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SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2007
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Square dancing does a body good

Ask any square dancer what they like about the hobby, and they’ll quickly run down a long list of benefits that range from cardiovascular health to an increased social network.

For one, the sport is easy on the wallet. A month of square dance lessons with the 8er’s costs $7.50 per person — less than the cost of a night at the movies, or one night’s cover charge at a bar or mainstream dance club.

Family friendly atmosphere

Square dancing also has minimal physical demands, making it easy for a wide range of people — children, adults and seniors — to participate. Because of the family-friendly, alcohol-free atmosphere, people of all ages can dance together.

Avid square dancers often cite a 1994 Mayo clinic study that found that square dancing strengthens bones and the heart, and burns as many calories as walking several miles. The study also found it helps prevent depression by giving people a strong network of friends and increasing self esteem.

“You don’t see many square dancers all solemn,” said longtime 8er’s member Ken Busbey. “They usually have a friendly, outgoing personality.”

In fact, earning your way into square dancing circles simply requires that you know how to square dance, dancers said.

Once you know how, you will be accepted around the world at any square dance event with open arms — almost like a sorority sister or fraternity brother.

A community of squares

Square dancers are “a travelin’ bunch,” as one member said, and often travel to different states on the weekends for square dancing conventions or large dances.

At least six squares — or eight people — from the 8er’s are in Gatlinburg this weekend for the Smoky Mountain Ball square dancing convention. They usually stay up all night after the dances playing games and talking, Tammy Melton said.

“We party hearty,” she joked.

Avid square dancers even travel abroad and dance in Japan, Australia, Switzerland, or anywhere else in the world, because the calls are always made in English.

Later this month, the 8er’s are putting on their annual anniversary dance that will attract a large crowd from Alabama and surrounding states, Busbey said. Few people will be strangers — or at least they won’t be by the end of the evening.

For many, the community square dancing fosters is the best part of being involved, they say.

“You meet these people all over and make friends,” Bebe Holtzclaw said. “It’s good, clean fun.”

Reed agreed. “The social aspects of square dancing are tremendous,” he said. “You can go with strangers, they accept you as a dancer and the music starts playing and you forget about all your troubles.”

Danielle Komis

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