in Manitoba, and leave your first session with a joyful heart, better health, and a sharpened mind. Recent studies are all but hollering the

Hip to be square dancing I

Eugene Plischke

t’s time to dust off those “Yahoos!” and join a square dance club. You’ll meet some of the friendliest people

amazing powers of dancing to reverse the signs of aging. According to research published last year in Frontiers in Hu- man Neuroscience, learning complex, constantly changing dance steps results in measurable improvements to bal- ance, dexterity, and the integrity of brain regions responsible for memory—and may even ward off the symptoms of Alz- heimer’s disease and other dementias. But not just any dance will do. An-

other study by the University of Colo- rado concluded that square dancing in particular outperformed other forms of dance. Researchers speculate the reason is because square dancing combines social interaction, exercise, and learn- ing by minimizing the time one partner spends simply following another who leads. Square dancing has also proven to safeguard against hypertension, obesity, depression, and social isolation. If you’re looking to stave off those

winter blues, challenge your mind, and minimize isolation, give it a try. Each of Winnipeg’s 12 clubs will let you attend for free for three weeks before you commit to paying fees, which are only $5 a year plus $4 per drop-in. Entertainment doesn’t get more affordable and rewarding than spending a few hours learning to perfect a “Ladies in, Men Sashay” or “Weave the Ring”.

Square dancing may be the best thing you haven’t tried. Research shows you can “Do Si Do” and “Allemand Left” your way to better mental and physical health.

All of Winnipeg’s square dancing clubs

follow the same inclusive, family-friendly code: no alcohol, no swearing, no bully- ing or teasing. Te caller—the person who leads the dance—teaches the sequence of steps or figures before the music begins. Ten you’ve got to keep on your toes to re- spond to key changes as the music—usu- ally performed by a fiddle, often joined by guitar or banjo—whirls through a series of progressions. With 68 basic calls and 32 that are more advanced, square danc- ing is endlessly varied and spontaneous. A dancer will travel two to three miles in an evening. If you make an error (and you will), your partners simply smile and guide you along: “Keep on dancing! Keep on travelling!” You can show up with or without a

partner and dance the part of a man or a woman. Each club is unique. One of

the local clubs that caters to beginners, Paws N Taws, is also the largest club in Winnipeg and just celebrated its 60th anniversary. Paws N Taws caller Brian Lewis, who

has been dancing for 35 years and calling for 20, says the dance originated in 16th century England and spread throughout western Europe before coming to North America by way of France. You’ll find clubs throughout North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. Club president Lois Saunderson says square dancing is a destination event, and many enthusiastic dancers travel to conventions, cruises, festivals and tours held across the globe. “Callers all over the world use the same terms, so dancers can understand and follow along wherever they go.” Te night I visited Paws N Taws, the music was varied: I heard classic coun-

Spotlight: Sarah Brightman CJNU presents the McNally Robinson Artist of the Month for December

Helen Harper

humble beginnings in Little Gaddesden, England, where dance and piano teachers recognized her tal- ent as early as age three, to become one of the world’s greatest and most well-known voices, singing in Eng- lish, Spanish, French, Latin, German, Turkish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese and Catalan. For me, her role as Christine in Andrew Lloyd Web-


ber’s musical Te Phantom of the Opera is my all-time favourite. ALW wrote the role specifically for her, only to have the Actor’s Equity Association balk at mount- ing the production on Broadway because of their own rule requiring that a non-American headliner must be an international star. Lloyd Webber worked out a deal with them and cast an American in the lead of his next West End production. In January 1988, Phantom had its opening, and as they say, the rest is history. Te re- cording became the bestselling cast album of all time, hitting charts worldwide, exceeding forty million in

Sarah Brightman has just released her new album "Hymn".

sales, and carrying Brightman’s soaring soprano voice to countless ears around the world. Brightman has had two marriages. Te first was to

Andrew Graham-Stewart, whom she divorced to marry Andrew Lloyd Webber. For two very creative people always in the media glare, the second marriage was a difficult time and ended after six years. Nevertheless,

Puzzle answers

his classical crossover soprano, singer, songwrit- er, actress, dancer and musician has had—and is still having—an amazing career. She grew from

they’ve remained friendly, and in 2015 they started the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Sarah Brightman Mu- sic Scholarships to support postgraduate music students at the Royal Northern College of Music. Brightman’s list of awards takes up whole pages.

She is a committed humanitarian, and was appointed UNESCO Artist for Peace from 2012-14. She’s remained committed to charitable work throughout her career, and has focused much of her work on promoting cul- tural dialogue and exchange. Not all of her interests are so earth-bound. In 2014,

Brightman began training for a journey to the Interna- tional Space Station. Although she postponed her flight until further notice citing personal reasons, I can only think how wonderful it would have been to hear her angelic soprano voice floating through the heavens as the space station circled our planet. Stay tuned to CJNU Nostalgia Radio 93.7 FM for the

month of December and enjoy the talented and gifted Sarah . Visit to purchase featured Sarah Brightman albums. Helen Harper is a volunteer at CJNU 93.7 Nostalgia


try and fiddling, as well as a little Bob Dylan. During one of the teaching tips (or rounds), we danced to “Moves like Jagger” by Maroon 5. Some dancers, such as Paws N Taws

member Hal Slater, dance up to eight t imes a week. Other members have danced their entire lives. Cathy Kozak was brought to square dancing as a young child by her mother, the late Freda Kozak. “It was one of the only affordable and ac- cessible activities for a single mom back then.” Her mother continued to dance and teach square dancing in various per- sonal care homes well into her 90s. “She was often older than the residents she was working with,” Cathy recalls proudly. Some dance for the physical health

benefits. Florence Bourgouin, who has been square dancing for 12 years, joined in the hopes that it would help her hus- band get more exercise, a goal she de- scribes as a work in progress. For others, square dancing is an activ-

ity that bridges the generations. Yvette Baskerville has been dancing since 1986, when she joined the club with her four sisters and their partners. Her husband was her partner for many years. Today, she is proud to have her great-grandson at her side. 14-year-old Liam Baskerville- Marsh is Paws N Taws’ youngest member. Yvette got him hooked three years ago; he’s now the proud owner of an amazing array of traditional square dance cloth- ing inherited from family members and picked up at sales and swaps. To find a club near you or to get more

information, visit the Manitoba Square and Round Dance Federation website at, or call Pam Hart at 204.414.7637.

14 Life.Times

Winter 2018

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