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Square dance groups form in Jefferson

By Staff | Apr 10, 2009

Members of the Mountaineer Twirlers meet on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at Bolivar Community Center.

Square dancing is as old as the hills that surround us. And one local group is keeping the art alive.

The Mountaineer Twirlers meets the first and third Wednesdays of the month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Bolivar Community Center.

The dancers have performed at several nursing homes and other venues. The leader of the square dance group is caller Carol Odell, who is inviting people from the Shepherdstown area to join in the fun and exercise. Odell has been a caller since 1977.

The Twirlers have 25 members dancing together for many years.

Stormy Steed, 88, of Texas, has been dancing all her life and has been in the Mountaineer Twirlers for the last five years. Sarah, another dancer who is hearing impaired, dances by following the lead of other dancers around her.

Odell believes that square dancing is a way for older people to stay healthy and is a good program for younger people to keep up their physical health.

In some medical journals, there have been articles by doctors that say square dancing helps prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and helps in the treatment of that disease, Odell said. An article by Robin Young, RN, says that there are physical qualities of dance that help the human body. “Square dancing is a Cardio Respiratory aerobic exercise. The caloric burn is equivalent to swimming,” she writes. Young goes on to say that square dancing improves mental and intellectual awareness and can “relieve stress by assuming an alter-ego, becoming a star in your own mind.”

The earliest settlers who became part of the social life of the United States used square dancing as a way to socialize. The early dances were entire complete routines danced with out a caller.

S. Foster Damon, in his book “Square Dancing: A History,” published in 1957, suggested that the creation of the caller happened in the early 1800s. In the beginning callers were referred to as “prompters.”

Odell says that their main job was to remind people of the steps of a dance routine they had learned. “The traditional from of square dancing continues to be popular and has changed little from the way it was done in the past when our nation was first founded,” Odell said.

Odell is fond of noting that Henry Ford loved square dancing and promoted it throughout the country in the early part of the 1900s.

With the help of Benjamin Lovett there was a program started in elementary schools to teach square dancing.

If you are interested in learning square dancing, Odell wants to start a new square dance class. The class size should be eight people and will meet at the Charles Towers in Charles Town. For more information call Carl Odell at (304) 724-9955.