Square up with The Spinners in Buckley

Square dancing lessons will begin Jan. 31, and last for 14 weeks.

It’s time to stand up straight, make a country line, get spruced up and looking fine, and square dance until the cows come home with The Spinners.

Starting Jan. 31, the local square dancing club will be hosting a 14-week course on how to do-si-do around Buckley Hall.

Of course, this is an opportunity to get moving, but club President Patsy Harris and husband/social media director Don said square dancing is also way to mentally stretch yourself and socialize with new people.

“I call it a challenge,” Patsy said. “It keeps you going. It keeps you moving.”

“You want to get your 10,000 steps in a day? Go to a square dancing dance for two-and-a-half hours. You’ll get in every one of those 10,000 steps,” Don added. “[And] your brain is having to keep remembering all the calls. It’s a whole mix of things that help you physically, mentally, and socially.”

That said, newcomers shouldn’t be intimidated; both Patsy and Don said it’s more about having good time than it is getting the calls right, and that “breaking a square” (a.k.a. getting a move wrong) can be just as fun, if not more so, than dancing perfectly.

They added that folks who want to join don’t need to worry about bringing a partner — one will be provided for you during lessons.


You may not know it, but The Spinners is one of the Plateau’s older nonprofits.

The club started in 1981 under the direction of Lloyd Shaw. If you know your square dance history, the name should sound familiar — his grandfather, Lloyd “Pappy” Shaw, has been credited with starting the modern square dance movement.

“… he has unquestionably earned the title, ‘Dean of American Square Dancing,’” Mildred Buhler wrote in a December 1950 edition of the “Let’s Dance” publication. “… His unquenchable zeal to spread the square dance gospel from Sunset Boulevard to Breadway, from New Orleans to Detroit, has been fulfilled and each year sees countless thousands of new converts to the joyous movement.”

It may not be the cultural phenomenon it once was, but Shaw’s accomplishments can still be felt today. According to Patsy and her husband Don, American armed forces started forming square dance clubs all around the world in the 1940s, and several remain to this day.

Enumclaw’s club started at the local senior center, but had to mosey on over to the Osceola Grange after a storm damaged the building. It stayed there for two years before moving to the Marion Grange, where they stayed for another four, before finding their current home in Buckley Hall in 1990.

However, the building had to be almost totally refurbished, Don said — a project that was taken on by The Spinners, both financially and physically as members chipped in funds and provided some labor to save cash.

Pictured is Spinners President Patsy Harris and her husband Don. Photo by Ray Miller-Still
Pictured is Spinners President Patsy Harris and her husband Don. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Pictured is Spinners President Patsy Harris and her husband Don. Photo by Ray Miller-Still Pictured is Spinners President Patsy Harris and her husband Don. Photo by Ray Miller-Still


Don and Patsy only joined The Spinners about five years ago (though Patsy has been dancing for decades), when the club was sporting as many as six squares a night (at eight people a square).

But after COVID, when the club had to go virtual, they’re standing closer to about 30 members.

“We’re on the process now of building new members,” Don said. “Young members, hopefully.”

One way The Spinners is doing so, in partnership with the Rainier Council (mainstream square dance clubs are overseen by councils larger areas; for example, the Rainier Council covers Pierce County), is by offering standardized lessons every week.

The Spinners’ lessons are every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m., but if you can’t make a particular lesson, you can get the same lesson over in Sumner or even Tacoma, so long as you go to that lesson in the same week. (The very first lesson is also repeated during the second week for people who hear about the club later.)

The Bonnie Lads and Lasses, based in Tacoma, has their lessons on Sundays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., while the Young Bunch club has theirs on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., both at Collins Grange Hall. Sumner’s club. The Swing Nuts hosts their lessons at the Sumner VWF Hall from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The cost of lessons vary, but it’s $5 per person, per lesson for The Spinners; pre-registering for the season gets your first lesson free. (Pre-register at squaredance-rainier.org/classes).

The goal of these lessons is to get dancers familiar with all the standard square dance calls (four or five new ones a class), from the most basic do-si-dos to the advanced Dixie Style to an Ocean Wave. Dancers who get through all the lessons and know the calls are then encouraged to participate in the Washington State Square and Folk Dance Festival, which is being held June 16 – 17 in Suquamish, and beyond.

“When you finish the class, you can go to dance at any mainstream dance in the country, or outside the country,” Don said, noting that international clubs will call in English. For those who want to show off their dancing skills on a smaller stage, The Spinners also hosts Friday night open dances from 7 to 9:30 p.m. for $6 a person, though that rate may change as rent for the Buckley Hall shifts. Other clubs also host open dances.

After the convention, The Spinners will take a break for the summer, but lessons and open dances begin again in September, meaning if you miss this season, you can always start next season.

For more information about The Spinners, head to their Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/105095042863785/; to learn more about other clubs, head to squaredance-rainier.org/classes.

Ellen Hull and husband Bill. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Ellen Hull and husband Bill. Photo by Ray Miller-Still