Square Dance Club
The Ukiah Promenaders have been part of the community of Ukiah, California since 1955. While there were once several square dance clubs flourishing in the Ukiah area, today only the Promenaders continue to preserve the Modern Western style of square dance that came to be in the mid fifties and early sixties.
We have danced in a number of locations around the Ukiah area — the State Hospital in Talmage (before it became the City of 10,000 Buddhas), Frank Zeek School on the north side of Ukiah, and the Todd Grove Clubhouse at the golf course — before arriving at our current home of Bartlett Hall at the Ukiah Senior Center.
We've had a number of accomplished club callers over the years — to name a few, Bud Grass, Ross Johnson and Milt Adams. Today, our caller is Lawrence Johnstone, and has been since April of 1994. Lawrence has been a popular caller around Northern California, and has been voted one of the Top Ten callers in the Bay Area numerous times by the Northern California Square Dancers' Association. He is also a staff recording artist for Riverboat Records.
...what we do is probably quite different from what you were exposed to back then. The square dance program used by most schools was created back in the 1950s, with phonograph records to be used by teachers with little or no knowledge of square dancing. Most teachers aren't active square dancers, so all they can do is follow the 60-year-old instructions that came with the records.
But...square dancing has changed since the 1950s. The modern form of square dancing is extemporaneous — that is, instead of memorizing entire dances which are always done in the same way, today's dancers learn a list of individual movements, or calls, which the caller then puts together on the fly into figures that are always changing. The dancers listen to the caller's voice to find out what the next movement will be, and then the one after that, and so on — they don't know what's coming next. This process of listening to the caller's instructions and reacting to them is what makes modern square dancing unique. It's a dance form that's practiced all over the world, from the US to Japan, Taiwan, China, Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, and many other places.
We also use a wide variety of music. The scratchy fiddle music is a thing of the past — we use classic and modern country, rock 'n' roll, blues, Big Band, and even classical music. (Yes, you can square dance to Beethoven!)
Even if you didn't like square dancing when you were in school, you may surprise yourself if you try it today. (Guys, especially if you were at that age then where you'd rather do anything than touch a girl!)
Ukiah Daily Journal article on Lawrence Johnstone and square dancing
Thursday Nights, 7pm to 9pm
Bartlett Hall at the Ukiah Senior Center
495 Leslie St., Ukiah, CA (map)
We dance CALLERLAB's Sustainable Square Dancing 50-call program. This is similar to Mainstream, with some of the less-frequently-used calls left out so that the program can be taught in 12 weeks. The SSD-50 program allows us to offer shorter classes several times per year, making it easier for us to invite people to join us. You can find information about the SSD-50 program at Jerry Story's website. (This link goes directly to the SSD-50 documents, but Jerry also has a number of other documents on his site explaining the advantages of SSD-50.)