12 Feb

Gay Square Dancing in Florida

Check out this article on the resurgence of the South Florida Mustangs: Gay square dancing club begins lessons at Hagen Park: .

Here’s the whole article, in case the link goes dead:

Gay square dancing club begins lessons at Hagen Park

Participants try the promenade and do-si-do as gay square dancing club begins lessons at Hagen Park in Wilton Manors.

By Elizabeth Baier
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted February 12 2006

Wilton ManorsTyler Black and Jack Hoppen buckled their knees and tapped their feet as they waited to hear which step they should use to start their square dancing routine.

The men met at a recent dance class hosted by the South Florida Mustangs, the oldest gay and lesbian square dancing club in the country

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, which revived its once-popular dance classes on Thursday.

Those who didn’t attend the first official class can still participate in the 20-lesson session at Hagen Park, according to the group’s treasurer, Dave Vowell.

“Square dancing is very gay-friendly,” said Vowell, who has been dancing since 1985. “We’re good dancers and we’re very energetic. It’s just all about the camaraderie.”

Black, of Hollywood, liked his first lesson, even though he admitted he’s not much of a country music fan — he prefers pop and dance music.

But Black said the novelty of gay square dancing persuaded him to give it a shot.

“I like trying new things,” he said. “I thought it would be fun.”

Wearing trendy torn jeans, a white button-down shirt and black boots, Black, 39, started the class beside Hoppen, 57, a square dancing veteran who he had never met before. Both quickly mastered about 20 steps, or calls, including the star promenade and do-si-do.

The South Florida Mustangs boasted more than 100 members in the mid-1990s but participants slowly withered to just a few and the group stopped offering lessons

, according to Bob Young, the group’s vice president.

Another club, Southern Country South Florida, has about 60 members and promotes both line and square dancing.

But despite the two groups’ popularity, Young thinks the square dancing scene is slowly fading away.

“Straight square dancing is shrinking because the people are just dying out, and the same thing is happening in gay square dancing,” Young said. “It’s just not attracting younger people.”

Still, organizers are hopeful that the Mustangs’ renewed vigor and new location, from North Miami to Wilton Manors, will attract gays and lesbians who want to learn a new dance.

“It’s something a lot of people who don’t want to go to the bars can do,” Young said.

After his first three-hour class, Black learned a few things about the dance and how he must stay focused on his steps.

“I started thinking about work and lost my step,” Black said. “It’s a lot of fun but you really have to concentrate.”

For Hoppen, who hadn’t danced in five years, the lesson was a good refresher.

“It’s like riding a bicycle,” said Hoppen, a Pompano Beach resident who joined his first square dancing group, the New York Time Square, 15 years ago. “It’s all coming back to me.”

For those who have never square danced, Hoppen likened it to a puzzle.

“When you get through a couple of calls and can make it back to home position, you’ve solved a puzzle,” Hoppen said. “It’s great.”

Classes started Thursday and continue for 20 weeks. Prices are $5 per class or $75 for the entire session. For more information on the South Florida Mustangs, call President Ken DiGenova at 305-343-1710 or visit www.soflamustangs.com.

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