By JESSIKA EIDSON

The Forum

MARYVILLE, Mo.— Square dancing is not only a lot of fun and a great form of exercise, for older (60-79) adults, it could help prevent cognitive decline. One study done by the University of Colorado found that white matter (the tissue on which messages can be send through the central nervous system) improved in integrity after 6 months of moderate, social exercise.

Connie Graham has been square dancing almost 12 years and believes in its almost miraculous abilities.

“Modern Western Square Dancing is one of the few types of dancing in the world that has been shown to actually make new paths through the brain,” Graham said. “It causes less dementia, improves memory and it’s 4 to 5 miles a night.”

Graham and her husband Eldon were a part of the Maryville club, Levis and Lace, before it was discontinued.

“Maryville used to have a huge square dancing club,” Graham recalled. “We used to dance at the school and it was huge.”

Now the Grahams are inviting people to try square dancing at Northwest Technical School through a six-week, introductory class.

“Expect to laugh a lot, but you’ll also learn a lot,” Graham said. “It causes you to use your memory, a lot of us don’t use anymore.”

Square dancing not only helps its participants with cognitive exercise, but also is a very social activity. According to Graham, square dancing is great for singles and those looking to make friends.

“One of the slogans they have is friendship set to music,” Graham said. “Part of the problem in this world is loneliness and isolation.”

Graham herself has experienced the sense of community that comes with square dancing.

“When you are in trouble, the entire square dance community folds itself around you,” Graham said. “When my husband had heart surgery seven or eight years ago, the square dance community brought food, they came to our room at the hospital and sat and waited with me.”

Another benefit to taking part in square dancing is that it is relatively inexpensive.

“You can go to a square dance and end up with a good meal and three hours of square dancing for $5,” Graham said. “I don’t know anywhere in the world where you can have that kind of entertainment for that price.”

While it can be fun and inexpensive, Graham believes many people are turned off by squaring dancing because they think it’s an old tradition.

“This isn’t grandma square dancing; this is high energy and it’s just different,” Graham said. “A lot of the rinky-dink, fiddle-in-the-background, knee-slapping heehaw is not there anymore.”

Graham also says the outfits for square dancing has changed in recent years.

“If you want to dress up, a lot of them dress in long skirts and boots or denim skirts and boots, or they dress in jeans,” Graham said. “We don’t require lot of extra stuff anymore.”

Regardless of what your hang-up might be, Graham says square dancing is an activity anyone can enjoy.

“I’ve seen children as young as 6 square-dancing, and I’ve danced with a lady who was 95,” Graham said. “If you can walk, you can square dance; it’s all about the hands and knowing your right from your left.”

Those interested in taking part in the class can contact Northwest Technical School.

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