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Farm Show to feature do-si-do

January 13, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

Four hundred or more square dancers will whirl, twirl and promenade at the same time at the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Monday at 7 p.m.

Three of the eight-person squares will be the Franklin County 4-H Home-Schoolers competing in the 17-and-under age bracket.

Laurie Shannon of Chambersburg, a home-schooling mother, will call the dances for her 26 4-Hers in the Large Arena. The group includes two substitutes. The students have been practicing for two hours every Monday since September, Shannon said.

Dancers are not competing against each other, but against a standard of excellence, she said.

"This is their fourth year of competition, and they got a blue ribbon every year but one," she said. "They got a red ribbon once. They were good sports about that.

"I had taught them one of the moves coming from the wrong direction," and the judges penalized them for it.

Participation is the most satisfying aspect of the square dancing competition and exhibition, Shannon said.

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"Being in a stadium-size arena with 400 other dancers is mind-blowing," she said.

Shannon participated in square dancing in college.

"It was laid back and casual," she said. "Square dancing has changed over the years. The moves are much more complicated."

Fortunately, the square dancing community is genial and helpful, Shannon said.

To educate herself about the newer style, she spoke with other callers and read up on modern square dancing.

"There's more flair to the dancing. Multiple figures and shapes are created as the dancers move," Shannon said. "It's like a kaleidoscope; it's visually entertaining. The music is more jazzy, boogie-woogie style and ragtime.

"There's not as much fiddle and twang as people might remember," she said. "It's bouncy, high-energy music."

Shannon said that after she convinces the boys that square dancing can be fun and that they don't have to hug a girl, they learn a lot. She added that square dancing helps them deal with "child-size life issues, such as the concept of all for one and one for all. They learn to forgive quickly and move on.

"If one person messes up, there's no sense blaming them and rolling your eyes," she said. "You have to recover quickly and move on."

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