Cowboy boots, tennis shoes and sandals swish and scoot over the wooden floor. As directions are called out over lively music those feet stop abruptly, switch and then stop again, pausing as their dancers shuffle quickly to find the right step.
The dancers giggle when they head the wrong way. They high five and grin when they land in just the right spot. Monday night in Magnolia Springs now is square dancing night and the organizers want everyone to come and try it out.
“This is one of the best exercises in the world for your health, your mind, circulation and anxiety,” said organizer Beth Zilinskas, of Foley.
Zilinskas has been dancing off and on since she took square dancing as her PE credit at Jefferson Community College in the early 1970s. Now, she dances every chance she gets.
While there are small recreational groups sprinkled across Alabama and Florida’s Gulf Coast, Zilinskas was excited to build a club in Baldwin County that mirrored the larger clubs in North Alabama where she used to dance. There hundreds of dancers take to the floor. She says every event is family friendly and appeals to a wide range of age groups.
“It’s a family atmosphere. There is no alcohol, no smoking, none of that,” Zilinskas said. “These are the most wonderful people you’ve ever met. We call it friendship set to music.”
On Monday Zilinskas helped host the first event for the Magnolia Spring Squares. Nearly 15 people who have never square danced before came ready to learn. Patty Ping, a celebrity in the square dancing world, who has been calling since 1981 at venues all over the globe, led a group lesson as she called the dances.
Three squares of four dancers each circled left, promenaded, rolled away and sashayed.
Jenny Brown, of Mobile, still donned her scrubs after a long work day. She headed to Magnolia Springs as soon as the workday ended to have her first square dance lesson.
“This is just a great night out and a break from work,” she said.
The newcomers were joined by dancers who came from Baldwin County and beyond to help lead them through the steps.
Ron Brown, of Silverhill (no relation to Jenny Brown), moved here from Houston and has been square dancing with his wife since 2006. On Monday they helped new dancers quickly master the steps.
“We’ve met a lot of people and been all over the U.S. square dancing,” he said. “It’s good exercise and good for the memory.”