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Dave Olson, Published April 19 2010

Swing your partner, do-si-do

“Smile at your opponent … here we go!”

With that, caller Tom Roper launched another square dance Sunday afternoon at the F-M Labor Temple in Fargo.

Roper, an internationally known square dance caller from Omaha, Ill., was in Fargo at the invitation of the F-M Square Dancers Association, which is made up of four square dancing groups in the area.

After 30 years in the business, Roper said he still travels about 40,000 miles a year doing square dance gigs around the world.

“You can go anyplace in the world and square dance. I call in Sweden and England and Norway, Japan, Germany. Square dancing is international,” Roper said.

Sunday’s event in Fargo drew people from all over northwestern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota, according to Kay Jacobson, Fargo, a member of the F-M Square Dancers Association.

Rhythm not required

Roger and Bernadette McNeil of Fargo said they have been dancing for about the past 10 years, a pastime they started in the 1970s but put on hold while they raised a family.

Square dancing, which gives the appearance of churning gears made of gingham skirts and western shirts, isn’t as difficult as it may look, said Roger McNeil, who is a caller for his club, L & M Squares.

“You don’t have to have rhythm for your head and feet to work together,” he said.

Dancing is good exercise, his wife added.

“You’ll walk three to five miles in a night,” she said.

Many of the dancers Sunday appeared to be retirees, but not all.

Next generation

Joyana Wardrip, 24, said she started square dancing in college when she attended barn dances.

She took lessons after moving to Moorhead.

“I like the music. And the people are real fun,” said Wardrip, who worries that someday she may run out of dancers to dance with.

“I think about that. I’m trying to recruit my friends.

“I’ve had a few come out,” she said. “But it takes commitment to go through all the lessons.”

For more information

Go to http://www.fmsquaredancers.org/ to find out more about local square dancing clubs, or call Roger and Bernadette McNeil at (701) 293-6620.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555