TYLER — When Wayne and Chris Carter saw an advertisement for square dancing lessons three years ago, it was kind of on a lark that the couple decided to try them.
“One time, and we were hooked,” Wayne Carter said.
His wife added, “At that first lesson, we both realized how much we love it.”
The couple became so enthusiastic about square dancing that after taking lessons, they joined the Rambling Roses Square Dance Club in Tyler. They began frequently going to different dances, often five or six nights a week. Not only do they go to dances in Tyler, but to dances held by clubs in Jacksonville, Palestine, Athens, Mineola, Kilgore and other places across East Texas.
About 15 dance clubs make up the East Texas Square and Round Dance Association.
The Carters have even been as far as the Houston Hoedown and a weeklong square dance camp in Colorado.
The couple served as co-vice presidents of the Rambling Roses last year. Taking the reins as co-presidents for 2019, they are attempting to attract people to a new series of beginner square dance lessons that the club will sponsor starting Tuesday. Since people must take lessons to learn square dancing, the club offers lessons every year.
“If we could just get people to join the lessons, they would see how much fun it is,” Chris Carter said. “Most everybody that takes the lessons you talk to, they just love it (square dancing).”
Square dancing is a great physical activity, she said.
“It’s low impact, but you get movement,” she said, “It’s great for your brain, because you have to hear what’s being said and you have to translate it into body movement. It’s one of the activities that doctors say help you stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s. It is also just a great social time. People greet you, and you immediately are smiling and chatting.”
Janice Manning and her late husband, James, who retired to Tyler in 1993, had never danced and were living in Oklahoma in 1986 when they heard about square dance lessons there and decided square dancing was an activity they could do together. At the time, she was engaged in women’s activities and he was involved in men’s activities.
Manning said they discovered that square dancing is “good exercise” and “good mental exercise” as well as an activity that keeps you active with people socially.
“You never meet a stranger. If you meet another square dancer, it’s just a friend you haven’t met yet,” she said.
Within a month of moving to Tyler 25 years ago, the couple joined the Rambling Roses and began going square dancing at least once a week in the area.
Manning’s advice to anyone is: “Try it. You’ll like it.”
Manning said the Rambling Roses Club would like to get families involved, not just the parents but the children dancing, too.
“If you home-school, square dancing could be used as a PE class for the kids,” she said.
Most club members are in their 50s and 60s, though some teenagers and some people in their 30s and 40s participate in the Rambling Roses dances. The oldest club member is 90, and the youngest is probably in her 40s, Manning said.
“It’s really a fun family activity for any age,” Chris Carter said. “It’s alcohol-free and drug-free.”
Square dancing is not just for couples; singles can come to dances, too.
Square dancing is both the Texas state folk dance and the American national folk dance.
Nevertheless, it is an art form that is dying out as the number of square dancers slowly dwindles.
Wayne Carter said that is because people think of square dancing as “an old-fashioned thing.” The connotation of square dancing has been that it is a dance that grandparents did, he said.
“We are trying to change the image that someone has of square dancing. It’s fun,” he said.
In an effort to attract more people to square dancing, the beginner square dance lessons offered by the Rambling Roses will be weekly from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, beginning next week and continuing through May 21.
The first two lessons will be free with no obligation. If beginners choose to continue in 18 additional lessons, the charge will be $45 per student. The lessons will be in the Family Life Center of Green Acres Baptist Church, 1607 Troup Highway. The teacher will be Ron Mineau.
After learning to square dance, anyone can join the Rambling Roses Square Club for $60 per person per year, which covers admission to all club dances and other events, a meal at each dance and insurance.
The Rambling Roses have a dance the first Saturday of each month at Tyler Senior Center, 1915 Garden Valley Road, Tyler. Admission to dances held by other clubs runs about $7.
Dancers usually wear casual or square dance attire, but it is not required. Men generally wear jeans, a long-sleeve Western shirt and tie. Many women wear a full skirt with a petticoat underneath and blouse or jeans or capris. Often dancers wear cowboy boots or dance shoes.