Tell people you’re going to a Single Circles gathering, and they might think you’re headed to a dating event. Nope. Not really. This group has a queen/king and banner raids, but we’ll get to that.
The square dancing club, which has its roots in Brooklyn Park, began in 1981. As it grew, it bounced around Brooklyn Park venues before landing in Maple Grove. The number of participants is north of 30, and dancers have ranged in age from 6 to 90 years old.
Jane Simpson has been with the group about 17 years and first took lessons through a Maple Grove Parks and Recreation program, but that wasn’t her first twirl with square dancing. “I grew up on a farm in Southwestern Minnesota, near Lamberton,” she says. “There were square dance clubs in many of the small towns. There are still some callers around that did calling back then and remember my parents.” Some of her earliest memories include seeing her folks square dancing and laughing in their matching outfits (“Mom sewed them all.”), dancing with her siblings and other kids “ ‘til we all fell down laughing” and sipping orange Crush soda pop at the dances. “I have always believed that square dancing played a large part in why my parents lived happily and in good health until their 90s,” Simpson says. “Every time I dance, I think they are up there watching and laughing.”
There are about a dozen square dance clubs in the Metro, and along with dancing, the clubs’ banner raids offer a little friendly shenanigans. Most organizations have a banner displayed at their events and have small replicas that they use to trade with other organizations. Other groups can “steal” the replicas to display on their home turf, in hopes that the other group will come to retrieve it. “It is a way to encourage visiting others and helping smaller groups, as well as larger [groups], to have better attendance at their dances,” Simpson says.
Queens/kings/ambassadors are chosen to represent the club at various events and typically head up the banner funny business.
While she loves to dance, Simpson finds other benefits to participating in the club. “About five years ago, I was talking to our state marketing person and said, ‘You know people are so into vitamins and supplements and all that, we ought to advertise ourselves as Vitamin F— fun, fellowship, friendship, family, fitness, food—they are all a part of square dancing.'”
Simpson has met plenty of other dancers outside the Single Circles. “… I have found friends in Brainerd, Bemidji, Lake City, Kabetogama, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and beyond,” she says. “We have conventions throughout the states, as well as nationally. A free night on a vacation could mean new friends because the Internet can help us find a dance anywhere.”
Younger folks have gotten into the swing of it, too. For the last six years, Simpson has been a part of Gustavus Adolphus College’s welcome week, helping with a hoedown square dance. “… I’ve been invited to call at a senior’s graduation party, a Girl Scouts camping weekend [and] a wedding anniversary outdoor party,” she says.
No matter the age or occasion, square dancing is “happy and healthy,” Simpson says. “You can walk in with a headache or totally tired, within the time it takes to dance the first tip, you will forget you are tired and lose the headache. Doesn’t everyone need some of that?”
Square Dance Maple Grove
Oak View Elementary School
6710 E. Fish Lake Road