Dancing Shoes and Dosadoes

Charles Billy, known as CB, and Threta Clarice Davis are partners in every sense of the word. They met, married, had a family, built a home in Parker County and have shared adventures around the world. They became husband and wife 60 years ago. The date was December 23. Today their wedding portrait — of a beautiful young couple eager to explore the world — is accompanied by photos of their four children, six grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and a room full of mementoes from their years together.

Clarice grew up in an active and social family with a love for music and people. “My family traveled the area participating in what was known as ‘singings,’” she said. When she married Charles, she made sure to bring her dancing shoes.

“I have itchy feet,” CB grinned. “Besides teaching, I worked as an aeronautical engineer specializing in automatic test equipment.” He worked for corporations like General Dynamics for 22 years and Northrop Grumman, which moved them to Chicago for awhile.

He spent time at Air Force bases in Texas, Alabama and California and, after the Royal Danish Air Force purchased the F16, he and Clarice lived in Denmark for 14 months.

Somewhere around 1986, after 35 years of marriage, Clarice made a decision that defined their next 25 years and shows no signs of stopping. “I started taking square dance lessons at our church,” she explained. “I was working full time as a real estate agent, and the dance lessons were like therapy sessions and great exercise. At first, CB told me he would not have one thing to do with square dancing,” she smiled, “but then he took a lesson.”

The two are now longstanding members and current presidents of the Pioneer Square Dancing Club of Weatherford, one of about 45 square, round and/or clogging clubs comprising the North Texas Square and Round Dance Association (NORTEX). Over 1,500 NORTEX members form a community of dancers with all levels of experience and, on any given day, there is always some place to dance in North Texas. “Our club hosts two big dances each year. This October is our Revelry Dance,” Clarice said, “at the Swingtime Center in Fort Worth and then our Anniversary Dance is in April.

Guests are always welcome!” In the United States, square dancing is taught over a period of 20 weeks. Time is needed to learn the special language, dress, routines and expectations and to grasp that square dancing is a world in itself, with a history that is both complex and circular. By the early 1900s, square dancing had almost disappeared in America. Henry Ford became the surprising source of its revival in

the 1930s by stirring the process of modernizing and standardizing. Since the 1950s, modern Western square dancing has revolved around a “caller,” who designs the dances, provides recorded music and uses calls that are now standard and recognizable. Most of today’s callers belong to CALLERLAB, the International Association of Square Dance Callers, and adhere to the CALLERLAB training and curriculum. “Calling is quite an art,” Clarice said. “Our club uses guest callers, who give us a lot of variety.” The “caller” directs the square dancing from a list of 68 mainstream dance calls, many with colorful names like “slip the clutch,” “box the gnat” and “pass the ocean.” Learning the calls is essential for every dancer. “Beginners are paired with experienced dancers who are called ‘angels,’” Clarice explained. “It helps them to learn and it’s more fun.”

The Pioneer Square Dancing Club dances on the second Friday of each month at Weatherford’s Central Christian Church. “Clubs schedule their dances on different nights,” Clarice said, “and visitors are always welcome.” In the spirit of fun, visiting clubs are allowed to “capture” the banner of the host club, which can be retrieved by attending the “raiding” club’s dance. “CB and I dance two to three times a week,” she smiled. “Don’t you know we’ve got to retrieve or capture a banner, and we can’t do that sitting at home?”

Clubs also enjoy a tradition of presenting guests with a small metal pin or tag symbolizing the host club. “They are called dangles,” CB said. “People collect them. Some put them on sashes and dance with dangles all the way to the floor.”

Competitions do exist, yet most people square dance for the enjoyment. “Competition doesn’t create a very friendly environment,” Clarice said.

“CB and I, and I would say 98 percent of dancers, do it purely for fun and fellowship. To me, it’s like having a psychiatrist in a fun bag. It keeps my body working, relieves stress, and CB and I have met so many people. We have danced all over England and in Scotland, Germany, Austria and Denmark and have entertained many guests. Our club is like family, and we are so attached to everyone.” In fact, some of the 36 members in their club are actually family. The Davis’ oldest son, Charles, and his partner, Susan Birchfield, are the club’s incumbent presidents. “Our daughter, Threta Ann, also dances,” Clarice said.

A square dance begins with a grand march, a musical procession that ends when all couples are positioned to form squares of eight people. A “tip” is a set of two dances. The typical mainstream dance includes six tips. “Our club starts by introducing the caller,” Clarice said. “Before the grand march, we say the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, and we like to feed our people with a potluck dinner. My favorite song to dance to is ‘Pink Cadillac,’” she smiled. “Callers know we like to act up with it. Square dancing really brings the kid out of you, and we have so much fun.”

In the square dancing world, beginners quickly learn that leather-soled shoes are essential. For dances, men are asked to wear long-sleeved shirts and women to wear skirts. “Outfits can be bought or made,” Clarice said. “I have done both.” A glance into her closet leaves no question that she is a square dancer. Her wardrobe is filled with beautiful prairie skirts with soft petticoats, short fun skirts with full, stiff and colorful petticoats, pettipants, vests, blouses, accessories and lots of dancing shoes. Her styles range from fun-loving to formal, and her closet is every girl’s dress-up dream.

When CB and Clarice are not square dancing, they’re enjoying their lovely custom-built country home, involved in church happenings or on their way to Branson, Missouri, Denmark or parts unknown. These days, their at-home family includes Babi and Gigi, two lively Chihuahua mixes, who do their own versions of the dosado!

 Written by Carolyn Wills.