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Square dance has a colorful history

By Carla Roberts
Special to The PREVIEW

Photo courtesy Carla Roberts Square dancers spent a lively evening dancing to one of the legends of square dance — octogenarian Marshall Flippo — in Albuquerque recently.

Photo courtesy Carla Roberts
Square dancers spent a lively evening dancing to one of the legends of square dance — octogenarian Marshall Flippo — in Albuquerque recently.

A new, ongoing class at the Ross Aragon Community Center continues every Wednesday evening from 5-7 p.m. Local music and dance teacher Carla Roberts will teach easy square dance calls at the basic level with an emphasis on having fun. The drop-in class is free to the public and open to all ages and experience levels.

This new class is practicing something very old. Square dance has a rich history with ties to European dances from the 15th to 18th centuries. The roots go back to English and French ancestors, as well as traces of Irish, Scottish, Scandinavian, Spanish and others. No wonder it was briefly the “Official National Folk Dance” of the United States when President Ronald Reagan signed an act of Congress making it so and lasting from 1982-83.

While the dance form transplanted from European cultures has complex and extensive origins, there is nothing complex about the basic reason we still square dance today — it is fun to do.

Recently in Albuquerque, 12 squares (of eight each) dancers spent a lively evening dancing to one of the legends of square dance — octogenarian Marshall Flippo. Beginning his calling career in 1952, Flippo made dozens of square dance records, including his famous rendition of “The Auctioneer” on Blue Star records. For several decades, between early fall and mid spring, he has averaged five nights of calling per week throughout North America doing one-nighters and as staff caller for weekend and week-long square dance vacation institutes. His calling has taken him to many areas around the globe and his contributions to the world of square dancing have been many. He has served on CallerLab’s Board of Governors and in 1970 was inducted into the Square Dance Hall of Fame.

Some of us traveled six to eight hours by car to attend this special dance, lured by the legend of Flippo. His on-the-spot choreography (called patter in square dance) was inventive and full of delightful surprises. He spent the whole evening throwing out one-liners that kept the entire floor in stitches.

The dancing was superb, all the men handsome and the ladies beautiful in their festive wear and, most importantly, we had so much fun.

No wonder the majority of Flippo’s engagements are repeats, year after year.

Help us to continue this great western heritage activity in Pagosa Springs. Come to town and kick up your heels with caller Carla Roberts every Wednesday evening from 5-7 p.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center located at 451 Hot Springs Blvd. in Pagosa Springs.

Multi-instrumentalist, singer and performing arts specialist Carla Roberts has taught and performed concerts in schools and fine arts venues in the Western States for the last 35 years. Her Four Corners based “Wild West Squares” program is designed to bring the joy of modern western square dance to people of all ages. Carla can be reached at 903-6478.

This story was posted on April 3, 2014.