Leroy Hollingworth isn't shy about expressing his fondness for square dancing.
The Marshalltown man is excited about an activity he has enjoyed for 25 years and plans on continuing many more.
"It is fun and good exercise," he said. "I'm single, and it gives me the opportunity to meet new people and keep in touch with old friends. We have many couples in the club as well."
From this Sept. 2010 photo are members of the Central Iowa Square & Round Dance Club shown at Marshalltown’s annual Oktemberfest festival. From clockwise, left to right, are Rich Lange, Portia Eischen, Bob Eischen, Janice Thompson, Harold Thompson, Kathy Oldsen (back to camera), Vern Oldsen (back to camera) and Arlene Lange (back to camera).
Armed with documentation from Internet sites and elsewhere, Hollingworth was eager to promote its benefits.
"Not only is it good exercise, it keeps the mind sharp," he said. "You have to react to the caller ... this forces the body and brain to be coordinated. A number of the calls are memorized which keeps you on your toes."
Ken and Fran Smith of Marshalltown embraced square dancing in the 80s became passionate about the uniquely American dance form.
IF YOU GO ...
WHAT: Square Dance beginners class - first two classes free-of-charge
WHEN: First class is 2 p.m., Jan. 6.
WHERE: Rogers Elementary School, 406 Summit St., Marshalltown
CONTACT: Central Iowa Square & Round Dance Club, 641-750-2382 or 641-485-2087
"We decided to try it out and we're glad we did," he said. "Everybody makes mistakes at first ... which is understandable ... and the regular members are glad to help the newcomers out. That is one of the reasons we are offering two free classes so people can decide if they want to stick with or not. A number of people have called to sign up already, and we'd like to have more."
Smith said he and Fran treasure the number of friends they have made - many from central Iowa - since they joined.
In the last seven years the Smiths have traveled coast-to-coast attending square dancing conventions and events.
Barry Peck of Des Moines is the caller for the Central Iowa Square & Round Dance Club.
Callers are similar to quarterbacks on a football team.
Square dancing became the nation's official national folk dance in 1982, when President Ronald Reagan signed an act of Congress, according to Hollingworth. Inventor and manufacturer Henry Ford had a major impact in popularizing the dance form to counteract what he considered "the evils of jazz." Folk dancing received a major boost in the 1920s when New York public schools - the first major school system to do so - made folk dancing a required activity.
Interest in folk dancing spread internationally, with clubs in England, Europe and Japan.