Jean Alve has been calling squares for more than 50 years. She lives in upstate New York in the town of Spencer, half an hour south of Ithaca. She now calls a weekly two-hour session of "Square, Round, Line & Polka Dancing" at a local senior center. Here is a photo and a 2011 newspaper clipping marking her 50th year as a caller. Ithaca caller Nancy Spero also arranged for some video footage of Jean calling.
Finger Lakes Community Newspapers, November 22, 2011
50 Years of Calling Dances
By Jesse Disbrow
Jean Alve is the Spencer Town historian, but if you're into square dancing, you may have heard her voice over the past 50 years she has called out the steps to music.
What are the two groups that honored you earlier this month for your 50 years of service calling square dances? What do they do?
One of the two groups was the dancers at Long-Life each Friday afternoon. They do traditional Square dancing, round dancing and line dancing. I have called for them for 40 years. They surprised me with a beautiful cake.
The other group was FLAC (Finger Lakes Area Council of square dance clubs.) They had a dance in Elmira Heights on Oct. 30 in which 120 people signed in and during which I was honored for 50 years of calling.
How did you first get into calling square dances?
After folk dancing with Roger Knox, we were introduced to modern squares. We liked it so much we bought records and danced often in the basement. Our ten‑year old son asked me to teach him and his friends. Which I did but I started calling for them when they became bored with the same records.
About 1963, when a group of people wanted to start a club in the Elmira area instead of driving to Binghamton, I was elected to be the caller since I had had some experience with the young people. We started the Soaring Twirlers Club and I called for them 18 years. I also started a club in the Athens area and graduated the first class in 1972. I must have called for them about 30 years. I also called for the Square-a-naders Club of the Ithaca area a few years.
Where have you called square dances and for how long?
Other groups I have called for are:
Group in Dryden about 5 years.
A week-long Recreation Leadership Lab for 4-H youth under the direction of Bernice Scott for ten years, staying at the various Junior Colleges in the area.
The ten-year old youth group – 2 years.
The second older youth group 2 years, both groups participated in competition at the NY state fair.
Chemung Valley Senior Citizens in Elmira Heights, monthly for 40 years.
The senior citizens of Southport, once a month about 15 years.
The College of Lifelong Learning for 5 years
The Princess program in the Horseheads/Big Flats area once a year about 5 years.
What is your favorite dance to call?
My favorite dance to call is "Out Behind the Barn."'
What is your favorite thing about calling square dances?
My favorite thing about calling is all the nice people I meet.
Do you ever get down and take part in the dances?
We have done exhibitions at nursing homes, at the mall and at festivals.
At the club dances my husband, George, and I joined in with the cued rounds.
At the traditional dances, I join in with the line dances.
Jean also appears in a more recent article available online, "It's Hip to be Square (Dancing)"
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