Klines bring square dancing to Smithfield

Published 5:20 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Jim Kline has been square dancing since 1963.

Before the pandemic, he and his wife, Kathie, would go out dancing four to five nights a week.

American square dancing “originated in this area and is a combination of the different dance steps brought here when the settlers arrived from different countries,” Jim said. “It has been recognized as our national folk dance.”

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Now, he’s hoping others will take up the tradition.

The Klines have arranged to teach a 12-week session from 7 to 9 p.m. at the 1750 Courthouse on Main Street as a fundraiser for the colonial-era building’s upkeep. On Jan. 17, the date of the first class, 16 people showed up — just enough to form two square formations, each with four couples.

Over the next hour, calls of “allemande left” and “promenade” could be heard. American square dancing involves a “caller” directing sequences of steps – sometimes in rapid succession.

“The hardest part of square dancing is listening to the caller,” Jim said.

But it’s also the easiest part, he added.

A call of “allemande left” directs everyone to circle from dancer to dancer, grasping forearms until they are all once again facing their original partner. A call of “promenade” means to take the hand of your partner and walk together counter-clockwise.

Margaret Miller and Kenneth Damon, both of North Suffolk, began dating after meeting at a square dance. Miller has been dancing at the “Tidal Waves” club in Newport News since 2013. Damon joined up in 2016. Miller said she’d initially taken an interest for “the exercise,” but ultimately found much more.

Others, like the Bebermeyers of Smithfield, were newcomers to the tradition.

Mary Ellen Bebermeyer, who came with her husband, Rob, and her 12-year-old daughter, Kate, said the family had “just wanted to do something different and have fun.”

Rob and Mary Ellen’s adult son, Patrick, and his wife, Gabrielle Guill, came along as one of the other couples in the square.

“This is our first exposure to it,” said Debi Cross, also of Smithfield, who came with her husband, Lonnie.

No prior experience is necessary, but bringing a partner is recommended.

“We have no square dancing on the south side of the James (River) and right now there is very little dancing on the Peninsula due to facility closures,” Jim said.

The Klines are seeking a $5 donation to the courthouse from each couple.