Arthur Oke with Club Founder John Greenaway, 15 Dec 2012
A Short History of Isca Allemanders American Square Dance Club
It was as long ago as late 1980 when John and Marion Greenaway first came across American Square Dance. They had been involved with “The English Folk Dance Society” for some time but liked square dancing enough to want to start a group in Exeter. So the club was formed around early 1981. Initially there were not enough dancers to cover the cost of the hall, so they subsidised it themselves.
As Isca Allemanders developed, the club applied to register as a member of the BAASDC, around January 1982. The original certificate of affiliation was signed by Fred Clayton (then president of the BAASDC until May 1982). The club had its first listing in Lets Square Dance magazine in April 1982.
The first venue for Isca Allemanders was the Exwick Middle School, but they changed venue some time in 1982 with a move to the Scout Hut in Wellington Road. There was another change of venue to St David’s Community Centre, then yet another move to the skittle alley of the Seven Stars at Kennford. This was when the association with Kennford Village Hall started, first having to fit in with a monthly whist drive, then in 1990, when the whist drives ceased, Isca Allemanders were able to meet every week of the year on a Friday night, until 2004.
From the start, Marion acted as Treasurer and Secretary while John supplied the equipment, the calling and the enthusiasm. It soon became obvious, as the numbers increased, that help with organisation was required and an ad hoc committee was formed to collect the money and help out under John’s guidance.
In January 1989, soon after graduating with Brixham Square Riggers, Barbara and Peter Brown (later made Honorary Members) started dancing with Isca Allemanders to improve their Plus level. At the same time several couples joined the club from the Plymouth area. Meanwhile members were arriving from Torbay, Exmouth and Exeter. It was common to dance three or four squares most Friday evenings. With the introduction of a beginners class, a few members started to come from the Wellington area, and later still more arrived from the Sidmouth region.
Beginners classes were held for several years, usually starting in September and held on a Friday evening. These were held downstairs with the Plus dancing above. Around the mid 1990s, the introduction of dancers at the A level started, and as more people wanted to join in, John started teaching those calls. This was usually for half an hour before the rest of the evening at Plus level.
By the end of 2005 the club had 4 x Plus couples, 10 x A1 & A2, 5 x C1, 3 x C2, 4 x C3A and one couple had started to learn C3B. Yet they all mixed happily together, dancing to John’s Plus calling.
In 2009, John Greenaway decided he wished to retire. Rather than disband the club, Brian and Ruth Bradford agreed to take on the responsibilities of running the club, with the help of a Committee. By this time the new Kenn Centre was available for hire, so the Club moved in April 2010, still on a Friday night. Unfortunately a clash of bookings meant a dramatic change as the Club had to move to a Tuesday evening. This inevitably lost a number of dancers, so a new drive was initiated to bring in more members. Integrating beginners into a normal Club evening had its benefits, but unless a significant number of beginners progressed, it was disruptive for other members.
In 2013 a new group were formed on a Wednesday morning, at St Luke’s Church Hall in Exeter, “by invitation only” for the stronger Plus dancers to practice their DBD Plus on alternate weeks with A1 and A2 dancers.
It was decided in 2015 to initiate a beginners class away from the Tuesday evening group and only introduce them into the Club formally when they graduated. Unfortunately, due to some ‘power struggle’ issues, this plan fell by the wayside until a new Chairman and Committee were brought in to revitalise the Club. We are now very happy to report that this has proven to be a great success and Isca Allemanders now has a Beginners/Mainstream/Plus class on a Friday morning in Exmouth, a Mainstream/Plus Club evening on a Tuesday at the Kenn Centre, and the Wednesday morning DBD Plus group have moved out to Farringdon Village Hall, with at least three leaders/callers rotating the weekly sessions. This is open to any member who feels capable of joining in the fun. (This is usually followed by a spot of lunch afterwards - we are a very friendly bunch!)
After John Greenaway retired, the Club had relied mainly on recorded tips and calls on computer, with help from Caller Arthur Oke for the beginners. But, since the formation of the new committee, we are now in the fortunate position of having four callers willing to call for us on Tuesday evenings. With the beginners who graduated in Spring 2016, we have a membership of around 4 to 5 squares. And we are very happy to announce that our Club Founder, John Greenaway not only rejoined the Club (with his lovely wife Pam) but even started to call for us again!