Spinning back to square dancing

I had forgotten how sweaty freshman boys’ hands are. I am a senior, and it’s been three years since my freshman square dancing days. However, when I found out the freshman gym classes needed more girls, I, of course, volunteered—somehow able to sing every word to every song.

Square dancing for freshman is one of those unexplainable traditions in high school that seems to persist. When I was a freshman, I thought square dancing was okay. I didn’t have to change for gym—that rocked. But I was awkward, the boys were obnoxious, and the songs were engrained in my head for the rest of the day.

Now, three years later, I have the best seat in the house to watch the awkwardness unfold.

There have been some alterations to the art of square dancing in the last three years. The command “spin your partner round and round,” back in the day used to be an easy link of the elbows, spinning in opposing directions. It now requires the boy’s right hand on the girl’s hip, the girls’ left hand on the boy’s shoulder, and their open hands touching. However, I didn’t only observe this, but lived it.

Not only did I watch boys yell to their friends in adjacent squares, sliding quarters back and forth on the floor, continuously kicking each other’s butts while promenading around the ring; I got to hold their hands while I do it. Their sweaty, sweaty hands.

Boys who haven’t quite hit their growth spurts struggled to twirl me. Boys who haven’t quite mastered the newly altered spin were too shy to actually place their hands on my hip, so they settled for the less-intimate rib cage.

Girls laughed shyly while the boys slapped each other’s forearms during the right-hand star in “the middle of town.” Some broke into friendly fistfights. When things started to get too messy, I intervened, feeling all of a sudden like a babysitter.      

They didn’t need or want my help, but sometimes I let my seniority get the best of me. During the Grand Square, I called out, “Turn and face (clap, clap, clap)…” to make sure the square was all on the same page. It’s funny to think of my freshman-self calling out orders, making small talk with her partner.

Last Friday, we were competing for our seeds in the March Madness Square Dancing Tournament. I brought my square in for a team huddle. “We have to bring the enthusiasm out there, guys. I know it seems lame, but I want to see each and every one of you skipping and twirling any time you can.” We broke with a twirl-on-three. “One. Two. Three. Twirl!” Instead of shouting along, most just gave me a blank stare.

Regardless, my square put it all on the line. We got the first seed. Don’t tell them this, but it made my day. Like one of the boys recently taught me, it was “dope sauce.”

“I hate square dancing,” one of my partners told me. Freshman year, I too shared his dread. Now, as crazy as it sounds, interacting with the freshman made me realize how far my class has come, how time has changed us all. Also, it’s great to know I have solid options for Prom dates.