The voice of the dance

EVERETT — Doug Coleman, wearing his bright red shirt and bolo tie, laid out his vinyl records still in their jackets side by side on the table in the front of the room.

The first record was already in the player ready to go. The dancers dutifully took their place. And then the music started.

“Promenade her,” Coleman called. “Tell her you love her whether you like her or not.”

At 83, Coleman has been coming to the Carl Gipson Senior Center in Everett to host square dancing Fridays for almost a dozen years. He calls for California twirls, pass and slide-throughs and bows to the corner. The dancers — some in their 80s and 90s — whoop and holler. At one point, Coleman called for men to give the women a hug.

“Aww,” said several people on the floor.

The Valentine’s Day theme dance on Friday was part of a weekly square-dance session for the Everett Senior Swingers. The group meets every Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the center.

The Snohomish man’s interest in square-dancing all started in 1958, when he and his wife, Pat, took a class in the Pinehurst neighborhood in south Everett. Back then, there weren’t as many square-dance moves to learn. That was a good thing, Coleman said.

“The caller’s wife was laughing at me quite a bit as I stumbled around,” he said.

The couple liked learning to square-dance and returned for more lessons. In about 10 weeks’ time, they were invited to begin attending the club’s regular Saturday dances.

He remembers when the club’s regular square-dance caller attempted to call a song, “The Auctioneer.” It includes fast-paced biddinglike calls. The caller couldn’t make it through the song so it went back up on the shelf, Coleman remembers.

He asked to take the record home and practiced calling. A week or two later, Coleman tried calling a dance to the song.

“I think I got about four to five words into it and completely lost it,” he said. “I took it back home.”

That led to him to practicing other calls, instructions sung out to dancers in a recognizable song. He was asked in 1960 to be the new caller for the Happy Hoppers Square Dance Club, which at the time was in south Everett but now meets in Smokey Point.

“I was no more ready to be a caller than the man in the moon,” Coleman said. “The club said, we’ll go along with you as you learn.”

He spent a little over 39 years as the club’s caller. When he stopped, Coleman and his wife visited the Carl Gipson Senior Center to square dance there. At that time, Dave Harry was the square-dance caller at the center.

Harry was busy teaching square-dancing at schools, so he offered the job as square-dance caller at the center to him, Coleman said.

The fun he has as a square-dance caller has kept him coming back ever since, Coleman said. He tries to make sure the dancers are having fun, too.

On Friday, Coleman joined in on several dances. While calling one dance, he told those out on the floor to ask each other to be valentines. When Coleman called a plus dance, or one which includes more advanced moves, he watched some dancers miss some of the steps. He remained light-hearted.

“You guys didn’t like that one, did you?” he said at the end of the song.

Before a regularly scheduled break, Coleman asked everyone to stand and sing “Happy Birthday” to 90-year-old dancer Bernie Desy of Everett.

Everett resident Wanda Pedersen, 85, started taking square-dance lessons led by Coleman in September 1961.

“I’d rather dance than eat,” she said. “I recommend square-dancing to everybody. You meet the nicest people. I can never understand why everybody doesn’t do it.”

Bob McCutchen and his wife, Iris, started square-dancing and taking lessons from Coleman in 1964. McCutchen, 89, is working with Coleman to plan a special dance in March to feature at least one square of dancers who are age 80 or older.

That dance will most likely be a St. Patrick’s Day theme, Coleman said. He’s looking forward to calling the dances that day and to attending the 61st National Square Dance Convention, scheduled June 27-30 in Spokane. He and his wife haven’t missed a state Square Dance Festival since 1960. They’ve also been to two national festivals that were held in the state and one in Portland, Ore. He was a guest caller at all three. He may sign up as a guest caller at the event in June.

“It’s square-dancing on a much larger scale,” he said.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491;

Talk to us

More in Local News

Bernard Gordon (Washington State Department of Corrections)
Everett pimp sentenced to 21 years for human trafficking

Bernard Gordon, 33, has a long history of sexual violence against women, here and in King County.

Traffic will be rerouted from a closed section of 220th Street SW just west of I-5 for overnight road repairs Wednesday and Thursday. (Sound Transit)
Overnight work to close 220th Street SW and southbound I-5

Contractor crews plan to repair 220th and need to close the freeway for light rail work.

Galina Volchkova, the Volunteers of America Housing Director, discusses the volume of applications for rental assistance her office received Friday. (Katie Hayes / The Herald) 20210618
7,000 tenants, waiting for help, fear eviction after June 30

Rental assistance money won’t reach many landlords before the coronavirus eviction moratorium expires.

Edmonds council moves to ‘prevent unnecessary evictions’

An emergency ordinance was passed Tuesday with the aim of helping fill a gap in eviction protection.

Lynnwood man is challenging the legality of his imprisonment

The Island County Jail inmate was temporarily sent to a state prison and allegedly held in solitary confinement.

With the Olympic mountains in the background, the first passenger flight by Alaska Airlines Flight 2878 departs for Portland on opening day of the Paine Field Terminal on Monday, March 4, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Snohomish County airports get $5.5 million in federal grants

Paine Field will receive $5.4 million. Arlington’s airport and Harvey Field each are getting $59,000.

Chris Stack and Samantha Soule film a scene of their movie, "Midday Black, Midnight Blue," on the Coupeville wharf June 14. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)
Indie film crew: Whidbey residents are ‘generous and welcoming’

The movie makers are shooting scenes for a full-length feature at various sites around the island.

Police block a road while responding to a fatal shooting at the Colonial Gardens apartments in Lake Stevens on May 24. (Dakota Bair, file)
Prison guard charged with murder of Lake Stevens roommate

Emmanuel Perez shot his roommate seven times, according to prosecutors. He has pleaded not guilty.

Kira Mauseth, a clinical psychologist, is co-lead of the state Department of Health's Behavioral Health Strike Team. (contributed photo)
‘A perfect storm’ of mixed emotions as state nears reopening

Pause before making decisions and act with compassion, says a Behavioral Health Strike Team psychologist.

Most Read