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Tech Squares is a square and round dance club at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker. It was founded in 1967 and is still holding dances today. Tech Squares dances high-energy modern Western squares in an "all position" style, with no dress code or couples requirement. It has a large number of student members. The club dances the Plus program, but many members also dance advanced and challenge levels.

Significance

Tech Squares is well-known for doing difficult and ambitious choreography, and for having an achievement-oriented mindset. At a time when many Modern Western Square Dance clubs are finding that the long learning time for a high degree of proficiency does not attract a sufficient number of newcomers to the activity, Tech Squares thrives on high-proficiency dancers. This appears to be because it is in a college setting (MIT), and is populated by college students and other like-minded people who derive gratification from learning new things. The technological orientation of these people may also mesh with the subject matter of sophisticated Modern Western Square Dance choreography. A great many Tech Squares members dance proficiently at high Advanced and Challenge levels. The Tech Squares beginners' class, touted on its web page as "faster than any other class that we know of", goes from zero to a reasonably rigorous Plus program in 13 weeks.

History

Don Beck, Bill Mann, and Judie Kotok had the first meeting for what would become Tech Squares on March 6, 1967.The group (part of MIT's Outing Club) was to dance the new "Western" style squares (not traditional square dance); Don Beck was to be the first caller. The second meeting was March 13 and they were 2 girls short of a square. On the third meeting, March 20, the new club had its first complete square. Admission was $.25 per person. By the fourth meeting, March 27, there were 2 full squares. Every week new people would show up needing to be taught the basics. If the group was short a few dancers, scouts would be sent into the hallways of MIT to round up unsuspecting students to fill up the squares. In September 1968 Don Beck returned to school, and schoolwork eventually forced him to cut back on his calling. Sans caller, the group began to wane.

The same month, Veronica McClure and an MIT freshman, Charles Hatvany, attended a traditional square dance that the Outing Club was holding as part of its Introductory Activities weekend. The caller, Tex Wilson, thought he had been invited to call a "Western" square dance, so he was happy to see Veronica and Charles come through the door in "Western" attire. Later that school year, in 1969, Veronica and Charles organized the square dancers into a separate MIT "club" (made possible because Charles was a student). Tex had done such a good job calling for the MIT crowd that Veronica and Charles asked him to become the caller. Veronica was the club's first cuer, and designed the banner for the new club.

The group danced with no name for some months and then chose the name Tech Squares. A 1969 ad in New England Square Dance Caller magazine announces Tech Squares' first big dance. It offered a "Ph.D. in square dancing from MIT" and the dance was a big hit.

Dennis Marsh became club caller in 1970. Tired of teaching new people every week, Dennis ran the first "Krash Kourse". This was before Callerlab had formed to standardize the curriculum, so Dennis decided which calls club members would be expected to know. The class Tech Squares runs today, twice a year in September and January, is modeled on that original course.

Timeline

The material below is drawn in part from the Tech Squares 25th anniversary dance program, 10/24/1992 .Other information was obtained from Don Beck and Veronica McClure in personal interviews published by Clark Baker, and from the "Tech Squares Officer's Handbook" started in 1990 and contemporaneously updated.

  • 1964: Don Beck begins calling square dances (November or December).
  • 1965: Veronica McClure starts square dancing.
  • 1967: Bill Mann, Don Beck, and Judith Kotok start square dancing at MIT as part of the MIT Outing Club. Don recalls, "When Bill [Mann] asked me to come to a square dance session he wanted to start, I said only on one condition: that I got to be the caller."
  • 1967: Veronica McClure moves from Baltimore to Boston December 1, after visiting in October.
  • 1968-1969: Don Beck returns to school in upstate New York (Sept 1968). Veronica McClure and Charles Hatvany (an MIT undergraduate) organize the existing square dance group into a separate club of MIT. At the time they asked the outing club if they wanted to have Modern Western Square Dancing as part of their student activity. When they declined, Veronica and Charles formed a new student activity, Tech Squares, and asked Tex Wilson to be its caller, since Don Beck was finding it difficult to continue calling now that he was in school. Don continued to dance with the group. At the time Tex was calling the Outing Club "One Night Stand" (an introductory session for non-dancers, without the expectation that they will continue) but he was also a Modern Western Square Dance caller.
  • 1970: Dennis Marsh becomes club caller
  • 1971: Denis teaches the first 'Krash Kourse': an intensive course designed to produce club level dancers in 8 weeks
  • 1971: Veronica begins cueing rounds at Tech Squares
  • 1974: Karen Murphy becomes club cuer
  • 1976: Gene Finlayson becomes club cuer
  • 1979: Hope Kaltenthaler becomes club cuer
  • 1985: Veronica McClure returns as club cuer
  • 1986: Don Beck returns to become club caller
  • 1992: 25th anniversary dance, October 24
  • 1993: Bill Kim Dance-a-thon (November 7). Through the late 80s and early 90s the club was run primarily by a single, dedicated person: Bill Kim. When he was diagnosed with cancer people from both Tech Squares and the contra dancing community pulled together to run a dance-a-thon to raise money. He died a few years later, but his badge was given to the club and (as of 2006) pinned to the club banner in memory of his spirit and dedication to the club.
  • 1994: Veronica retires as full-time club cuer (October 25), Doris T-Bow fills in. Veronica cues during the winter, Doris during the summer.
  • 1995: Linda Resnick and Clark Baker host the first Tech Squares Weekend at Lake Shore Farm, NH. This becomes an annual event for the club.
  • 1997: 30th anniversary dance, October 18
  • 1998: Don Beck retires. Ted Lizotte becomes club caller (Spring 1998), dancing moves from Tuesday to Thursday nights.
  • 2000: In the spring term, the Crash course is first offered as an MIT PhysEd class. One year later, PE credit is officially offered for the class. This brings extra income for the club.
  • 2000-2001: Veronica scales back to cueing about once a month, year round. Hope (Kaltenthaler) Belanger returns to cue the other winter dances; Doris continues during the summer.
  • 2001-2002: "Year of the amateur cuers." Doris cues in the summer, and Veronica continues once-a-month; the other dances are cued by club members.
  • 2002: Tech Squares moves back from Thursday to Tuesday nights, July 2.
  • 2002: Phil Gatchell returns to cue for the club, Sept 17; Veronica continues cuing once a month. (Phil had previously cued for Tech Squares Winter 1997.) In May 2003 Phil is officially named club cuer.
  • 2002: 35th anniversary dance, November 16
  • 2003: Dance ending time moved from 11pm to 10:30pm (July).
  • 2005: Clark Baker hosts the first Tech Squares Challenge Weekend at Lake Shore Farm, NH, targeted at solid C1 and C2 dancers.
  • 2006: Veronica McClure retires as part-time club cuer. Jessica Wong and Stephen Gildea fill in for her once-a-month spot, with Jessica cuing during dances, and Stephen teaching special rounds classes emphasizing technique.


External links



References

  1. Official Tech Squares web site
  2. McClure, Veronica, and Stephen Gildea (1992). Tech Squares 25th Anniversary Dance Program, October 24, 1992. (Available from the MIT archives?)
  3. Tech Squares Officer's Handbook, 1990-present.
  • Cyberscope Trends, Newsweek, Sept 5, 1994, p10.



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