What started as one man offering square dancing lessons in his garage has grown into one of the largest groups of square dancers in the Twin Cities metro area.
The Hotfoot Stompers meets monthly in Coon Rapids for some fancy footwork and fellowship at Northdale Middle School.
Some 200 members strong, the group holds dances in Coon Rapids the second Saturday of the month September through May. There are also other group activities and area dances attended by the group’s members. Lessons are offered twice a year, with the next 12-week session starting Jan. 7.
The Hotfoot Stompers has come a long way from those early days when Wayne Taure began offering lessons in his garage.
“It just kept growing,” said Roger Dahl, who has been a member of the group since 1997.
Today the Hotfoot Stompers has members ranging in age from seven to 80. Lessons are offered for beginners.
The lessons take place Mondays at Northdale and include more experienced dancers serving as “angels,” or helpers, working with the new dancers. The first lesson is free with each additional lesson $5 per session.
Once dancers graduate, they can attend the lessons free of charge, serving as “angels” and working to improve their own dancing skills at the same time.
For those without square dancing experience, starting in the club might be met with apprehension, but Gwen Klaesges, who serves as the group’s president with her husband Jack, said it is a process.
“You learn it one week at a time,” she said.
There is always support from more experienced dancers, Gwen said.
“It’s like you have a community,” she said.
There are dances for new and more experienced dancers sponsored by the group as well as other area square dancing clubs.
“You could go to two or three dances a day,” Gwen said.
She and Jack started square dancing some six years ago after attending an event at their church.
It has proven to be a success for them.
“I love the exercise,” said Gwen, who has had to give up a lot of the hiking and walking that she did previously due to health issues.
“But I can still dance for some reason,” she said.
And square dancing is about more than just exercise.
“The people are just great,” Gwen said. “It’s like you have a community.”
“It’s great mental activity and great physical activity,” Dahl said.
The Hotfoot Stompers includes families, couples and single dancers.
Square dancing costumes are not required at the monthly dances. Men are encouraged to wear long sleeves and the women shirts that are not sleeveless.
“It’s strictly whatever you’re comfortable in,” Gwen said.
As for what keeps the Hotfoot Stompers going after all these years, Dahl has a theory.
“It’s fun,” he said. “It survives because it’s fun.”
For more information about the Hotfoot Stompers, visit www.hotfootstomers.com or call Jack and Gwen Klaesges at 763-425-8298.