What is joy in square dancing?
Thomas Barth, Vice president Jester Dancers, Bochum
Let us remind ourselves of our graduation and the fourth candle, the candle of joy:
“To achieve your purpose of uniting with us, a high level of dancing enjoyment should be your goal. When you come to a square dance, leave your worries behind. Come with the attitude that you are going to enjoy the evening and add to the enjoyment of others. Always remember that square dancing is a recreation. The purpose is to have fun and a night to relax and to forget about the worries you faced today and may face tomorrow. Each dance night is to be with friends, for physical and mental relaxation, and to have fun. Keep these goals in mind. Your square dance life can be very rewarding.”
There have been a couple of articles about “joy killing” activities in a square in recent issues of the Bulletin, so I want to take up the cudgels on behalf of those dancers. I have to admit at this point that I am one of those guys who likes to fool around. I am loud. I shout “Yeehaa” during a scoot back. I twirl the ladies when I find they like it. This does not mean that I am wildly jumping around or doing any unnecessary moves. In fact I show my joy by laughing out loud and by moving about energetically.
Let us look at the definition of joy in Wikipedia:
Joy (in German “Spaß”) is a word known in Germany since the 16th/17th century and is related to the Italian word spasso (distraction, amusement, pleasure). In the early days it was, referring to the Italian original, written as Spasso. Today an activity that causes “Spaß” is something you like to do and that causes pleasure. The opposite is seriousness.
(Note from the translator: this definition is taken from the German Wikipedia and is not identical with the English article about joy.)
The last sentence is the one I see as the most important. Joy is the opposite to seriousness. We are supposed to generate joy for ourselves and for others (our main task as square dancers). But how can I measure just how well my fellow dancers are enjoying themselves? How can I adjust my dancing style in the square in order to maximize the joy? This is important to me. Shared joy is double joy. I think of myself as an acceptable dancer (but I do not want to insist on that). After visiting some 140 clubs, and going to about 30 special dances including some workshop weekends in the past three years, I have gained a lot of “dancing experience”. And sadly enough I had to dance in a number of “serious” squares. You may ask: why serious? My answer: “nobody was laughing”. There were no bright eyes, no smiles and not the slightest amusement - nothing at all. And there is something even worse. The worst thing of all to me is that gaze towards infinity. Dancing apathetically and not giving your own square a single look. That is not only the lack of joy but also a way to express: “It does not matter to me whether you enjoy yourselves or not! I am only here so that you can look at me.” Such dancers should think about having a break rather than “freezing” a square.
That’s when I keep at it and talk openly about it. These are the top three answers to the question: You aren’t laughing – are you not enjoying yourself?
1.) Yes, I am enjoying myself. This is my way to show it.
2.) I have to concentrate so hard
3.) I am bored
These “serious” squares are a challenge to me. I feel combative and go into battle. I look for eye contact and give my best beaming smiles. Regardless of whether boy or girl, everyone is attacked by my beam of laughter. It would be good for a laugh if, in the end, not every single dancer had produced a smile.
If laughing is not enough then some extras are put in. (Have you ever wondered whether those guys who fool around may be doing it just for you?)
When I visit clubs I often wonder whether the club has forgotten its own name and thus its slogan. Have you ever looked up how many clubs there are which have one of the words “crazy”, “funny”, “twirling” or “happy” in their names? In many cases there is not much left of this, sadly enough – or I haven’t managed to find it. So I am still waiting for the crazy or funny dancers. Please note – there are also many clubs who live up to their names. I do not want to offend anybody. The sole topic here is joy.
I am a member of the „ Jester Dancers Bochum“. And “jester” is the expression for someone who fools around. I see this as my duty. The mission is to entertain other dancers. Unfortunately I overdo it sometimes (just a tiny little bit). But the risk of overdoing it is nothing compared to one „grim“ tip, which people have forgotten during the next tip.
This article is intended to encourage you to show your emotions. Show that you are enjoying yourself. Laugh at each other. Of course you should not abandon thoughtfulness. Laughing out loud is not only accepted in square dancing but it is also requested. Also, show your caller that you are enjoying yourself. It is not the perfect square that we should be looking for. I often enjoy myself in a square that does not go smoothly but one in which everyone takes it with a laugh.
Of course I can say this only for myself Everybody has his own way of “having fun”. A caller told me once that I should laugh less loudly during a singing call. There are those dancers who like to listen to the caller’s voice. Sorry – no sympathy for this. Those who like to listen devotedly to music should listen to a CD at home.
I am glad to be a square dancer and I am looking forward to the joy I will have with you. You “serious” dancers should watch out – I will get you in the end and you will be entertained until you laugh. This is a promise and a bit of a threat - hahahaha.
Vice president of the Jester Dancers, Bochum
Translation: Kai Hoffmann