On a well-worn wooden dance floor, with chairs lining the room along the walls, dancers of all ages, sizes, shapes and abilities gather each week to enjoy some musical exercise and the camaraderie that goes along with a group activity.
The Single Skirts ‘n Flirts square dance club, which meets Wednesday evenings at the Oakdale Grange Hall on Lambuth Avenue, just off F Street, is one of many organizations that utilize the upstairs portion of the hall. The club is also offering free dance lessons, with a final free session set for this evening, Wednesday, Feb. 20. The goal is to introduce more people to square dancing, which in turn allows them to have fun, enjoy a night out and get some exercise.
Members come from many communities, Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon, Modesto, Knights Ferry, Galt, Coulterville and more. The Wednesday, Feb. 13 session drew nearly as many newcomers for the free class as the regulars, with many ‘squares’ filling the floor and each featuring a combination of learners and veterans.
“I’m a golden dancer,” Knights Ferry resident Sue Schlageter said, noting that she has been dancing for over 40 years.
“I’m in my 80s,” she added, as she got ready to take a twirl around the floor.
Square dance caller for the Singles Skirts ‘n Flirts group is Bill Silver and also on hand Wednesday night was Steve Wey, a round dance caller who also serves other groups at the same location other nights of the week.
Club member Sue Farver of Escalon was at the head table, helping people sign in, and said she and her husband recently got back into dancing after many years away from the activity.
“He remembered everything, I didn’t,” Farver said, laughing. “It has been fun and we’ve reconnected with people we knew back in the day.”
Newcomers on Wednesday night learned that a ‘yellow rock’ is another name for a hug in square dance parlance, while there are both head and side couples in each square.
Robert Dye of Oakdale spent part of the evening seated in a chair on the outside looking in.
“My mother-in-law,” he said of why he was attending the class, explaining that she encouraged he and his wife to join in. “I told her I would come.”
But before the night was over, he had joined a square and taken the first tentative steps on a new adventure.
Husband and wife Paul and Linda Breaux of Modesto were a bit breathless but enjoying the dancing, agreeing that it will take “a commitment” to keep up with the lessons.
The Feb. 13 lesson was just a day before Valentine’s Day and Knights Ferry residents Gary and Deirdre Burgoin were there for that reason.
“This is a Valentine’s present,” Deirdre said, “for him to take me dancing.”
“It’s fun,” husband Gary added. “And it burns some calories.”
Silver has been calling square dances for over 30 years and lives in Sacramento. He attended an eight-week session of classes back in 1981 to get his start and now is busy four nights a week calling for clubs in Oakdale, Yuba City, Alameda and Vacaville.
The Oakdale Skirts ‘n Flirts meets Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and has a third Saturday of the month dance party from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., where they invite other area clubs to join in the fun. President of the local club sis Dennis Le Clert of Galt, in his second term as president.
During a break in the square dancing action on Wednesday, round dance caller Wey stepped to the mic and also offered dancers the option of that style, which features dancing in a large circle to a variety of beats.
“Remember, we all started out where you are,” Wey said as beginners gave the routines their best shot.
The club meets year round and more information is available by contacting Dennis or Peggy Le Clert at 209-477-4756 or vice president Audre Barney at 209-581-3883.