ABOUT THE DATE SQUARES
No, we’re not a bakery and we’re not a dating group. The Ottawa Date Squares’ name is a tongue-in-cheek way to tell the world that we don’t take ourselves too seriously; except that we seriously love square dancing.
Begun in 1995, the group is a place for LGBTQ+ individuals (and our straight allies) to be themselves while learning modern western square dancing with a unique gay styling that makes it way more fun and energetic than what you may remember your grandparents doing.
We are members of the International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs and also of the Eastern Ontario Square and Round Dance Association and we host regular invitation dance weekends like Veer North to the Capital. We will also be hosting the IAGSDC’s yearly convention in 2023 (after Houston in 2021 and Minneapolis in 2022). Follow these links for find out more about those:
Gay Square Dancing is based on Modern Western Square Dancing which is the most common form of this activity. It is danced throughout North American and Europe and the dance steps (calls) are defined and regulated by an international organization named Callerlab.
Because the calls are the same everywhere, you can learn to square dance in one city, travel clear across the country and join a square dance there without missing a beat or learning any new calls.
Gay Square Dancing varies from Modern Western Square Dancing only in that some of the calls have added styling which makes the dance more energetic and exciting. Not all calls are styled differently and during classes we learn both forms so that we can dance with both groups interchangeably.
Stylings can include things like kicks, hand claps or yelled out words (ex: on the call Spin the Top we all yell “Spank the Bottom!”) but do not change the general form of the movements themselves.
If you learn the stylings in Ottawa you can go to any IAGSDC dance in the world and you’ll feel right at home.
Like other activities you progress through different levels when you learn to square dance. The levels are:
- Basic and Mainstream (which are taught together)
- Advanced (often taught as A1 and A2)
- Challenge (C1, C2, C3A, C3B and C4)
Many dancers will take several years to learn and dance each level before moving on to the next one and some dancers will remain dancing Mainstream or stop at Plus if they don’t enjoy the more complicated calls in the higher levels.
Having to spend most of a year learning before you can complete a dance level has been seen as a barrier by some who just want to have a fun time and don’t care about the more complicated stuff. As a result, Callerlab has come up with a new program they call Social Square Dancing (or SSD for short) which includes only a subset of calls chosen from the Basic and Mainstream programs for their ease of learning and their fun to dance.
SSD can be learned in as short a time as three months which allows clubs to onboard new dancers much more often. It also tends to keep the dancing more exciting and interesting.
Dancers who learn SSD can keep dancing it for as long as they want or they can, through a special workshop, learn the remainder of the Basic and Mainstream calls in order to move into Plus classes and onward from there.
Square dancing is a very inexpensive activity as it does not require special equipment to participate.
As a non profit organization, the Ottawa Date Squares only collects as much money as is required to rent our dance locations and to pay our callers for their time.
The rate will vary depending on class size and it is posted shortly before classes are to begin.
A yearly membership of $25 is used to defray fixed costs such as consumables like hand sanitizer and
Where and when we dance…
The Ottawa Date Squares are currently not dancing due to the pandemic but we are hosting periodic online video chats and attending virtual square dance events that are being offered online.
If you’d like to be notified of club events like our free intro nights, you should subscribe to our Newsletter. Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe at any time.
As little as possible! Seriously we’re a non-profit group – we just pay for the caller and the hall rental – so we charge only $7 per evening in addition to a yearly membership fee of $20 which is used to help administer the club. This membership fee includes your first club name badge at no cost.
Do I need special clothes?
No way! Our club — as with all gay square dance clubs — has no dress code or restrictions. We recommend bringing comfortable shoes but the rest of your attire is entirely up to you. We don’t typically dress up unless we’re attending a special event.
Just old country music eh?
No way! All sorts of varied music! It just depends on what the caller feels like playing. Usually there’s a mixture – rock, pop, country, oldies – whatever.
What if I make a mistake while dancing?
You will. Everyone does. We’re about having fun. We just laugh it off and start over. It’s part of learning a new skill. But when you finally master a dance call and you can dance a full dance without anyone making mistakes, the feeling of accomplishment is amazing!
Structure of the evening
Some people bring a snack to share, but there is no obligation to do so. There is dancing with instructions for new moves. There are breaks between dancing for snacking and socializing. Then more dancing and instruction. Some dances will be “called” and others “sung”. Because there are dancers of various levels some dancing will be at different levels throughout the night. You simply join in when the caller is calling your level.
We generally dance from September to May and break for the summer. We often recruit new members in late August or early September. If you’re interested in joining us to learn to square dance, watch this web site or follow us on Facebook to find out when our next intro night is.
Caller: Mark Benoit