Square dancing club still thriving after 40 years

The Wranglers at the first square dancing class graduation in 1974.
The Wranglers at the first square dancing class graduation in 1974.

By Emily Sorensen

Think square dancing is something from the past? Think again.

The Wranglers Square Dancing Club is celebrating 40 years of dancing this month, and is still going strong, with 46 current members, and another 17 to 19 expected to join when they graduate from the Wranglers’ class at the end of May.

One of those dancers is Jean Adams, the only remaining original member from when the group began April 9, 1973. Originally known as the Westwood Wranglers, due to dancing at the Westwood Club, Adams has watched the Wranglers grow and change into the club it is today.

The Wranglers have long been a part of the communities of Poway and Rancho Bernardo. Throughout the years, the Wranglers have danced at Rancho Bernardo’s Spirit of the Fourth parade, Grape Days, RB Alive, the Escondido Street Fair, the Del Mar County Fair, and Poway’s Spring Fest Street Fair.

One dance that has lasted since the early days, said Adams, is the “Hustler Rustler,” held in November. This western-themed dance has featured in the past a bar, where you could buy root beer, and a jail where you could be locked up until you paid your fine. Other theme dances that the Wranglers continue to hold are Crazy Hat Dances, “Pie Night,” where dancers serve pies, and a ‘50s Sock Hop, complete with poodle skirts.

Adams said much of the club remains the same, even the caller, Ray Holmes, who has been calling for the club, and teaching classes, since 1976. Square-dancing classes are a nine-month affair, lasting from September to May, and are held at Rolling Hills Elementary School, and when it gets hot in the summer, classes and dances are held outside at the Rancho Bernardo Community Park gazebo. Square dancing has over 100 different movements, and each movement has variations.

“The biggest change is that there isn’t so much the western look with petticoats for women anymore,” said Lou Harris, a former president of the club, who joined in 2001. “Prairie skirts are common now, and comfortable shoes for both [men and women], not boots. Women don’t tend to like the puffy skirts anymore.”

According to Harris, men are often leery of joining the square dancing classes because they’re not comfortable with dancing. “You don’t have to improvise or think, just do what the caller says,” said Harris.

The club is always looking to encourage teenagers and families to join. “It’s a family hobby,” said Harris. “It’s a lifetime hobby. Some dancers are in their early 90s, and can still keep up. It keeps you sharp, mentally.”

Square dancing classes will start up again in September. For more information visit

www.thewranglers.org

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