by Martin McConnell
The “Brecksville Squares” square dancing club is perhaps the city’s best kept secret when it comes to activities and social groups. With only 52 current members, the group is small, but its members are exceptionally dedicated and passionate about the style of dance that they love.
David and Cheryl Storgard helped to found the club in 1986 and have been dancing every third and fourth Friday of the month ever since. They may be the only remaining founding members of the club, but the spirit of the group is still very much alive and well in Brecksville.
“We saw an ad in the Brecksville Gazette that they were having square dance lessons,” Cheryl said. “We went, and we really enjoyed it. After three weeks, David realized, ‘I’ve got to start remembering this stuff’ and we’ve been dancing ever since.”
Square dancing is a workout for both the body and the mind. An outsider to the activity may not know how deeply involved the world of the modern American square dance actually is, or why it takes such a skilled worker to “call” a square dance.
“A caller is a man or a woman who stands in front, and tells you what moves you should do,” David Storgard said. “The whole goal is to get you to interact with all these people through moving, hand-holds, turning… It’s a giant puzzle, actually.”
In addition to the puzzle aspect of the dance, there are separate difficulty levels that square dances can be called at. These difficulty levels are often determined by the skill of the caller, with only the most experienced and talented callers in the world calling the top level.
“There’s basic, mainstream, plus, advanced, and challenge,” Cheryl said. “Our club dances what they call ‘plus level.’ There are about 100, 150 [movements.]”
When a square dancing club gets together for a dance, it becomes almost like a hub for other clubs in the area. The Brecksville Squares have welcomed dancers from all over the northeast Ohio area.
“Last week we had like six squares,” Cheryl said. “One square is eight people. It’s not just our club members, it’s people from all around Cleveland and Akron who come to our dances. We have to advertise it in a magazine we call Tip Topics.”
Those who come from other clubs may be searching for a different type of atmosphere, or they may be taking part in a “banner raid.” Raids are common in the square dancing world as a way for dancers to meet new people and explore new communities.
“You get as many club members as you can to go to another club and take their banner and then you bring it to your club,” Cheryl said. “Now that club has to have a square to get their banner back… We don’t have a cloth, we have a teddy bear.”
The Storgards noted that a big part of both their personal enjoyment and the club’s performance at a square dance is the talent of the caller. The best callers in the world are unpredictable and clever enough to keep the dance going, and have the knowledge to see where every person on the dance floor should be at any given moment.
“We’ve danced for so long, we want to dance to a good caller,” Cheryl said. “That’s why we got to these festivals because they’re what they call the national callers. They’re the best in the world. … We have two national callers that are twin brothers that are coming all the way from Iowa to call our dance.”
Square dancing might be a niche hobby, but the scene is still alive and dancing throughout northeast Ohio with 14 clubs in Cleveland alone. Not only are the Storgards looking for great callers for their dances, but also new members who are willing to commit to learning the draft.
“We call it the world’s best kept secret,” Cheryl said. “It’s my baby. We started this club. Square dancers are like family. We get together and dance, but we also get together, have dinner, and go on other kinds of field trips.” ∞
Photo: The Brecksville Squares host social activities at least two weekends every month. Photo submitted.