Local square dance club popular with many; new members welcome to join

Grab your dancing shoes and enjoy an evening of fun with the Jacks and Jills Square Dance Club of Jacksonville.

“Square dancing is great fun and fellowship for anyone,” said Aaron Ault, the group's past president. “It's an excellent physical and mental exercise, but not too strenuous.”

The club is in its 48th year, and part of the East Texas Square and Round Dance Association. There are 35 members, although monthly dinner-dances held every third Saturday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Jacksonville's First United Methodist Church draw participants from Fairfield, Palestine, Noonday, Lufkin, Mineola, Athens, Tyler and Kilgore.

“It's fun, it's friendly and they're just a great group of people,” said Grapeland resident Don Hickman, who attended a Dec. 21 gathering sponsored by Jacks and Jills.

He and his fiancée, Carlene Cottingham, are members of the Dogwood Players, a Palestine-area club, and they met at a square dance.

“It's a good place to meet others, and a way to stay healthy,” she said.

Member Eve Stanfill of Jacksonville agreed.

“I started square dancing back in the 1950s, and I'm in my 80s and I'm still dancing! It's a good fitness-type thing for peole to do,” she said.

While there are “usually more ladies than men, many of the ladies have learned to dance the men's part,” Ault said, as fellow club member Stan Jensen added that at first, “men don't want to come, but when they do, they don't want to leave!”

The Jacksonville club hosts a weekly dance at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at First Christian Church on Beaumont Street, in addition to its monthly dance.

Free lessons are available.

“You don't have to be graceful to square dance – you can have two left feet, but if you can walk, you can square dance,” Ault said, describing how a “caller” gives instruction of “what to do, and you just follow the calls.”

“Usually, a 'tip' (set) will last about 10 to 15 minutes, with a five-minute break in between, so you don't have to dance every tip,'' he said.

To learn more about free lessons, contact Stan Jensen, 903-530-0809, or Frank Baker, 903-363-6961.

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