ST. CLOUD - This week for our Frozen in Time series we visited a longstanding square dance club at the Whitney Center.

Square dancing was first introduced to Central Minnesota when Dr. Al Brainerd, a St. Cloud State College professor, started an instruction class at Technical High School. The class graduated in 1949 and decided to organize an official club.

The Beaux and Bells Square Dance club has been a staple in Central Minnesota ever since. The group started in 1950 and now meets once a week and also offers lessons to anyone who’s interested in learning. Tom Allen has been the clubs caller for several decades and has enjoyed square dancing for most of his life.

"If you can walk-you can square dance, you're taught in a class the steps that are involved and it's a walking or shuffling step-that's is all there is to dancing," Allen says.

Square dance conventions are held every year on both the state and national levels. The first Minnesota square dancing convention was held in St Cloud in 1952 and attracted 500 dancers.

Beaux and Bells has held dances in numerous locations over the years. In its early history, they danced at the Winter Haven in Sartell for about a year and then at the Elks Club in St. Cloud. Other dance locations over the years included the Granite City Coliseum, Sauk rapids V.F.W., McKinley School in Waite Park, and the Sauk Rapids High School.

Thanks to its longevity, many now consider the club to be a family activity.

"My wife and I both started when we were in college at St. Cloud State, that was in 1972 and we've been dancing ever since," Allen says

Beaux and Bells is a club open to anyone and emphasizes that square dancing can be a fun and healthy activity for all ages. Allen adds that square dancing is growing in popularity locally and across the country.

"People from all walks of life, all ages, it's not just seniors, this club has dancers in their teens and our oldest dancer is 96 or 97," Allen says.

 

Dan DeBaun, WJON News