I spent part of my evening last night at Wren Community Hall to experience a traditional square dance and old-time string band for a feature story. The square dance caller was 71-year-old John Luna, a man that I've come across before during my reporting duties (he was volunteering for work that was being done out at the old Independent School building).
Luna told me about how he got into calling and interestingly, it came about when he was teaching clogging. A type of folk dance, he first saw it performed by a group called the Marysville Cloggers in the 1970s. Not long after, he went off to grad school at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He was soon teaching the folk dance and became involved with the Cross Creek Cloggers.
Luna started to develop his own calling style later on during time he spent in Virginia. Several bands and callers would get together and he eventually found inspiration in a caller out of Pittsburgh that he and his wife had seen at a regional music festival at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia.
"I have to say, I was drawn into being just a dance caller out of necessity more than anything else," Luna said.
To explain, Luna was teaching that clogging class in Gainesville and about 80 people showed up. But learning to clog dance was not easy and "people would get frustrated pretty quickly and quit coming to class," he said.
"It turned out the women had more persistence than the men, of course, because the men always have to look good," Luna said. "So the guys started dropping out. I figured, OK, we've got to start calling square dances in here and then we'll do a little clogging."
Luna studied up on some dance calls and a friend came in to play music but he added, "It wasn't really until we got up to Blacksburg (Virginia) that I got way more into the dance calling."
It was interesting to watch Luna in action at the square dance Saturday night. And it was a great atmosphere in the old Wren Community Hall, which has seen many community events since it was first constructed in 1938.