Richard Scholle hadn't square danced in a serious way for years. Since the fifth grade, really. That was the year he had learned the square dancing rudiments all boys learn in the fifth grade - the allemande lefts, the do-si-dos, the fact that the cute little girl who sat behind him would be forced to hold his hand.
In many ways, square dancing is the way a lot of us learned to relate socially to the opposite sex. It was certainly the first time many of us took to the dance floor, standing there awkwardly and expectantly, waiting our turn to sashay down the center in the Virginia Reel.In the years that passed since the fifth grade, Scholle didn't give square dancing much thought, except for the time a girlfriend at BYU took him square dancing and his feet kept doing all the wrong things.
Scholle went on to get married, get divorced, move to Cleveland. When he moved back to Salt Lake City, a friend suggested he join a square dance club.
On summer Thursdays, Scholle comes to Murray Park, where the Leather and Lace singles square dance club dances in the pavilion south of the public pool.
"I moved back to Salt Lake from Cleveland because I wasn't meeting women to date," Scholle explains. "But I've met so many women since I've started square dancing."
Everybody is friendly, he says. Even when a square breaks down - somebody allemandes right when they should have gone left and suddenly eight people are bottled up like a freeway accident - nobody gets mad. And after every tip, everybody gets a hug.
"One reason I like square dancing," says Scholle, "is that a man will have four lady partners and also three men partners. What you're doing is you're mingling with a lot of people."
Joyce Weber mingles seven nights a week, although, as she confides, "You have to go to Ogden if you want to square dance on Sundays."
About half the people who come to singles square dancing groups come to meet someone new, says Weber. "But pretty soon they're just having fun and it doesn't matter."
On Thursdays, Weber, a widow, comes to Leather and Lace. Pinned to her blouse are all her square dancing pins, the little badges that mark her most significant victories.
"Die hard," says one pin. You are entitled to wear this one if you've danced five nights in a row. Another, a picture of an owl, means Weber has danced till 4 a.m. And others, the ones that cascade down toward her waist, show that she has just returned from the Idaho Federation Centennial Trail Dance, where she danced 30 dances in 10 days in 10 different cities. She has a pin for each city.
Her "Hell Raiser" badge signifies that she's "someone who is rowdy in her square," explains Weber, just before she twirls away to join the next tip.
Leather and Lace is one of five singles square dancing clubs statewide. There are about 50 square dancing clubs in all, including ones for couples and for teens.
Richard Scholle joined Leather and Lace last September, just in time to start the club's nine months of beginners' lessons held each fall, winter and spring at Murray High School.
Next June, Scholle will have a chance to mingle with about 25,000 people when the 40th annual National Square Dancing Convention meets at the Salt Palace. He's already got his outfit ready - white pants, a white vest, white scarf tie and yellow shirt - although the Utah square dancing clubs' beehive logo is only Scotch-taped to the vest right now.
A new dancer who begins the lessons in September will be ready for the convention next June, says Scholle.