Social square dancing to debut at Royal Oak senior center

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published September 9, 2021

 David and Carolyn Blatt demonstrate a square dance move at their West Bloomfield home Aug. 31.

David and Carolyn Blatt demonstrate a square dance move at their West Bloomfield home Aug. 31.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Kevin Johnston, a Royal Oak resident and president of the Tom Katz Square Dance Club, looks forward to classes at the Leo Mahany/Harold Meininger Senior Community Center.

Kevin Johnston, a Royal Oak resident and president of the Tom Katz Square Dance Club, looks forward to classes at the Leo Mahany/Harold Meininger Senior Community Center.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ROYAL OAK — The Leo Mahany/Harold Meininger Senior Community Center will offer a new recreational activity: social square dancing, so grab your partner and do-si-do.

The nine-week class will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Mondays starting Sept. 13. The cost to attend is $63 per person; individuals can also drop in for a class for $7 each.

The Tom Katz Square Dance Club will host the lessons, with the goal of teaching approximately 50 calls. In standard square dancing, four couples form a square, with one couple on each side, facing the middle of the square. A caller makes various calls, which give the couples directions on how and where to move, similar to the conductor of a symphony.

Dave and Carolyn Blatt, of West Bloomfield, began square dancing four years ago after they retired. Dave worked as a teacher in Walled Lake and Carolyn as a nurse for Beaumont.

Dave said the Tom Katz Square Dance Club took the couple under its wing and made them feel at home after they were introduced to square dancing while staying at an Airbnb in Lexington, Kentucky.

The owner of the home decided to give the couple an impromptu square dancing lesson while they were sitting, chatting in their pajamas, at around 10:30 p.m.

“He said, ‘Help me move this coffee table. I want to show you two how to square dance.’ So I said, ‘OK,’” Dave said. “At breakfast, I said to my wife, ‘I’m going to really investigate (square dancing when we get home).’”

Carolyn said the couple continued square dancing because they wanted to keep active while enjoying the socialization aspect.

“It’s physical and it’s a lot of fun. It’s mostly older people, but we do have some young people, like grandchildren, and also like 20- to 30-year-olds have come,” she said. “Sometimes, (the club) does social outings, like boat rides and plays.”

Prior to moving to Royal Oak, the Tom Katz Square Dance Club was based out of the Troy Community Center. They plan to hold monthly dances at the Senior Community Center.

“(The class is) called social square dancing, meaning we want people to get out there and enjoy a dance instead of (learning 60 calls) and never really getting into it,” Dave said. “It’s great exercise and low impact.”

Kevin Johnston, of Royal Oak, serves as president of the Tom Katz Square Dance Club. He said the club has been around since at least the 1980s, and he and his wife became involved six years ago when they saw it advertised at the Troy Community Center.

“It’s definitely the happiest group I’ve ever met, by far, hands down,” Johnston said. “What I’ve learned is everybody’s life has ups and downs, and for the time that you’re square dancing, you don’t think about it.”

He said the club is welcoming and supportive as a social outlet, foremost, and secondly as a place to square dance.

“Everybody has either lost someone — a spouse, parents, some have lost children. That stuff tends to come out when you’re bumping into each other and holding each other’s hands. It’s a hard place to hide emotions, and they are very supportive,” Johnston said. “It’s fun, fun, fun.”

He added that to square dance, one does not have to be a good dancer.

“It’s mostly mental, as well as a bit physical,” he said. “If the caller is up to it, people can come in and come out of the square as the dance is being called by tapping somebody on the shoulder.”

Erin Koch, interim activities coordinator at the Senior Community Center, said the Tom Katz Square Dance Club is an energetic, passionate group that is easy to work with.

“The beauty of the group is they’re not here to make a big profit off of anybody. They just want to spread the joy of what they do,” Koch said. “We did go back to full masking, but at least we can still meet in person. We provide masks for those who don’t have one.”

The Leo Mahany/Harold Meininger Senior Community Center is located at 3500 Marais Ave., near 13 Mile and Crooks roads.

For more information or to register, call (248) 246-3900 or visit royaloakrec.com.

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