by Anita Moyt | photo by Greg Campbell
Every Monday evening, starting at 7, Justin Russell can be found with microphone in hand calling for the Cotton Pickin’ Squares (CPS), Memphis’ only GLBT square dancing organization. Groups of eight stand at the ready as the music starts and Russell begins the rhythmic dance commands the dancers respond to.
Russell, 28, who calls for two other square dance clubs in the Memphis area on a weekly basis, travels out of town about once a month to call for other square dance clubs, gay and straight. So far, he has traveled to 28 states.
“I like working the fly-ins (when a GLBT club invites other dancers from across the country to their city for a long weekend of dancing and events) and the gay weekends,” Russell explained. “Usually there are themed dances with costumes and bigger dinners than the straight clubs.”
“It is lower-keyed with the straight clubs,” Russell said, explaining how the Cotton Pickin’ Squares and similar GLBT square dance clubs compare to their straight or traditional counterparts. “CPS is definitely more of a family; we hang out more than just at that dance night, including breakfasts and camping.” He continued, “I think gay square dancing has more enthusiasm; they have more extras (words said with certain moves; additional twirls and spins) in the dance, and more interaction between the dancer and the caller.”
Whereas in straight clubs the couples are boy-girl, not so in the GLBT clubs. Testing the skills of any caller, the GLBT dancers will pair up boy-boy, girl-girl, girl-boy. It is often referred to as “dancing girl” and “dancing boy.” And then the “bidanctual” folks, those who have learned to dance both the male and the female parts, can dance girl one dance and dance boy the next. Russell easily passes this test.
It should be noted that the term “pair” here is very loose, as the moving of the people around the “square” means you may dance with any and all of the eight at some point during the “tip” or song.
CPS invites everyone to come join in; no partner required. Those who danced at one time and those who have never thought about it are more than welcome to come give it a try.
“If you don’t know anything, that is a great place to start,” Russell said. “You may think I can’t do that, but everyone is going to make mistakes…just have fun along the way.”
Russell will patiently lead all the new folks in basic moves, even on their initial visit.
“It is better than another night sitting on the couch,” Russell added. “Getting out and moving–there are benefits to that. It is okay if you make mistakes, the socializing is almost as important as dancing itself, we want you to have a good time.”
CPS meets every Monday from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at Freedom’s Chapel Christian Church, 961 Getwell Road (across from the UoM South Campus). For more information, call Alinda at 901- 497-6869.