Squaring up a convention: Austin hosts state-wide dancing event this weekend

Published 9:14 pm Thursday, June 8, 2023

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The moves were steady, the jargon was clear and the joy was obvious, but there was a little bit more to it than just dancing on the opening night of the 71st annual Minnesota Square and Round Dance Convention at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Austin Thursday night.

The event was all about getting out and meeting up with others with an interest in moving as a group. Some dancers matched colors with their partners, others wore laid back Western gear and others wore clever t-shirts. All of them didn’t hesitate to get on the dance floor when the music began playing.

Janet Sahlstrom, the Convention Chair, and her husband Dan came down from Andover for the event, but they saw plenty of familiar faces amongst the group.

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“It’s a great opportunity to make friends. There are festivals all around the state and country and you can go on cruises,” Janet said. “It’s a great casual exercise. If you can walk, you can square dance and you don’t have to have a rhythm. There are no memorized routines. If you want to go walk the mall, this is like that expect more fun.”

Amongst the crowd were couples, good friends, and friends who hadn’t seen each other in decades before meeting up again on the dance floor.

This is the first year that the Convention has come to Austin and the event is open for the public to come and watch. All 50 states have a festival of some sort and the square dancing scene has become very inviting.

“I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t learn how to square dance. There are about 70 moves in our basic language and it’s one language spoken in about 30 different countries,” Dan said. “There’s not necessarily a strict dress code. It’s relaxed with the times. The music ranges from rock and roll, to gospel to country western.”

If any locals want to check out the square dancing, it will be held Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Anyone interested in learning more about square dancing may visit squaredanceminnesota.com.