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Square dancing moves to a new rhythm, younger voice

WEST KELOWNA, B.C. – A dance most of us learned in elementary school is getting a makeover thanks to the next generation of squares.

West Coast Square Dancing lessons began Wednesday night at the Westbank United Church sponsored by the Westsyde Squares, a troupe who are looking to shake things up.

“I like to switch it up and breathe a whole new energy into the club,” says 24-year-old Dustin McGifford, a new breed of professional singing callers.

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McGifford takes the microphone and begins with simple moves for the new crowd: West Coast only uses half of traditional square dancing’s 80 moves.

And as the music and the dancers begin to fill the room, McGifford’s calls turn into a surprising treat to the ears.

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“Bye, bye Miss American pie,” he starts singing in between dance calls to the 1971 song by Don McLean.

And his singing is actually good. Really good, in fact. A complete surprise and pleasure to listen to.

The music is anything but folksy square dance like elementary school.

“Because as nice as fiddle and banjo is, it can get really dry, hearing that for four hours,” says McGifford.

McGifford is said to be one of the youngest modern square dance callers in B.C., if not Canada, according to Brian Elmer with the Westsyde Squares.

“He started square dancing with his parents and soon took an interest in calling,” says Elmer, who adds the young man is also in demand at special dances and conventions.

Square dances take place once a week in the Okanagan Valley at different community halls.

More information about West Coast Square Dancing and lessons in West Kelowna can be found at www.westsidedancefun.info or by calling Ron McMullen at 250-769-5446.

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