I can’t think of a more perfect way to spend a Saturday night in the middle of Kentucky than at an old-fashioned square dance. We saw it on the schedule at the Natural Bridge Park Resort and headed down to Hoedown Island for a bit of knee-slappin’, toe-tappin’ fun.
We paid our $3 and gathered with about 100 other people who’d come to the outdoor patio in the middle of a lake. We sat on the bleachers circling the ‘dance floor,’ waiting and wondering what to expect. Out came the Hoedown Island Cloggers, a group of 10 dancers in Appalachian dance costume. They began tapping their way onto stage and showing us a step or two. It looked like so much fun that we grabbed a spot on the floor for the next rotation: Kentucky running sets.
We paired off into groups of four: two couples facing each other, with all of the foursomes forming an inner and outer circle on the patio. We followed the calls to “swing our partner, then the other,” and did a short dance before the inside couples moved down to the next couple to make a new foursome. Pretty soon the caller started telling us to “chase that rabbit, chase that squirrel, chase that pretty girl round the world,” “round one couple, take a little peek,” “right-hand across,” and “greet your neighbor.”
I felt like a square dance flunkie. I could barely remember one move, let alone all these different moves in time to the music.
The dances were dizzying. I mean, really dizzying! I spun around in so many circles that I wasn’t even sure where my partner was sometimes. But amazingly, everyone else there seemed to know just what to do. In fact, when I complimented them and thanked them for helping us figure out what to do next, they often remarked that they’d been doing it for years. So this must be a regular Saturday-night outing in those parts.
I can see why. It was a cheap night of fun; dancing in the fresh air, kicking up our heels. After the square dance, they did some country line dancing. My daughter took her turn on the dance floor then.
So when in Kentucky, do what the Appalachians have always liked to do: grab your partner and promenade.
This looks like so much fun. Square dancing was one of those things that looked so strange to me as a kid, but as I get older, I’m glad it’s still around. It’s sort of one of those American traditions that you don’t want to die out, right?
Exactly. We did it in gym class when I was a kid. I never thought about it again, but had fun re-discovering it in Kentucky.
That looks like so much fun! We learned to square dance in highschool gym class too and I haven’t done it since. My parents live in a rural Canadian community though and they go out to a weekly square dance all winter – keeps them active!
Ah! So it’s a more popular rural activity than I thought. I’ve got to get out to the country more often.
What a great way to get involved in local Kentucky culture. Half my family is from RURAL eastern Kentucky – it’s such a different place than where I grew up in Colorado. I think I experienced more culture shock there than many foreign countries I’ve been to.
Yes. Here in Ohio, we like to think we’re oh-so-very different than our Kentucky neighbors. But we’re not.
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