Ok folks, we’re at the Gadsden Civic Center for a Thursday night of music and fun. On the dance floor are a number of men and women. Four couples face each other in a square – the music starts and caller Ronnie Purser sings: “Bow to your partner and turn left; now do si do and german is gone. Now it’s time to take a walk.
Ahh, old school square dancing is underway! It takes place from 7-9pm on Thursday evenings at the Gadsden Civic Center on Broad Street.
And it might never have happened had it not been for auto magnate Henry Ford, who hated jazz, thinking it was a work of the devil.
A story by Robyn Pennacchia for the Quartz website reported that Ford and his wife “had a long interest in what he called ‘old-fashioned dancing.’ When he bought the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts, in 1923, he hired a man named Benjamin Lovett to not only teach square dancing to him and his wife, but also to the guests of the inn. .
“At the time, however, the dance form was already considered old-fashioned and, well, boxy,” Pennacchia wrote. “Even in the country, where these types of dances were once popular, jazz and swing were taking over.
Pennacchia wrote that by bringing back the square dance, “along with other chiefly Anglo-Saxon dances such as waltzes and quadrilles”, Ford sought to “counteract what he saw as the unhealthy influence of jazz on the states United” and expected people to “leave the dance”. halls and cabarets en masse to spin their partners into booze-free square dancing clubs.
He thought the way to fix what he saw as “America’s moral decay” might be as simple “as replacing it with fiddles and square dancing”.
Another note to this story is that square dancing started over 600 years ago in Europe, but time won’t allow me to tell it all now.
Rick Sorrell, chairman of the Gadsden Twirlers, said they were organized in 2013, after the demise of the long-running ‘Whirl-a-Ways’ square dance which held their dances in what is now the center from the University of Alabama at Gadsden.
“We have dancers of all ages in the Twirlers, some of whom are in their 60s and 70s and one regular is 89,” he said with a laugh. “We are going to have beginner dance classes from February, but people, especially young men and women, are encouraged to join us anytime.”
Sorrell said Purser, their regular caller, retired for health reasons and Kevin Cozad, who started square dancing in 1972 and started calling dances a few years later, will be the Twirlers’ new caller. . “(He has) 44 years of experience,” he said. “We are happy to have him with us every week.”
According to dancer Paulette Lee Massey, “It’s good socialization and good exercise, and learning the many different steps is good for the brain. I really like doing this.
Massey said each dance is “equal to a heart healthy 5 mile walk”.
The “Looney House Tree Lighting”, a fundraiser for the maintenance of the historic house built in 1845, is sponsored by the Twirlers. “It will be November 28, Saturday Thanksgiving afternoon, starting at noon,” Sorrell said. “(There will be) bluegrass music, Christmas carols, square dancing and more. True-to-story decorations will be provided by the Garden Club of Ashville and tours of the house will be arranged.
The Looney House is located at 4187 Greensport Road, Ashville.
For more information on the Gadsden Twirlers, visit their Facebook page, https://bit.ly/2ZS6Alm. Visitors are always welcome at their dances.