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Twirling the night away! Square dancing returns to Mountain Home

Mountain Home square dancers, it’s time to put on your best pair of jeans, strap on your dancing shoes, and grab your dancing partner!

The Mountain Home Twirling FunTimers are officially hosting lessons and dances again at the Lloyd Travis Municipal Center in Lakeview, Arkansas.

“This group has been going on for approximately between 47 and 50 years,” said Anieta England. “It’s been in the Mountain Home area this whole time. This group has been dancing on Wednesday nights for as long as I’ve been dancing here. We’ve managed to maintain a consistent pattern so that people come back and want to dance.”

Members of the Mountain Home Twirling FunTimers pose for a photo at the Lloyd Travis Municipal Center in Lakeview. Photo by Chris Fulton/MHO.

The Mountain Home Twirling FunTimers are returning after a long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group has around 20 or so dancers, with an additional six new students currently enjoying classes taught by the FunTimers on Sunday evenings.

This year’s president for the Twirling FunTimers is Ray Peacy. Donna Glennbeck leads the group through their dances as the Funtimers’ new caller. Ken Jarman serves as an additional caller, and Marge Sherrill serves as the group’s cuer.

“We have a new caller,” England said. “She is learning to be a caller at the same time. She started out as one of our dancers and saw a need and began to fill it, which is good. We are very grateful that we have her.”

The FunTimers are making good use of their new dance floor at the Llyod Travis Municipal Center in Lakeview. The building, which serves as Lakeview’s police station and city council, features polished hardwood floors, letting the dancers glide along as they go through their intricate routines.

The group was forced to move from their previous location in Mountain Home after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Municipal Center also allows the FunTimers to save money on renting out a dance floor for the evening.

“Prior to being here, it was in Saint Andrew’s in Mountain Home,” England said. “When the pandemic came along, all of the churches closed. We closed down. We didn’t do anything for almost a year and a half. So this has been our effort to get back on our feet. This has turned out really well. We have a much better dance floor here.”

Square dancing is a dance for four couples, eight dancers in total, arranged in a square, with one couple on each side, facing the middle of the square.

Square dancing contains elements from other, more traditional dances and was first documented in 16th-century England. Early square dances, mainly English country dances and French quadrilles, traveled to North America with the European settlers and developed into a favorite pastime.

Square dancing is strongly associated with the United States, thanks to its association with the often romanticized image of the American cowboy. A total of 31 states in the Union have designated square dancing as their official state dance.

The Twirling FunTimers also participate in Round dancing, a choreographed and cued ballroom dance that progresses in a circular counter-clockwise pattern around the dance floor. The overall dance is organized and led by a “cuer,” which is the equivalent of a caller in Square dancing.

“It’s choreographed ballroom dancing,” said Ray Peacy, president of the Mountain Home Twirling Funtimers. “We have a cuer in the front of the room that tells us which figure to do next, so everybody in the room does the same figure at the same time.”

In its heyday, square dancing was an extremely popular pastime in Mountain Home. In 1992, the Twirling FunTimers had over 115 dancers in their rosters and enjoyed friendly competition from two other rival dancing groups.

Today, that number has declined to around 22 members, as the group’s aging members are no longer being replaced by a younger crowd. Still, the group remains active, putting on demos and participating in Arkansas and Missouri’s annual folk dances.

Some of the group’s dancers, like James Wiley, have been dancing for up to 50 years.

“I started dancing in 1988,” England said. “My husband has been doing it since the 1970s.”

The Mountain Home Twirling FunTimers perform at the Lloyd Travis Municipal Center in Lakeview, Ark.

The Mountain Home Twirling FunTimers meet every Wednesday starting at 6:30 p.m., with dances running until 9:00 p.m. Dances run $7 per dancer to cover the cost of the group’s caller and dance floor.

For newcomers, Twirling FunTimers offers dancing lessons for all ages on Sundays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Cost for a lesson is $5 for adults and $3 for younger adults between the ages of 17 to 21. Children can attend for free.

For more information, contact Donna Glennbeck at (870) 620-0037.

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