Steppin' out with the Wiarton Steppers


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Only some of the Wiarton Steppers: (L) Gerald Hatt, Marg Fletcher, Cecille Lockrey, Dottie Burdette & Sheila Hatt



Skirts twirl, crinolines flash, there's lots of laughter and a big 'whoop' at the end of the dance - all traditional signs of the Square Dance.

While many may associate square dancing with the West, it is a form of dance that is found around the world, including Japan, France, England and others.  The one thing they all have in common is that all the calls are in English, despite the fact that many of the dancers may not speak English.

The modern art form is said to have started in France and some of the terms, such as dos-a-dos meaning back-to-back, still illustrate a French connection.

One of the early ancestors of modern square dance with the Morris dance in England.  It consisted of teams of male dances, as women could not participate, in two rows of three and it wasn't until the 17th century that country dances became popular.  Line dances, the 'contra' consisting of two opposing lines, was said to have come from a shortening of the name 'country'. 

The French again adopted the Englishy country dance, called the 'Contredanse Anglais' and developed the Quadrille, the grandfather of modern square dance, and the Cotillion, a dance done in a square formation with eight dancers.

As people emigrated to the west, they took their music and dancing with them, and it wasn't until moving to the west, that the tradition of square dance calling began.

In Bruce County, there is a long history of square dancing and, today, the Wiarton Steppers are keeping it alive.

Everyone circles left at the caller's bid

For over 25 years, the group has met and performed at many events throughout the region.  With approximately 50 members, the group meets from September through May in Wiarton at the Meeting Place (formerly the Propeller Club).

Led by caller, Lorne Lockrey of Southampton, his wife Cecille leads the group through some of the intricate steps in the two levels of square and round dancing.

Given its international popularity, there  is an International Convention of Square Dancing, where between 3,000 to 5,000 dancers from around the world gather.  It is held every other year and potential host cities have to bid on the event, much like the Olympics.

Sheila Hatt (L) and Cecille Lockrey seen here at the recent Field to Fork event in Wiarton

At the end of July this year, it will be held in Halifax and both Lorne and Cecille Lockrey will be attending.

"We are always looking for new members," say the Lockreys, "and we'll be running a basic beginners' class in September.  The only criteria is that you have to have a partner and, not necessarily, of the same sex.  There are many ladies out there who love to dance and often come out together."

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Monday, May 31, 2010