Spin Your Partner

Teacup Chains Club
If you like to promenade while being serenaded, the Teacup Chains Square Dance Club is the place for you. Every first and third Saturday nights of the month, 40-50 people meet at “Just Off Broadway” and share smiles, snacks and square dancing. Though it is noted by the American Heart Association that square dancing gives a great low-impact aerobic workout, most folks are there just for the fun.

And no one is having more fun than Bobby Willis, the “caller” for the only square dance club in Edmond. Bobby has been dancing for twenty-three years. He attributes his parents as the major influence for square dancing. “As a kid I watched my parents dance then I started dancing when I was about thirteen,” said Bobby.

About five years ago Bobby became interested in “calling,” and was eventually asked to be the “caller” for the Teacup Chains Club, whose name originates from a dance call, after auditioning for the spot. When asked what spurred him to “calling,” Bobby said he likes to see people having a good time and the caller is responsible for that. “Basically, I’m an entertainer,” says Bobby. “I put on a show for the dancers with the way I call.” Having a smooth, fluid, singing voice certainly helps as he croons ballads into square dancing calls.

Longtime members Bill and Helen Gillespie seldom miss a dance in Edmond or even the metro area. When asked if he did any “calling,” the thirty-year square dance veteran stated, “When you call, you can’t dance and my wife wants to dance all the time.” Decked out in matching purple and black outfits, they “sashay” around the dance floor like teenagers.

Richard and Sharon Cutter are charter members of the fourteen-year-old club and say they love dancing and would like to get some younger people coming. With lessons taking place at the MAC in Edmond, they will likely get their wish. Two young couples recently visited the Saturday night event to watch the “pros” dance.

Bobby, who not only “calls” but teaches classes at the MAC, blames society’s “instant gratification” mindset for more people not taking up the fun and healthy activity of square dancing. “It requires a minimum of ten weeks instruction,” says Bobby, “and sometimes as much as twenty-two weeks.” He says many people don’t want to take the time to learn.

There are sixty-nine moves or calls that make up the mainstream dance, which is divided into tips, or two-part sessions. Each tip lasts about nine minutes and eight tips making up a two-hour dance. The first half of the tip consists of random calls, requiring mental acuity to discern the directions. The second half is considered the “dessert,” with a more laid-back atmosphere where familiar songs are turned into dance calls. One might hear a country-western tune to the command of do-si-do or a sixties classic with an alaman left or a right and left grande. Even gospel music gets couples to swinging their partners. In fact, once a year the district puts on a full gospel dance.
The couples take breaks throughout the evening to catch their breath, socialize, and munch on snacks brought by everyone attending. But Bobby doesn’t let their dancing shoes cool off too much before he calls for squares to form on the dance floor. Four couples make up a square, and the number of squares on the dance floor depends on how many couples are present.

The Teacup Chains Club has a membership of about 60 people ranging in age thirty to eighty years old. Most couples wear matching clothes. The ladies usually wear the traditional, circle skirt with matching can-can or long prairie skirts, the latter being less expensive when purchasing a first-time dance costume. Many of the men wear shirts or scarves that match their partner’s dress. Couples can usually be identified by a particular color scheme.

Don and Jannie Smith light up the room with their red and white, matching outfits. Jannie, age seventy-one, has been dancing for the last thirteen years. Don, age seventy-two and a practicing attorney, began dancing in 1954 but dropped out for many years. In October of 1997, Don wanted to attend a Teacup Chains dance but had no partner. Since it had been almost fifteen years since he had danced, it was decided that he would need an “angel,” the term used for an experienced dancer who helps a new dancer.Someone from the club called Jannie, who was widowed, and asked if she would be Don’s “angel” at the dance. She agreed. Seven months later, the couple married and has been dancing ever since. Though Don no longer needs a dance “angel,” he holds tightly to his “special angel.”

Scott Georgi contends that not only is square dancing fun, but it helps a person become more flexible and lose weight. He also states that a full dance is the equivalent of walking five miles. He and his wife, Claudia have been dancing with the club for three years.

But not everyone in the club is a seasoned dancer. Gailynn Phelps has been dancing for only six months and loves it. She admits she is still learning and does not yet do the plus tips, which are more advanced dance moves, but with a little time, Gailynn will get there. Bobby Willis calls square dancing a “healthy addiction.” He states, “The ladies often have a hard time getting the guys to a class or a dance, but after their first time on the floor, they are hooked.” Bobby almost guarantees that result, having seen it happen over and over at his classes at the MAC.

The Teacup Chains Club invites visitors from other clubs, or folks who just love to square dance, to attend their Saturday night dances. You don’t even have to bring a partner. Singles are always welcomed. And who knows, you just might meet a lifelong “angel” at this Edmond square dance club, just off Broadway.

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