Square Dance brings all ages together in lively tradition

Under the direction of lecturer of music and caller James Kimball, Geneseo’s String Band Square Dance concert kicked off on Saturday Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom. The night was filled with attendees of all ages—kids, students and adults alike—dancing in flannel shirts and cowboy boots, moving to the rhythms and tunes of the string band. Kimball and the Geneseo String Band are not new to performing at square dances. They have performed at multiple other dances, including one at Honeoye Falls Middle School on Friday Feb. 5.

Kimball and the band, however, were not the only musicians present during the night. Carol McClellan—a Geneseo education alumna—called two songs alongside Kimball. According to Kimball, McClellan was able to call and be familiar with the dances because she grew up in a family that enjoyed square dancing.

Additionally, the string band had about four non-student musicians accompanying them. Although Kimball admitted that he prefers a mainly student-focused band, he added that he enjoys having experienced musicians from outside the campus to join in and help them cover events.

Kimball explained that he started the string band around the time when he first started teaching at Geneseo in 1976. He emphasized that he wanted the ensemble—much like the square dance event—to be welcoming to all levels of talent.

“[I wanted a] kind of ensemble that could absorb both beginner and advanced players at the same time,” Kimball said. “It could be four, five or six people or it could be 20 people. It’s expandable and it can play these informal events or something more formal. So it sets it apart from more traditional ensembles in colleges and high schools.”

Forty years later, the band is still going strong, varying in size and skill while playing multiple events on campus and around the Geneseo area. The string band covers other receptions around campus and they have attended the Geneseo Rotary Summer Festival.

Kimball specifically noted his excitement for their upcoming 37th annual Pre-St. Patrick’s Day Concert on March 5. This concert will feature both Rochester and Geneseo Irish Dance groups along with the string band’s take on a variety of Irish music.

One thing that Kimball found especially noteworthy about the recent concert, however, was the wide range of ages seen in the audience. He explained how it influenced his choice in picking the music.

“You don’t always know what kind of tunes you’re going to play until you see who’s out there and what kind of dances you can call,” Kimball said. He went on to mention that he tried to choose songs that were easy enough for teenagers and children in the crowd, but also nostalgic songs for the veteran dancers in the room.

“We’re doing mostly dances and tunes that those old-timers would remember from when they were in high school,” he said. “They used to square dance during high school as a social thing—not just a gym class, but a social thing in the evening after a basketball game.”

Through the use of catchy and rhythmic tunes, Kimball and the Geneseo String Band made square dancing an experience for everyone of all ages to enjoy.