Turlock’s oldest square dance club is turning 65 years old this fall, marking nearly seven decades of exciting dance steps and unique outfits that have helped to keep an American tradition alive in the city. To celebrate, the Turlock Steppin Pards hope to see the community join in on the fun with new lessons beginning in September.
Turlock resident Terry Passarino first started square dancing with the Steppin Pards along with his wife, Janet Passarino, in 2005, looking for a social activity that could provide them with some entertainment and exercise in post-retirement life. Today, Terry serves as caller within the club, while Janet is the acting cuer.
“This was a great choice because we have met so many wonderful people and have built strong friendships throughout the years,” Terry said. “It’s important to keep this traditional dancing alive and growing in our area.”
While square dancing in the area has evolved to become more “modern,” using updated music and utilizing the choice of traditional or casual attire, the group tries to instill in its dancers the values and tradition of one of the nation’s oldest pastimes, which originated close to two centuries ago when settlers came out West.
Once learned, square dancing can be a great way to stay active. The dance starts out with four couples, eight dancers total, facing each other in a square formation. The caller tells the dancers which moves, or “calls,” to do next. While the cuer does much of the same, callers are often more outspoken and entertaining, and cuers tend to be as unobtrusive as possible. Calls can be combined in any order to form a unique set of movements, and no two square dances are exactly the same.
There are 35 members in the Steppin Pards, who travel to countless festivals throughout the state, as well as National Square Dance Conventions. The Passarinos has even danced in Canada, Germany and Denmark, Terry said.
“This activity is so much fun that we always look for an opportunity to dance wherever we travel,” he said.
Those who aren’t looking to travel but instead are on the lookout for a way to stay fit may enjoy square dancing, too, Terry added.
“Being a member of the Turlock Steppin Pards provides us with wonderful friends, physical activity and a good way to keep our minds and bodies in great shape,” he said.
The Steppin Pards are one of eight square dancing clubs in the area, and throughout the eight clubs the ages of dancers vary from eight to 90 years old. The Steppin Pards meet every Wednesday evening year-round and also hold five party dances a year.
At party dances, dancers often come dressed in traditional square dance outfits and members of the various square dancing clubs throughout the area are invited. A special caller is also often brought in. Upcoming party dances in Turlock include a 70s dance, the club’s anniversary dance, which they will celebrate in November, and a black and white ball.
“We are always looking to expand our club,” Terry said. “We are offering new dancer classes beginning Sept. 5, and the first night will be a complementary evening to see if the activity is right for you.”
Though the club does enjoy dressing up, there is no dress code for Wednesday night lessons. The club gave a sneak peak of their dance moves this past Saturday at the Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market, and new classes will begin Sept. 5.
Wednesday classes are held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, 75 Bothun Rd., and cost $5 per person, save for Sept. 5’s complementary session. For more information, contact Terry and Janet Passarino at 620-6919.