Dancing club shoots for nationals



Wednesday afternoons at the Wesley Foundation on Columbia Avenue are punctured by the sound of country tunes and Dan Graham’s melodic voice as he serenades his students while they dance in mathematical formations.

“From a jack to a king, from loneliness to a wedding ring …” he sings.

Graham’s square dancing group has been working toward its goal of representing UK at the National Square Dance Convention in Louisville in June, but a lack of participants remains an obstacle.

“We would love to get about three squares of people so that we can go to the National Convention and represent UK,” Graham said. “We want to promote square dancing and keep the heritage alive, but at the same time, we want to promote the university too.”

When UK students at the Wesley Foundation decided to have a hoedown in September, they invited Graham to call the dancing. Afterward, he recruited about nine students to take a square dancing class through the foundation.

“It’s been difficult because of Christmas holidays,” Graham said. “We have more fellas than girls … but we just got permission from Wesley Foundation to invite other students from the campus to come over and join us.”

Graham said he believes square dancing is a more wholesome alternative to the activities many college students participate in, such as drinking and partying.

Students are easy to teach because they learn so fast, Graham said. What takes most people up to 23 weeks to learn can take students as little as 10 weeks.

“It’s unique,” Spanish and Linguistics junior Christopher Jameson said. “There aren’t many young people who square dance.”

Brooke Francis, an undecided freshman, said she grew up line dancing and enjoys attending square dances.

“People don’t put square dancing and teenagers together,” Francis said. “But I think that if they tried it, they would really like it.”

Graham is a member of Kentucky Grand Squares, a Winchester area dance club that promotes square dancing as a fun, “low-impact aerobic activity,” according to the dance club’s web site. Recently, Kentucky Grand Squares adopted a UK chapter for Graham’s class.

Besides the entertainment of square dancing, Graham said it also has plenty of physical benefits.

“(Square dancing) decreases your chances of getting dementia by 76 percent,” he said. “And it burns 300 calories in half an hour of dancing … I’m 69 years old. I feel like I’m 35.”

Graham said he hopes his students will pass on the traditions of square dancing to their own families down the line.

“It’s something they can do anywhere they go in the world,” he said.

Graham said about 30,000 people are expected to attend the convention, which will include 32 dance halls.

In the meantime, Graham teaches his students every week to continue developing their skills and love of the dance.

“I played an ace and won a queen,” he sings. “And walked away with your heart.”