Everybody is a star! Learn to Square Dance with El Camino Reelers!
We are trying something new this year.
Instead of holding a weekly Beginner class, El Camino Reelers is hosting a series of no-experience-required "Fun Nights" on the third Friday of every month. These nights will feature basic square dancing and related dances (contras, line dances, Sicilian Circles, etc.) with the caller walking you all the moves you need to know. We are using these nights as a starting point for folks interested in learning more about square dancing, leading up to an intensive weekend "Blast Class" introducing a major chunk of the Basic-Mainstream-Plus square dance curriculum.
Following the Blast Class, we'll set aside time during our weekly Wednesday club nights for Blast Class graduates to practice their new skills, with more Blast Classes at intervals until everyone is dancing at the Plus level.
Congratulations to our January Blast Class grads!
Our first Blast Class was held Saturday and Sunday, January 27 and 28, 2018. Ten students completed the class, coached by instructor Arlene Kaspik from Chicago and assisted by a squad of ECR angels.
We are planning a follow-up Blast Class for later in the spring, with a third class in early summer. We will then start a new round of Blast Classes in the fall.
In the meantime, we encourage our Blast Class grads to join us at our Wednesday club nights to polish their new skills. And we will continue to build the momentum with more monthly Fun Nights.
Blast Class FAQ
- 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 hours.
- 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.
- 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. It's a lot easier to plan in advance to spend a Saturday and Sunday learning something than a 12 week class.
- What level will I dance when I finish the blast class?
Graduates will dance a program called SSD-50, which stands for "Sustainable Square Dance". SSD-50 is a mixture of calls from Basic and Mainstream, designed specifically for rapid, easy, and fun learning
- Where can I dance SSD-50 after I graduate?
El Camino Reelers has committed to hosting a minimum of six weeks of SSD-50 dancing every Wednesday night to give graduates a place to practice and strengthen their dance skills.
- What if I want to learn Mainstream or Plus?
We are planning future blast classes to take SSD-50 graduates to full Mainstream and Plus dancing. Each blast class will be held over a single weekend.
- Will I be a member of El Camino Reelers when I finish the blast class?
No. At present, ECR membership requires dancers to dance a minimum of Plus level. That's why we're planning on offering more blast classes to take SSD-50 graduates to Mainstream and then Plus.
- 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.
- Who's teaching at this shindig?
We're very pleased to have Arlene Kaspik of Chi-Town Squares as our inaugural blast class instructor. She will be assisted by experienced dancers, called "angels", who will pair up with students to help ensure a fun and successful blast class.
- 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.)
- 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.
- What about food?
We will provide light snacks, water and soft drinks both days, and will provide lunch on Saturday. Our dance facility includes a kitchen with a refrigerator and microwave ovens if you'd prefer to bring your own food and snacks.
- 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, or slacks.
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 full-Plus level dancing with workshops on more difficult calls, with a few A2 star tips for more experienced dancers ("angels"), as well as class-level dancing once the first Blast class takes place.
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 2018 Blast Class)
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:
- Restructuring El Camino Reelers' Classes (PDF, 5/29/2017)
- Notes from "Circle the Wagons": Northern California Regional IAGSDC Club Summit (PDF, 1/11/2015)
- Club Retention & Recruitment Session from Swing & Mix Convention (PDF, 7/2/2017)