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By Carla Roberts
Special to The PREVIEW
It’s that time of year again. The only opportunity that brave Pagosans will have to learn a new skill that will bring joy and camaraderie into one’s life.
The opportunity is the High Country Squares’ once-a-year beginners’ lesson series for square dance continuing on Monday, June 10, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the PLPOA Clubhouse.
This is the second beginning lesson open to all, including singles. No previous experience is necessary, and this is free of charge through June 17.
The only requirement is to bring your left and right feet, your enthusiasm and your sense of humor. If you have always wondered what it would be like to square dance, don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to learn from one of the most experienced teachers in the United States. Our square dancing “angels” will be there to dance with those who have no regular dancing partner.
Couples will find square dancing a great way to enjoy quality time. Men who do not like to dance might be pleasantly surprised to find square dancing to be the right mixture of challenge and reward, and there is no better teacher to get new dancers motivated than Jim Park.
Jim and Fae Park moved to Pagosa Springs in 2007 from the Detroit area. Back in 1974, when their romance was budding in Dearborn, Mich., Jim decided to study square dance calling. Fae was involved in music education with vocal music (specifically opera) as her specialty.
She said, “Jim never sang a note until he met me. He told me he didn’t know how to sing. I noticed that he had potential because he had good resonance. I wanted him to be a caller, so I bought him his first music and books.” Just for the record, Jim’s first singing call record was “Louisiana Man.” Every summer, Jim and Fae would attend Callers School, which is a concentrated coaching environment for callers. With the vocal coaching from Fae, and an appealing natural voice, Jim soon excelled as a caller. Most callers have a mentor and Jim credits Bill Gracey with inspiring him and helping to put him on the stage.
When it was time to find some live dancers for Jim to work with, Fae provided a novel solution — her junior high school students became the first class. Fae drove them from school to a church where they learned to square dance with Jim. Soon, the kids brought their parents into the club.
What started as a small group of kids practicing in a church facility morphed into a career for Jim working with huge groups of dancers. In Clawson, Mich., The Clawsonaire Running Bears had 110 couples dancing. Jim was teaching constantly — he estimates around 72 beginning classes over the years.
I asked Jim what he liked best about calling. He said, “I like to see the smiles on people’s faces, the friendliness and camaraderie that it creates with people.” He also mentioned the fascination with the mechanics of dancing.
Now that he has retired and moved to Pagosa, High Country Squares benefits enormously having such an experienced and professional caller to grace our dances and beginner lessons. Jim and Fae harmonize occasionally during a singing call, and hope you will come join us for “exercise with a smile” — square dancing.
If you would like to give it a try, or just come and watch others having fun, be our guest at this free lesson night. Come on down and learn a few easy calls, have lots of fun and socialize with our friendly bunch here in Pagosa Springs.
The summer schedule for club dancing is Mainstream and Plus dancing from 7:30 until 9:15 p.m. every Monday night (following lessons) at the PLPOA Clubhouse, 230 Port Ave.
The High Country Squares offers weekly dances, regional dances and a wonderful sense of community for local and visiting dancers. Contact Jim Park, 731-9910, or Jim Hawkins, 731-2028, for more information.