GLENVIEW — On Tuesday nights, by 9 p.m. the Glenview Squares square dancing club is stepin’ fast at passing the ocean, loading the boat, touching a quarter and flipping the diamond.
The upbeat, percussion-driven music fills the second floor of Park Center in Glenview as they practice dozens of colorfully named dance steps.
They yell, stomp, stumble, twirl, clap, whistle and dosaydo.
The 40-member club meets once a week to learn steps and moves — known as calls — and every other Friday they gather with clubs around the suburbs for dances.
The Glenview Squares were started in 1950, and plaid and checkered shirts and long-flowing dresses are still worn.
Their goal is learning 67 calls and eventually 24 higher-level calls.
Tom Davis, a caller since 1980, learned the skill in Louisville, Kent. He now calls in seven Midwestern states and Davis is president of the American Callers Club.
The choreographed steps are structured and require timed teamwork; otherwise, awkward results are bumps, trips and false starts.
“Structured square dancing has always been that way, and barn style dancing is less structured,” said Davis, a Naperville resident who still intones a smooth Kentucky dialect.
He said square dancing started in the English court of King Henry VIII, 1491-1547.
In the United States, auto industrialist Henry Ford popularized the group dance in the 1920s by organizing them for his workers in Detroit auto factories, Davis said.
“Mr. Ford thought Western-style square dancing was good family entertainment for his workers,” Davis said.
Janice Cha joined the Glenview Squares in 2005 and today she is the group’s student coordinator.
In the early 1990s, she learned the moves while teaching English in Wokohama, Japan.
“I met a woman who said her hobby was square dancing. I thought it would be hilarious to learn it in Japan,” said Cha of Morton Grove.
“I met the group, had a good time and kept going back. I’m going back for a visit in October,” she said, explaining American occupation forces stationed in Japan after World War II taught locals how to square dance.
Though the perception of whom square dance appeals to was older couples and fans of country western music, Cha said everyone could enjoy it.
“And we believe any age will like it — singles and couples,” she said, pointing out to the dance floor.
“These people here tonight taking lessons will walk 2 to 3 miles. It’s really good exercise,” she said.
Very noticeably, the Glenview Squares preferred recorded upbeat music when hoofing and twirling around the floor, as opposed to the traditional sound played on fiddles, banjos, guitars, double basses and dulcimers.
Cha said the current music her club liked was similar to Gangna, style pop music.
Ed Haering, director of the Metropolitan Chicago Association of Square Dancers also said callers have started to use a variety of contemporary music instead of just western style.
“Callers are doing what people want, which is dancing to several types of music,” said Haering of South Elgin.
With more than 1,100 members, the Metropolitan Chicago Association of Square Dancers organizes events for 22 square dancing clubs in five Chicago area counties.
During Tuesday’s lesson, dancers moved to the movie theme songs of Starwars and Jerasic Park, and to the Pointer Sisters’ Neutron Dance pop hit.
Glenview Squares President Lila Leverick met her husband, Tom, after being a widow for 10 years.
“I love to dance. I was a jitter bugger years ago while growing up in Glen Carbon in Downstate Illinois,” said Leverick of Deerfield.
“My physical therapist wants me to dance.”
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed square dancing the national dance of the United States.
“I was there at the ceremony and about 60 of us danced outside on the White House Lawn,” Davis said.