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Swing your partner: Buttons "n" Bows turns 50

Square dancers gather weekly in North Auburn
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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It’s a big year for the Buttons ’n’ Bows square dancing club – its dancers have been twirling and promenading for half a century.

The club, formed in 1962, meets weekly at Rock Creek Elementary School, where the dancing and camaraderie share equal importance. Organizers said a typical dance consists of three or four “squares” of four couples, and that new members are needed to keep things interesting and keep the club alive.

“We met square dancing,” Louise Fry said of her and her husband, Bob. “We square danced through all our kids and now we’re square dancing while we’re old. But we need new blood. We need younger people to start dancing.”

The Frys and Joe White have been dancing with Buttons ’n’ Bows since 1978, making them the most senior club members. White said he joined because square dancing was his main form of entertainment.

“At one time I belonged to about five, six different clubs,” he said. “I danced about six nights a week.”

In addition to the friendship, a big draw to Buttons ’n’ Bows is the caller. Jet Roberts, who lives in Antelope, toured as a caller across the United States and the world, including two years calling full-time in Australia.

“When I was 10, I taught my first class at that point,” he said. “From then on I’ve just been doing it ever since, for most of my life. I do it full-time – a lot of traveling. I do a lot of national and international traveling. The last four weeks alone I’ve been to Denmark, Florida and New England.”

Incoming president Rob Lee said people square dance all over the world, but no matter the country, the steps are always called in English.

“When I was in the Bay Area, there was a busload of Japanese tourists – they were all square dancers,” he remembered. “They had a square dance because they were there, and none of them spoke English, but you could dance with them and they would do all the right things.”

Roberts’ job is to let the dancers know what steps they’re going to do. And when the mood hits him, Roberts adds to his job as caller and DJ by singing along to the tunes.

“It’s basically a numbers game,” he explained. “It’s not choreography that you actually learn. You basically just learn these moves and I can put them in any order that I want to, and I kind of make it up as I go along. They don’t really know what’s coming next. Once they learn the moves, then I can put them in any order that flows and works in combination with the others.”

And if you don’t know how to square dance, don’t fret. Beginning lessons start in September and run through June. New members must complete the class in order to join Buttons ’n’ Bows.

“You learn about 120 calls in the first year,” Lee said.

The club does not meet in July. Regular Thursday-night dances resume in August, in addition to the beginners classes that start in September. Members encourage square dancers of all experience levels – including none at all – to come see how much fun the activity can be.

“In square dancing, you meet wonderful people, it’s good exercise, it’s just a lot of fun,” Louise Fry said.

“And mostly you don’t have to go to a bar to do it,” her husband laughed.

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissik@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter, @AuburnJournalAE.

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Buttons ’n’ Bows

What: Square dancing group

When: 7 p.m. Thursdays starting in August

Where: Rock Creek Elementary School, 3050 Bell Road, Auburn

Cost: $5 per week at the door; $12 per month in advance

Info: Don Towle, (916) 622-9500