Dancers took the floor at the Black and Gold Room of Fort Hays State University’s Memorial Union on Friday and Saturday, circling the room to waltz or two-step and later in squares at the annual Shooting Stars Square Dancers Snowball Festival.
While the crowd might have been small at the beginning of Friday evening’s round dance, it grew through the evening, along with the enthusiasm.
Rod and Judy Dietz traveled from Wichita for the Snowball. They started square dancing in 2011 and round dancing the year after. Rod, who was chief financial officer for Goddard schools, said his secretary got him into it.
“My secretary bugged me for years to do this, and I said, ‘I don’t have the time,’ ” he said.
After he retired, she and her husband offered them a couple of free lessons.
“We took them and fell in love with it,” he said.
Kevin and Diane Denning, Wichita, started square dancing in the 1980s. They stopped while raising a family, but started up again as their children got older. In 2007, they started learning round dancing, and Kevin soon became a cuer — the leader who tells the dancers what steps to do. They’ve been coming to the Snowball Festival for approximately four years.
While Kevin has choreographed a few songs himself, he mostly uses choreography written by others.
“You’re trying to get the figures the way the music talks to the choreographer,” he said.
Round dancing is a ballroom dance for couples in a circular, counter-clockwise pattern around the floor. There are different rhythms such as waltz, two-step, rumba and cha-cha, and levels from one to six to indicate the difficulty.
“It’s like synchronized swimming. Everyone is theoretically doing the same thing at the same time in the same direction,” he said.
The Dennings also teach round dancers, and Kevin said that’s the most satisfying part for him.
“When they’re your students and you see them out there, that’s neat,” he said.
Among the dancers on the floor Friday night was their son, Peter, 20, who has been round dancing for approximately six years. He said the people he’s met are an appeal to dancing.
“To me, they’re just like another family,” he said.
He said his friends have an interest in learning to round dance and square dance.
“They’re somewhat surprised that it’s still around,” he said.
“I’d like to get more people into it, but people my age, we’re mainly working and at school so we don’t have time to do this,” he said.
Mike Gress of Wichita started dancing when he was a student at Colby Community College in 1975. He continued as a student at FHSU and after.
“You get to have fun, and you don’t have to get drunk to do it,” he said with a laugh.
He also said the people he’s met are a reason he likes to dance.
“We always make sure that everyone is having fun,” he said.