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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment April 28, 2016

8/15/2013 4:22:00 PM
Square dancers do-si-do into Sisters
Kelley Sweet and Dennis McCorkle take a turn on the floor at Sisters High School during the annual square dance roundup. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Kelley Sweet and Dennis McCorkle take a turn on the floor at Sisters High School during the annual square dance roundup. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

"Swing your partner high and low, promenade with a heel and toe," caller Dan Preedy sang out as dozens of dancers heeded his call.

A group of 200 square dancers from Idaho, Washington, California and Oregon teamed up together this weekend in Sisters for the Central Oregon Round-up Square Dance Festival.

The Central Oregon Round-up featured a weekend festival of square- and round-dancing that kicked off with the Trail's End Dance at Bronco Billy's Ranch Grill and Saloon on Thursday evening.

The energy generated while the couples square-danced was as electrifying as the recent thunderstorms that have passed through the local area.

The dancers were in full dress attire for the Saturday-night square dance festival held at Sisters High School.

Square dancers promenaded in their colorful Western skirts and shirts in the Sisters High School commons.

"This is our 31st year of the Central Oregon Round-up Square Dance Festival and our 11th year here in Sisters," said Kippen Parret, Central Oregon Round-up chairman from Bend.

The Bachelor Beauts, Redrock Squares, Sagebrush Shufflers and the Sundown Round Dance are the four square- and round-dance clubs in Central Oregon.

Each club's committee is in charge of setting up something special at this year's round-up.

"I'm with the Bachelor Beauts, and we were in charge of the Trail's End Dance at Bronco Billy's," said Lonnie Waak, past club president.

The Redrock Squares were in charge of the round-up barbecue at Sisters High School on Friday afternoon. The Sagebrush Shufflers handled all the hospitality.

"We had a silent auction with a variety of goodies on Friday and Saturday evening. The Sundown Round Dance Club was in charge of the silent auction," said Parret. "The Central Oregon Round-up Festival is a fundraiser."

The entrance fee for each square dancer is $25 for the weekend. The proceeds are split between the clubs and go toward the 20-week square- and round-dance classes that a qualified instructor teaches. The proceeds also go toward the callers' fees so the clubs can continue to have dances.

The featured caller for Saturday night was Dan Preedy from Spokane, Washington, and featured cuers were John and Fran Downing from Newport, Washington.

"Callers prompt the square dancers. Cuers do more or less the same thing for round dancing," said Parret.

The caller uses a microphone to guide the dancers through a sequence of steps in time to the music.

Round dance is a form of ballroom dancing. A piece of music is selected, and the different steps are chosen to fit the music exactly.

"I have been a round-dance cuer for 12 years," said Joyce Brown, from Alfalfa. "At every square-dance festival there is also round dancing. It's so much fun."

Square dance consists of four couples that are arranged in the shape of a square. Each dance is started and finished in the original square formation.

"I have been square-dancing for 54 years, I started in south Chicago," said Roger Putzler. "I am a caller and we make up the order that we give the square-dancers. They know the movements and it's always a surprise in how they will be dancing. The energy is incredible; it's good physical, mental and social exercise."

The couples were tireless as they square-danced the evening away.

"We are trying to preserve square dancing; it's the Oregon state dance," says Parret. Basically you can square dance every Friday or Saturday night somewhere in Central Oregon.

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