Thompson Valley Stars

Over two squares of new dancers who began with a couple free square dance sessions are still swinging to lively music and having a great time at Desert Gardens Community Centre in Kamloops on Thursday evenings.

Merv Meyer, caller & teacher for 15 years said, “Today’s West Coast Square Dancing (WCSD) is geared to speed up the initial teaching process & can be learned in 10 short weeks. The idea is to get the dancers dancing to a variety of calls from the most common set-ups as quickly as possible, learning only 46 moves instead of the 68 calls required for the ‘Mainstream’ level.”

The new West Coast Square Dancing approach, developed in B.C., has the interest of callers and dance leaders because traditional dance programs aren’t “selling” well to the next generation. Merv says that the first question callers ask is, “When do we teach the rest of the Mainstream program?” The answer should be, “When the new dancer has the confidence and desire to learn  more–until that time, any pressure put on them to move forward and live up to the expectations we may impose on them will only drive them away.” He explains, “We need to provide our new  participants with regular dances at their level after about 10 weeks of lessons to allow their confidence to grow and their interest to blossom—then we can move onward.” Encouraged by the results of the pilot program, Merv continued, “Our group in Kamloops is enjoying the experience so much that they voted to carry on and learn the full ‘Mainstream’ program, starting in January.”

Fraser Nelson, a new dancer this season, said he really  looks forward to the West Coast dance night. He gave reasons such as, “It expands my social circle, gives me light rhythmic exercise, is a new way of interacting with folks I probably otherwise wouldn’t meet and reconnects me with the community.” Fraser explained, “it teaches me a new skill and it makes me feel good being on the (dance) floor.”

When asked what he enjoys the most about our recreation, he said that he feels the people are there to have fun and help each other out as new moves are learned. Pleased with his discovery, Fraser related, “I love to see the members of the group improve, I enjoy getting to know them and I love my instructor’s (Merv Meyer) calling.”

Emily Olsen, another enthusiastic new dancer, said “I find it a good way to meet new people.” She continued, “it’s an excellent exercise for the brain and the body.”

Ellen & Jim Seminoff, two more dedicated new dancers, spent an entire afternoon and evening at the recent Harvest Hop Party Dance, taking photos and watching dancers from all over the Province.  Ellen enthused, “the sessions (West Coast) have been wonderful, with great support from all the experienced dancers that have helped guide us through our moves.” She beamed, “learning each new move & incorporating it into an actual dance gives one a great feeling of accomplishment.”

As we in the dance community know, the mental & physical workout while making new friends & having fun is huge. It’s a low-impact exercise that improves muscle tone & bone density and
enhances balance & co-ordination. An evening of square dancing is equal to 7 km.’s of walking. It reduces stress & improves memory skills. Your mind has to focus on the activity at hand and remembering all of the calls helps to keep the brain sharp. You forget any stresses of the day. These are the elements that all square dancers should be promoting to the general public.

Furthermore, we can explain that the music for square dancing has changed over the years and now ranges from pop to the music of Broadway, to contemporary country – even rock is used.

Don’t forget to explain that the attire has modernized as well. Long prairie skirts & rustling crinolines are still worn, but casual wear has also become the norm, especially at new dancer
sessions. Crinolines are certainly not mandatory.

Above all, reveal to non-dancers that one of the biggest surprises is the amount of laughter that takes place while square dancing. Lots of activities are enjoyable, but square dancing is just
pure fun!

Merv & his wife Sandy also enjoy teaching and cueing round dancing to modern music. If you’re new to square dancing and haven’t discovered this choreographed style of ballroom dancing, Sandy explains “You learn the individual steps which are put into sequences and every move is ‘cued’ – there’s no memorizing and no need for someone to lead.”

For more information, including new dancer sessions starting in the Fall, call 250-376-5636, or email:

The benefits of the recreation can be explored at:


Also, see the online video:

star Photo Albums


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