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Barton Swinging Stars keeping time with tradition
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Photos from the 2018 Great Bend Square Dance club’s annual Halloween square dance captured the energy and fun members bring. Al and Terri Horner, pictured here in flapper girl and gangster costumes, have been square dancing for over 30 years. They have fond memories of bringing their children along to dances, teaching them to dance along. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez

Terri Horner and her husband Al, Great Bend, are leaders of the Barton Swinging Stars square dance club. They’ve been dancing for more than 30 years, and plan to continue making time for local dances, as well as traveling to neighboring states to dance for many years to come. 

They were living in Albuquerque, N.M., when friends invited them to come to a dance, and they reluctantly went. One time was all it took to get them hooked. The family moved, eventually ending up in Great Bend, and found a new club. They invited their parents and their kids to attend. 

“We had the one year old twins, Jarred and Joshua, on our back and they loved it,” Horner said. “The older two, Jason and Genny, took lessons as did Al’s parents, Ralph and Edna. We had three generations learning to square dance together.”

Now grown, the Horner kids have good memories of time spent with family, and attend local dances from time to time with their parents.

Costume dance next Sunday

The Barton Swinging Stars are holding their annual Halloween dance from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27, at Great Bend’s First Presbyterian Church basement. The public is invited to come and enjoy a fun-filled afternoon, and costumes are “admired but not required.” 

Members come dressed in both casual and fancier dance attire, some even in Halloween costumes. Covered dishes are carried in pot-luck style to provide dancers with fast energy and hydration throughout the afternoon. 

Currently, the average age of club members is over 50, but the Horners are hopeful that recent trends could turn that around. 

Square dancing, as well as its close cousins round dancing and contra dancing, is gaining in popularity with increasingly younger people all over the country and even in Europe and Asia, as people look for ways to unplug from their televisions, computers and smartphones, and connect socially with others in healthy, face-to-face environments. 

The Kansas Square Dancing Association lists several square and round dance clubs, with the vast majority in western Kansas, including the Great Bend club, at the Square Dance Wichita website ( Some of the larger clubs offer lessons, but the Barton County Stars is hopeful enough interest may be shown to make it worthwhile to organize a beginner’s group here in the near future, Horner said. 

“It’s a matter of people finding out how much fun it is,” Horner said. “If you dance every tip through, you’ve got 10,000 steps, and you hardly notice you’ve been working out.” 

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Al and Terri Horner are leaders of the Barton Swinging Stars square dance club. Pictured here at the 2018 Halloween dance, costumes are part of the fun, and club members look forward to dance each year. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez
Square or round, dance a fit way to have fun

Square dancing doesn’t require special skills to get started, just the ability to walk and tell the difference between right and left. Horner recalls one member once marked hands with an “R” and an “L” just to keep things straight. Dancing is a good cardio workout, and the stepping provides weight bearing exercise, so it can improve bone health. It requires deep concentration, so keeps the mind sharp. And, it provides a social outlet, so it helps to keep depression at bay.

Henry and Caroline Burmeister of Hoisington, now in their 80’s, are happy to see younger people turning to square dancing for fun and fitness. The past presidents of Barton Swinging Stars attend dances every other week on average.

“Square dancing has been good to us,” Henry said. “There are people 10 years younger than us using walkers to get around.” 

They started dancing in 1985. Henry was busy cutting milo on a Sunday afternoon when friends and neighbors came by and invited them to come to a dance.

 “I didn’t think I had time,” he said. “It turns out, you can make time for something that’s enjoyable.” 

Dancing also helped the Burmeisters get to know people they would have never gotten to know otherwise, Caroline said, because they would attend other area clubs in groups as guests. Some of those clubs, including theirs, have consolidated in recent years. 

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Jim Howard is a professional square dance caller from Oklahoma City. He will return to Great Bend Sunday afternoon for the annual Halloween dance held at Great Bend’s First Presbyterian Church. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez
Callers essential 

When Barton Swinging Stars meets, they turn to guest callers to keep dancers in step. Jim Howard, a professional caller from Oklahoma City, called at the 2018 dance and will be returning this year. 

“Square dancing is a great activity,” he said. “It’s good for the heart and good for the soul. It keeps most people slim, and it’s a great time. Many people dance into their 90’s.” 

There’s a lot of memory work involved in square dancing, not only for the dancers, but also the callers. Howard has choreographed calls to traditional music, as well as more mainstream songs, like “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty and “Night Moves” by Bob Seger. With more than 40 years experience, he mixes patter calls and singing calls, and can shift from simple dances for beginners to Advanced dances with ease. 

He’s a member of the American Callers Association, calling for clubs in Oklahoma and Kansas. He is among the over 1,900 callers and cuers in the United States, according to Vic and Debbie Cedar’s Square Dance Resource Net ( In addition to the Great Bend dance on Sunday, he will be calling at the 2019 Wichita Festival of Square Dancing ( on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26. 

Terms to know 


The time you spend dancing in one square without a break. Typically this consists of a patter call and a singing call.


1. A set of moves that you do when the caller calls its name. Most are made up of simpler calls.

2. A series of calls{1} that traditionally starts and ends with “bow to your partner, bow to your corner”.

patter call

A call{2} that is spoken or chanted rather than sung, but is usually done to background music. Also called a hash call. You wind up with your original partner each time you promenade home.

singing call

A call{2} that consists of a song (any song with a good beat will do, and it depends mostly on the caller’s taste) with some of the lyrics replaced by square dance calls. The typical singing call has 7 sequences, in the pattern ABBABBA; at the end of the B sequences, you usually wind up with your (new) corner for the promenade home.

For more square dancing jargon, check out