By Barb Hauge
My husband Art and I spent May 1985 dancing across Europe with a Canadian square dance troupe. Although now ridiculed by some, it is America's official dance; dating back to our pioneer ancestors. Out west it was danced by mountain men and cowboys around a campfire; often with no women present. The men would don a sash or makeshift apron to dance the female role. They were stomping, shouting, rough affairs. Modern square dancing was developed by a school principal from Colorado Springs who was dismayed by the animosity created through sports and decided to replace it with square dancing. The principal was affectionately called "Pappy Shaw."
Art took his World War II Air Corps training at Peterson Field and the Air Force Academy being built at Colorado Springs. From there square dancing spread to American military bases all over the world. Art loved dancing and especially when the caller was Pappy Shaw, father and founder of the modern square dance.
We have danced in places as varied as border crossings, public parks, ancient castles, ferry boats, mystery tours, and cruises. We've danced at mosquito hops, dam dances, spring flings and harvest festivals, Christmas and Valentine dances. Favorite dance floors include Duguala Bay on Whidbey Island, Ursaline Center in Great Falls, Square Dance Center in Lolo, Montana and in Alaskaland, Apache Trail Hall and in Canada Bracken Community and Shaunavon Catholic Halls and Swift Current Civic Center. Our dance across Europe was to promote square dancing worldwide. I kept a journal and wrote this epic poem for our farewell roast in Paris:
We took off on our tour in jackets of blue; Canadians with Americans and a cockney or two. We met in Toronto and flew all the way; then customs in London took up half our day. When we got a chance, we square dance!
Though American farmers are all going broke and Canadian workers need jobs, that's no joke; Britain's miners are all out on strike and Scotland's Scots ever fear a price hike. Still, when we get the chance, we escape with our dance!
Whenever we dance we add to our joy with caller Mike, our own cockney Canadian boy. His sound system is silent, but he has a loud voice. He puts us through our paces; do we have a choice? From London through France we square dance!
Bob and Audrey are the leaders of our fearless pack. They got us over and they'll get us back. It always costs more than we ever had dreamed and accommodations are seldom quite what they seemed. But they do find the chance to square dance.
The Tower of London is a gloomy old place where queens were beheaded and royalty lost face. Legend says black ravens keep the empire intact by "nevermore" quote the raven and that's a sad fact. There merrymakers gave us our chance to merrily dance! The crown jewels were truly a sight to behold; diamonds, rubies, and emeralds all encrusted in gold. Adorned in royal purple and red and blue; velvet and gold cloth; all heavy stuff too. If you dance you'd be dead with all that weight on your head!
Stonehenge out of London is a mystery place; fenced off to keep the huge stones from deface. Was it a sundial? Druids Chapel? Or for reading the stars? Was it left by earth men or "others" from planets afar? Beneath it, if we got the chance, we'd do our ceremonial dance!
We saw luxurious Tudor Gardens and Palace where old Henry VIII betrayed his wives and let them suffer a horrible fate. He was a royal monster so cruel and go gross; I don't see how his poor wives ever got close. On his grave we women would sure like the chance to joyfully dance!