If getting more exercise and having more fun has made the top of your New Year’s resolution list, then you might consider coming to the Hangtown Grange on Wednesday, Jan. 15. The Apple Jacks and Jills Square Dancing Club is starting a class for new dancers at 7 p.m. and it promises to be a lot of fun and a great way to exercise.
An hour of square dancing burns about the same amount of calories as swimming or riding a bicycle and lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, certain types of cancer and depression.
“We put pedometers on our dancers one time,” said Claude Sipe, founder of the club, “and, at an average party dance with eight tips, the dancers traveled 5 to 6 miles.”
As for fun, “We’re a pretty low-key club and we laugh a lot,” said Apple Jacks and Jills president Darlene Szymusik.
“Square dancing is one of the few activities that requires cooperation instead of competition,” said Sipe. “So it’s a great friendly atmosphere for fun.”
Every Wednesday night, from 7-9 p.m. at the Hangtown Grange, 2020 Smith Flat Road in Placerville, the club gathers for a “workshop.”
“We learn new moves and practice the ones we know,” said Sipe. “The idea is to prepare dancers to go out to dance at party dances.”
Sipe said there are five to six party dances every weekend in Sacramento, enough to give any dancer plenty of opportunities to dance. Many of the club’s members participate in square dancing conventions and party dances.
Sipe, 74, has been square dancing since he was 10 years old. He was a caller for 30 years, 25 of them for the Apple Jacks and Jills, as well as for clubs in Woodland and Gray Eagle.
“I was a caller for clubs in Grass Valley but when my job brought me to Placerville in 1978 and there wasn’t very much square dancing activity, I started a club here.”
The first two squares of dancers, 16 people in all, responded to an ad Sipe put in the Mountain Democrat and met at the Camino School multi-purpose room.
“We had fun but we were always being pre-empted by school events,” said Sipe. “We tried to rent the grange which had a great hardwood floor and good acoustics, but you had to be a member of the grange in those days. So, our whole class joined the grange.”
The club quickly grew to three to four squares the next year and 10 squares, 80 people, the year after that.
“We filled up the entire grange hall,” said Sipe. Currently the club averages four to five squares and is always looking to welcome new members. “We have some young people, 18-19 years old, but they sometimes get involved in college and other activities, so most club members are 50-70. We have five or six members in their 80s and they are still active dancers.”
“One of our dancers is 84 and he only learned to square dance last year,” said Szymusik. “The club isn’t just couples. We have single dancers as well and we encourage single men of all ages to join us.”
“Remembering the calls and planning for them keeps you mentally alert,” said Sipe who used to call three to four nights a week.
“It was like a second job but I loved it,” said Sipe.
While he retired from calling in 2003, he still fills in when the regular caller can’t be available.
Szymusik pointed out that square dancing is also a good way to boost your social life. You’re not just going out to eat and sitting. You’re dancing and getting some fun exercise.”
The Jan. 15 class is for beginning square dancers and will continue once a week for six months.
To join the class, come to the Hangtown Grange on Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. Wear comfortable shoes you can dance in and casual clothing. The first two classes are free and $5 a person afterward.
A great blend of physical and mental activity in a fun, informal atmosphere might be just the answer to your New Year’s resolutions.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.