Photo courtesy of Docey Dandies

Lynne Hermansen
The first square dancing lessons of the season will be Tuesday, September 13 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. for the Docey Dandies Square Dance Club.
The lessons are held at the Grange Hall on the Johnson County Fair Grounds, and the first three lessons every Tuesday through September are free for the family friendly event.
The club dances on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month.
The dance club began at the Gardner School cafeteria in January 1956 with western style square dance lessons, and May 25, 1956 36 couples graduated from the first year of classes.
They have met at the Grange Hall for the last 30 years after being shuffled around various locations including Argo’s Furniture Store.
Donna Valizan, current president, said the club was built back up in 2012, but it had been down the last three years with the pandemic.
“It’s struggling the most it ever has,”she said.
Valizan is passionate about all types of dancing, but holds a strong fondness for the club. When it was going to fold in May of this year, she took over as President.
“I didn’t want the club to fold,”she said.
Valizan said she had experienced a lot of loss in her life earlier this year and wasn’t ready to lose the Docey Dandies.
“I realized things are changing, but I wasn’t ready to let go of something that brought so much joy and the friends I made,”she said.
Bob and Donna Knoche two of the earliest members, rejoined the club in 1971 and remain full time members.
Valizan said her and her husband tried the club in the early 1980s, dropped out in about 1985 because of family and work conflicts with time commitment issues and rejoined in 2003 after receiving a request through a letter from the club President at the time.
Her health isn’t as strong these days as it used to be, but she still tries to dance every chance she can.
“I can’t dance as much before the fall,”she said. “But when you step into that square and the music starts and no matter what problems you have that day—life’s problems are gone.”
Valizan said the dancing and club make someone feel good.
“You just go into the music,”she said. “You go into the fun.”
Valizan said it is important to them to keep Docey Dandies thriving and teaching younger generations, because every country has a traditional dance, and they consider the square dance the traditional American dance.
“So many other countries children still do the traditional dances,”she said. “It’s for all ages.”
Valizan also considers square dancing a family event.
The square dance four couples meet in a square formation in the dance floor. The dance begins with a “patter” that has no words to the music, and a caller tells the dancers their steps and moves. The next dance is a “singing call.” The patter then singing call are called “tips” and in between dancers can rest, visit or dance a round or line dance.
All dances are conducted in English.
Mike Salerno has been the club’s current caller since 1996, and is skilled in a wide range of different dance styles.
Valizan said dance skills aren’t required to learn square dancing or join the club, and old members dance with new members.
“A man doesn’t have to know how to dance or have rhythm,”she said. “It doesn’t matter in square dancing. Promenade is French for walk. You don’t have to have rhythm to walk.”
The traditional attire is also not required to participate, but Valizan said she loves the mushroom skirts.
“They are so much fun,”she said. “They’re colorful and when you twirl the colors go around in a circle.”
Valizan’s favorite part of the club is the friendships she has made over the years.
“You don’t just have a friend here,”she said. “Any door you walk into in square dancing you have a friend.”