El Camino Reelers: Square Dancing in Silicon Valley for the LGBTQ Community and friends

ECR/Oaktown 8s "Indigo" Blast Class Starting in September

El Camino Reelers is partnering with Oaktown 8s for our next series of classes for new dancers. Kurt Gollhardt will be teaching the weekend "Blast" classes, which will be held in Oakland with follow-up practice sessions in both Palo Alto and Oakland.

The 2019 six-week fall class includes three intensive Sunday afternoons and six Wednesday evenings.

Sunday sessions

  • Sunday, September 29
  • Sunday, October 13
  • Sunday, October 27

Sunday classes are from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the Lake Merritt Dance Center, 200 Grand Ave., Oakland. The Dance Center has free parking and is close to the 19th Street BART station. ECR will arrange for a carpool from Palo Alto to Oakland if there is sufficient interest.

Wednesday sessions

  • Wednesday, October 2
  • Wednesday, October 9
  • Wednesday, October 16
  • Wednesday, October 23
  • Wednesday, October 30
  • Wednesday, November 6

Students enrolled in the Blast Class are strongly encouraged to come to practice sessions at either El Camino Reelers or Oaktown 8s Wednesday nights during October to practice their new skills and meet our club members. ECR Wednesday club nights are from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm at St. Andrews United Methodist Church, 4111 Alma Street in Palo Alto, with our rotating staff of callers.


Price of the class is $125 for students. This includes the Sunday afternoon sessions and Wednesday evenings at either Oaktown or ECR. You can pay in advance online at the Oaktown 8s web site: http://oaktown8s.org/product/sd101-square-dance-fundamentals/7 or by cash or check. Contact info@oaktown8s.org for more info about payment options.

Angels: admission is FREE for the Sunday sessions.

In this class you will learn the basics of Modern Western Square Dancing. By the end of the class, you will be able to dance at the SSD-50 level (see the FAQ below) with both El Camino Reelers and Oaktown 8s. Follow-up classes will be held later in the year.

For more details on the class, see the Oaktown 8s new dancer info page at oaktown8s.org/ndp.html.

ECR "Blue" Blast Class Level 3 Starts August 4

Continuing our Blast format, Kurt Gollhardt will be teaching the final phase of the Blue Blast Class, completing the Plus calls. This is a joint class for Oaktown and El Camino Reelers. Please register for this class online at http://oaktown8s.org/product/blue-class-phase-3-plus/6 or, to pay by cash or check, contact info@oaktown8s.org or see John Spitzer on an Oaktown 8s club night.

This is also a good opportunity for current Plus dancers to brush up on your skills. Please consider signing up as a student if you feel you could use some help with your Spin Chains, Peel The Tops, Linear Cycles, Relay The Deuceys, etc.

Angels are free on Sundays. We'll definitely need angels.

There will be two Sunday blast sessions from 2:00 - 6:00 on Aug 4 and Aug 18. The package also includes Wednesday review & practice sessions. Please attend as many of these sessions as possible. You can attend either the Oaktown or ECR Wednesday sessions.

The Sunday blasts and Oaktown Wednesday sessions will be at the Lake Merritt Dance Center (aka Veterans Memorial Bldg), 200 Grand Ave, Oakland. Wednesdays: Aug 7 - Aug 28, 7:00 - 9:00 (alternating with full Plus tips). Plus Class Graduation on Sep 4 is also included.

ECR Wednesday sessions will be at St Andrews Methodist Church on six Wednesdays: *July 31*, Aug 7 - Sep 4, 7:30 - 9:30 (alternating with full Plus tips, one A2). Plus Class Graduation on Sep 11 is also included. Note that July 31 and Aug 14 at ECR will actually be *class* nights, for those who can't make the first Sunday.

Class website: oaktown8s.org/plus-class.html

This class is NOT for Mainstream dancers who have never had *any* Plus calls.

Blast Class FAQ

  1. What's a "blast" class?
    Typically, new dancers need at least 12 weeks of classes for 2 hours each week to learn the basics of square dancing. A "blast" class is an accelerated format where 12 weeks of teaching is compressed into a single weekend of about 12 to 16 hours.
  2. How hard is a blast class compared to a regular class?
    A blast class isn't any harder than a regular class, it's just more consolidated and held at a faster pace. Both classes teach the same calls in the same order.
  3. Blast class sounds pretty intense! Why would I take this instead of a regular class?
    Folks here in the Bay Area are typically pretty busy people! The biggest impediment to learning square dancing we hear most often is that the time committment (12 weeks, 2 hours a week) is too much for people to spend. A blast class happens over a Saturday and a Sunday, and is a more efficient use of time for many people. A blast class happens over a single weekend (Saturday and Sunday) or over a pair of consecutive Saturdays and Sundays. It's a more efficient use of time for many people, and it's a lot easier to plan in advance to spend a Saturday and Sunday learning something than for a 12 week class.
  4. What level will I dance when I finish the blast class?
    We've organized our Blast Classes into three levels, with the intention of offering each sequence twice a year.
    Level 1: SSD-50. This is also called "Sustainable Square Dance", and it's a halfway point to full Mainstream dancing. We will offer Blast Level 1 graduates at least six weeks of free SSD-50 dancing at one of our weekly club nights, to give them an opportunity to practice and refine their new skills.
    Level 2: Mainstream/GDP. Graduates at this level will dance at the Mainstream and GDP levels. Mainstream is the first of the internationally-recognized square dance levels. At IAGSDC Conventions, the large "fun" events (Bear Tip, Women's Tip, Fun Badge Tour, etc.) are all Mainstream. GDP stands for "General Dance Program", which includes several calls from Plus, and is a popular regional level.
    We're teaching Blast Class Level 2 with Mainstream AND GDP to maximize dancers' potential dance opportunities at local clubs as well as national dance events. We will offer Blast Level 2 graduates at least six weeks of free Mainstream/GDP dancing at one of our weekly club nights.
    Level 3: Plus. this is the next internationally-recognized square dance level after Mainstream, the minimum level required for full membership in the El Camino Reelers, and the main dance level for many California clubs.
  5. Will I be a member of El Camino Reelers when I finish the blast class?
    You will be an Associate member of ECR (no voting rights) when you have graduated the Level 1 Blast class. Once you have achieved Mainstream level dancing at the end of Level 2 Blast class, you will qualify for full membership.
  6. Learn square dancing in a single weekend?! That's such a wacky idea! Where did you come up with this?
    We based our program on a similar program hosted by a much larger club, Chi-Town Squares, in Chicago. They came up with the concept of using blast classes to bring new dancers into their club.
  7. Who's teaching at this shindig?
    ECR club caller Kurt Gollhardt will be our blast class instructor. He will be assisted by experienced dancers, called "angels", who will pair up with students to help ensure a fun and successful blast class.
  8. I don't have someone to dance with!
    In LGBTQ square dancing, you don't need to bring a dance partner. Just bring yourself dressed in comfortable clothing, sensible walking shoes, and a smile. We'll pair you up with angels and other students so you'll get to dance with different folks in every tip! (A "tip" is a roughly 15 minute dance set.)
  9. But I want to dance with someone specific?!
    For purposes of learning, we strongly suggest that students pair up with an angel whenever possible. However, please let the instructor know if you really want to dance with the same person repeatedly. We'll do our best to accommodate your request.
  10. What about food?
    We will provide lunch, light snacks, water and soft drinks both days.
  11. How should I dress?
    There's no dress code in LGBTQ square dancing. Instead, the key concept to focus on is "comfort". Dress in loose clothing that allows you to move around easily and comfortably. Wear sensible shoes that are comfortable for standing and walking for long periods. Some folks like to wear especially thick socks for dance classes, to cushion the feet. Jeans and t-shirts are just fine, as are sweats, skirts, shorts, and slacks. Please, no strong fragrances.
  12. What's this "Indigo" and "Blue" business?
    We have two sets of Blast Classes running at once. The students who attended one Blast Class series will be polishing their Plus skills while our next Blass Class is just getting started. To minimize confusion, we've decided to adopt the terminology of some other clubs and refer to each group of students by a color. Our first class (January 2018) was our "Green" class; our second class (February 2019) was our "Blue" class, our third class (September 2019) is our "Indigo" class, and so on around the rainbow.

Casual dress - Come solo or with a partner - No experience required

Club nights are Wednesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 pm. at St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, with a rotating lineup of club callers.

Wednesday club nights feature class-level dancing once the first Blast class takes place, as well as full-Plus level dancing with workshops on more difficult calls, and an A2 star tip for more experienced dancers ("angels").

Club nights are really like a dance party. You'll be having fun the whole evening with a bunch of new lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, and straight friends, all the while polishing your square dance skills. Learning is the fun of square dancing!

Resources for Learning Square Dance Calls (Kurt's handout for the 2019 Blast Class) updated 2/8/2019

Lesson Plan for "SD 101A: Modern Square Dance Fundamentals (SSD-50) added 2/8/2019

For more info on square dance calls, concepts, and customs, see the Information for Students page.

More about how (and why) El Camino Reelers is changing the way we run our beginner classes: