) meet on Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It's fun,” Gerbrandt says. “We have lots of laughs.”
“It’s the music for me”
Gerbrandt began square dancing 10 years ago, after a friend saw a listing in a newspaper and asked her to come along. It didn’t stick for her friend, but Gerbrandt was hooked.
“It's the music for me,” she says. “And it's putting smiles on people's faces.”
In addition to dancing at Century House, the Century House Squares also do “demonstration dances” at seniors’ complexes and care facilities.
“We are not precision dancers. We are there to entertain, to get people up on the dance floor,” Gerbrandt stresses. “If they're in a wheelchair, we can dance with them.”
Crinolines are optional at the Century House gatherings, but Gerbrandt loves the opportunity too don her “foofoo gear” – crinolines and square dancing outfits – whenever she can. She often takes a selection of her crinoline collection when visiting seniors’ facilities in case anyone wants to wear one.
“It puts a smile on their faces,” she explains. “They feel like they’re a real dancer.”
In past years, the Century House Square Dancers sometimes had “five to six squares” attending each Saturday session, but participation had dropped to about 24 people (enough for three squares) by the spring of 2023. A similar story has been told by the 19 clubs throughout the region.
“Everybody's complaining of the same thing – that people aren't coming out,” Gerbrandt said. “They've aged out, some have passed away. And the younger people don't have time. … Trends change.”