My Love for Square Dancing

My involvement with square dancing, and the Guys and Dolls Square Dance Club, began in 1994 when I had observed a group of African American square dancers on stage the year prior(1993) at an annual festival in the town of Allensworth, located in Tulare county 38 miles north of Bakersfield, Calif. I had NEVER SEEN Black square dancers before!! So I was both impressed with the fact they were black, and they were adorned in beautiful yellow & white western wear. The women wore ruffled blouses, skirts, petticoats, & boots, and the men wore yellow western shirts, white cover alls, & black western boots. I was not only impressed with the dancer’s western outfits, but also with their dancing. They seemed to execute each move flawlessly as the caller asked them to do-si-do, swing their partner, allemande left, etc, etc. After their performance on stage, I approached the caller/instructor(Bob Nelson), and asked him where did they learn to square dance, how did they learn to square dance, and were there any classes in the L.A. area where I could learn those dance moves? After learning where I lived, he told me of a class taught in Inglewood by a guy name Sylvester Nealon.  I showed up for my first square dancing class two weeks after the Northridge quake in January of 1994, and as is often said, “the rest is history”. I’ve been enjoying square dancing ever since!

I was first appointed the sheriff of my class, I’ve been a contributing writer for the club’s newsletter, I’ve been the visitation rep., the club’s President, the club’s vice president twice, and am currently the club’s delegate, as well as Vice president. We have performed at various festivals, fairs, wedding receptions, birthday parties, been in the Gardena Martin Luther King parade on three occasions, been featured on the tv shows “The Monk”, & “A Different World”, and we have performed at the annual Rededication Festival in the African American founded town of Allensworth(the place where I first observed square dancers) every year since 1996. It is a joy to be a part of the square dancing family.  In many cases individuals spend as much time at square dancing classes & square dances as they do with actual family members, and in some cases, square dancers are the sole family for individuals who have lost most, or all their biological family members.

Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic put a damper on many clubs, and our club was no exception.  However, thankfully two of the club’s founders, Sylvester & Cheryl, as well as a dozen other club members are determined to keep the club afloat.  Part of that effort was continuing to have our monthly club meetings throughout the pandemic, and resuming our weekly classes in the fall of 2022.  In 2023, we’ve managed to have our Anniversary dance and our Christmas dance. We are hoping & planning on having at least three, or possibly four dances next year (2024).  Square dancing is a great form of mental, as well as physical stimulation, so let’s stay on the dance floor for as long as we can!

James Caton
(Guys & Dolls)