Every couple of weeks in Wyoming, there is promenading going on. In the Civic Center on Thursday nights, you might see a do-si-do or an allemande left with a right and left grand. Why, there might even be ladies in and men sashay! Whether you know what these things mean or not, the Venus & Mars Square Dance Club would like you join in, because they pride themselves on being “The Friendliest Club In Town.”
Watching one of these dances can be intimidating to newcomers, since many of the club members have been dancing and practicing for decades, but don’t let that stop you! There are annual classes for new dancers. “Most of our classes have been well attended and loads of fun,” says club president Kathy Skinner. “Venus & Mars set the standard of how to attract new dancers. Our methods are now used throughout the area.” In addition, the club runs workshops to help experienced dancers improve and sharpen their skills.
Venus & Mars has been hosting square dances since 1983, moving to the Wyoming Civic Center in 1987, which makes it one of the youngest clubs in the Southwestern Ohio Square Dance Federation. They took their name from an early folk/square dance call that was a favorite of Latta Johnston, the club’s first caller. The caller, of course, is the person with the quick tongue and wit to call out the next steps for the dancers to perform. When Johnson’s job transferred him to New Hampshire, Venus & Mars tapped Jack Pladdys as the club caller, a position he has held ever since, with some time off to serve in the Air Force in Utah. If you attend a Venus & Mars dance today, chances are that Pladdys will be calling.
Part of modern square dancing includes round dances, which are pre-choreographed rather than spontaneous. The “cuer”, like the caller, names the dance figure to be performed. Calling and cuing require timing, inventiveness, and a lively personality on the microphone. John Stivers cued the rounds at the first Venus & Mars dance; today, Carl Schappacher holds that position, though guest cuers may appear throughout the year. Furthermore, Judy Maloney often runs line dances as well.
Venus & Mars is active in the regional and national square dance scene, participating in “Banner Raids” to visit other clubs and inviting nationally known callers to their dances. “We also host an annual ‘Federation Dangle Dance’,” says Skinner. “Our very special ‘Thanksgiving Dinner Dance’ became a yearly activity.”
Venus & Mars Square Dance Club holds dances the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Thursdays of each month at the Wyoming Civic Center, 1 Worthington Avenue, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. The schedule of dances, callers, and cuers can be found on the club website.