For 23 years, Don Cochrane has been calling out phrases like “shoot the star” and “pass the ocean” to people in the Spokane Valley. These phrases have nothing to do with astronomy or oceanography, however. They are square dance calls.
Cochrane is caller for the 60 members of the Hits ‘N’ Misses club, which has been dancing once a month since 1970.
Cochrane advocates square dancing as good, clean fun - as well as a good way to get exercise. One man strapped a pedometer to his waist and, in one night of dancing, logged seven miles.
Cochrane also boasts of the club’s problem-free dances. “There’s no drinking,” he says. “Everyone is here for one purpose - and that’s to have fun.”
Not only is square dancing entertaining, it’s also challenging. It takes beginners 30 lessons to master the 66 basic moves to become proficient. Learning each move is necessary because there are no set dances. The caller might not even know what move he will call next.
The goal, Cochrane says, is to keep the dancers flowing and moving to the music, which means dancers need a keen ear. “The dancers never know what’s coming next,” Cochrane says.
Things do not always go smoothly, however. “One time we screwed up so badly we were in hysterics laughing about it,” Cochrane says.
Hits ‘N’ Misses is a singles club, although nearly half of the members are married. “It’s oriented toward singles and what they want to do,” says Darlene Jolly, club president last year.
There’s a strict dress code: Women must wear a dress or a skirt and blouse, and men a long-sleeved shirt. No hats are allowed. However, those taking lessons don’t have to follow the dress code.
Jolly started square dancing with her husband in 1979 to introduce a friend to a good way to have fun. The friend soon quit, but Jolly and her husband were hooked.
“We stayed because we enjoyed it,” Jolly says.”There’s so many nice people and they all treat you so good.”
One thing she likes about square dancing is its anonymity. Since all the dancers dress alike, she says, there’s no way to tell if you’re dancing with a doctor or someone who might be unemployed.
Plus, it doesn’t matter if you have two left feet. “You don’t really need to have any rhythm, and you don’t really have to know how to dance,” Jolly says.
But, she adds, “you need to have a sharp, clear mind.”
The two-hour lessons each Tuesday night begin in October at the Western Dance Center on Sullivan. The 30-week lessons cost $3 per person per week. The public is always welcome.