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Swing time

Friendly Squares call steps monthly

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple A team of dancers step through the paces Jan. 8 during the Friendly Squares monthly square dance at the Niles SCOPE Center. From left, Bob Taylor of Hartford, Lynne Zema of Green, Valerie Abaffy of Chardon, Charles Zema of Green, John Frazier of Hartford, Margie Keach of Lordstown, Diana Frazier of Hartford and Garry Long of Warren take their cues from caller Gene Hammond of Hubbard, in the background.

NILES — Square dances were first documented in 16th century England, but probably date back a good deal earlier.

The Friendly Squares haven’t been around quite as long, dating back to 2010. Since then, groups of enthusiastic square dancers swing their partners round and round the second Saturday evening of every month at the Niles SCOPE Center, 14 E. State St.

The Friendly Squares also offer a year of weekly lessons, which start each September. Plus, special events, performances and competitions are available throughout the year.

Gene Hammond of Hubbard and Neil Harner of Newton Falls act in the role of callers. Gene’s wife, Frankie, cues the line dances.

Retired bank manager Mary Kropinak of Vienna is one of the Saturday night regulars. “First of all, it’s fun,” she said. “I have lots of fun, and it makes me happy.”

Being part of the club allows a person to meet a lot of people, visit different venues and stay in shape, Kropinak said. “You can burn a lot of calories square dancing for two hours. Square dancing keeps us youthful.”

A square dance begins with teams of four couples arranged in a square, with one couple on each side of the square. As the music plays, a caller sings out the steps for the dancers to perform.

The next monthly dance is set for 7:30 to 10 p.m. Feb. 8 at Niles SCOPE. Valentines will be the theme for the dance.

This will be a high / low dance with alternating tips for new dancers and for more experienced dancers. Dress is casual, and light refreshments will be served. A $6 donation per person is requested at the door.

For more information, call Gene Hammond at 330-506-3370, or Rachel Harner, Neil’s wife, at 330-281-1626.

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