Sandra Boynton writes some of the best children’s books. They are perfect reads for Ella right now. They have great pictures, fun verses, and many of them are actually songs. I would say that they are just as fun for us to read as they are for Ella to listen to! This week, Sam was reading “Barnyard Dance.”
She came to the lyric that read “…with a BAA and a MOO and a COCKADOODLEDOO, everybody promenade two by two.” She looked at me and asked me what “promenade” meant. I told her it was a term used in square dancing. She looked at me funny when I answered. Without her saying a word, I knew her facial expression was asking, “How in the world do you know that!?”
(In square dancing, and in particular modern Western square dance, when a promenade is called it is understood to be a “couples promenade” involving all four couples. The couples assume a promenade position, each turn to the right as a unit, and walk counter-clockwise around the ring.)
I explained that i knew what it meant because in high school gym class we had a few weeks were we danced. This led to an even more baffled look from my wife. I looked at her and said, “You didn’t have to square dance in gym class?” Matter of factly, she said, “No. We did things that you normally do in gym class!” I was surprised and angry at the same time.
We were the only students forced into promenading, circling left, allemande lefting, and do si do-ing with members of the opposite sex?! Of all the things we did in gym class, this was the ONE thing that every one (at least everyone I talked to) hated! We were teenagers and we were being forced to hold hands and stuff! It was SO uncomfortable. I remember Mr. and Mrs. B (our gym teachers were husband and wife) making us “rehearse” these square dance moves over and over. It was torture!!
They would play the music for the dances off of an old turntable with a microphone placed by the speaker so we could hear it. The one song that I remember square dancing to the most was Dean Martin’s Houston. I am sure that Dean was not singing on the song that they played. Instead, the lyrics were changed to give the various square dance calls. When it was time to promenade, that was where the chorus (“Going back to Houston. Houston. Houston.”) would be sung.
For years, I tried to block the traumatic weeks of square dancing from my mind. I eventually succeeded, until a day in 1993. I was filling in on Honey Radio for Richard D and doing his Top 12 at 12 show which focused on the year 1965. In the countdown that day was Dean Martin’s Houston. It all came back! The Do Si Do’s, the Promenades, and Ladies In, and Men Sashay! Who square dances in gym class?!?
To this day, whenever I think about square dancing, three things immediately come to mind
First, the 1950 Bugs Bunny cartoon Hillbilly Hare and the famous Square Dance number in it.
Second, The Dean Martin Show with Roy Rogers. (Funny how there is another Dean Martin connection to square dancing, huh?) Dean never rehearsed his show. So when they taped this square dance number, the dancers are literally pushing and pulling him around and showing him where to go. It is just awesome to watch….
And finally, Gym Class!!!
For whatever it is worth, I learned how to do the Hustle and the Bus Stop in gym class. Thanks to Mr. & Mrs. B, I can line dance at wedding receptions….well, the Hustle, anyway.