Square dance festival hits Cloverdale Fairgrounds next week

Three-day provincial festival will bring in hundreds of dancers from across B.C. and the U.S.

Nearly 400 dancers will take to the Cloverdale Fairgrounds from July 6 to 8 for three days of square and round dancing.

Every two years, the British Columbia Square and Round Dance Federation puts on a dancing festival in a community in B.C., and Cloverdale has been chosen to host this year.

Wendy Krueger, who works at Walnut Elementary in Fleetwood when she’s not calling cues for local dance clubs or organizing the upcoming festival as co-chair, said that square and round dancing have a long history in Surrey.

“The clubs first started around here about 60 years ago,” she said. “It became huge when movie stars were dancing on set.”

“Since the mid-90s [the popularity] has been dropping,” she admitted. “Probably due to there being so many more choices [of activities].”

But the festival still has a dedicated following among regional dance groups.

It’s hosted by the Fraser Valley Square & Round Dance Association and the Vancouver & District Caller Teachers Association. Dancers are coming in from across B.C. and some will be travelling from Washington, Idaho, and even as far as Australia to dance at Shannon Hall, the Alice McKay building and the Cloverdale Rec Centre next week.

Organizers call the festival both fun and educational.

In both square and round dancing, the dancers move in unison, directed by live cues. The simple routines are memorized and combined in thousands of ways – each dance may be made up of familiar steps, but it is unique in its execution.

Co-ordinating the three-day mini festival was no small feat. A grand total of 43 presenters – 18 round dance cuers and 25 square dance callers – will call the dances over three days, for hundreds of dancers in three separate buildings.

“Square dancing comes in many levels, because, like anything, people like to do it to the Nth degree,” said Krueger, who has been calling dances for six years.

At the BC Festival, there will be “mainstream,” “plus,” “A1” and “A2” levels of dance, ranked from entry-level to advanced.

The different levels will alternate between the two dance halls, because, as Krueger explained, Shannon Hall is better suited to the sport than the Alice MacKay building.

“Shannon is the absolute perfect dance hall,” said Krueger. “Alice McKay is more accustomed to roller derby and wrestling… [so] we’re trying to share the beauty of Shannon Hall.”

The group of volunteers is looking forward to the festival. It was a lot of work to organize, said Krueger.

“It’s quite fun though,” she said, laughing. “We enjoy it.”

If you’d like to come by and watch the dances, admission for the festival is $2.

Spectators can watch round dancing at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre from 3:45 – 4:45 p.m. during the festival, or from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 8, at Shannon Hall. The 14 different rounds will feature two-step, rumba, jive and much more.

Organizers recommend that spectators join the group in the evenings from 7:30 – 10 p.m., as that’s when the most dancers will be enjoying both square and round dancing in Shannon Hall and Alice McKay building, both located on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

For more information, go to squaredancefun.info.