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Good Time Seniors’ Dance Club hailed the new year with its first social dance of 2024, held Jan. 23. Established in 1980, the club provides weekly opportunities in Truro, Nova Scotia for dancing the old-time waltz quadrille and rye waltz, plus polkas, foxtrots, jives and line dances, all to the musical accompaniment of a live, five-piece band. Dances are on Tuesday evenings throughout the year, with the exception of July and August, and have been held at the Truro Legion since 1985.
“I think it’s important socially for people. I think it’s important exercise-wise,” says Judy Archibald about the weekly events. Archibald is a second-generation member of Good Time Seniors’ Dance Club who started attending the dances with her mother, aunt and uncle as their guest. She has been an official member for 14 years and currently sits as the club’s vice president.
While 45 to 60 people attend the dances on average, Good Time Seniors’ Dance Club aims to increase attendance this year and encourages newcomers to join in the fun. “We want them to feel welcome. We want them to enjoy themselves,” says Helen Neil who joined the club in 1990 and is currently club president. “I’ve seen people come through a few times and just be very quiet and maintain their own distance, and then all of the sudden somebody asks them to dance and they’re up on the floor.”
Once a month, the social dances are given a theme. Themes are often tied to holidays such as Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Canada Day, Halloween and Christmas. In November, for example, the club held a country western-themed event. “More people come on those nights because they like to see what everybody else is wearing,” says Archibald.
The live, five-piece band brings energy and authenticity to the club’s weekly events. “They play all kinds of music,” says Neil. “When we have a theme night, they always sing pieces or play pieces that relate to what we’re doing.” The band consists of piano player Kathy MacDonald, fiddle player Danny MacDougall, drummer Tim Gavel and vocalists Andy Crossman and Bob Prest, who both play guitar and bass. Crossman is going into his 25th year of singing and playing for Good Time Seniors’ Dance Club, while the club’s previous fiddler, Franklyn Fulton, had played with the group for 26 years.
Despite the club’s name, people of all ages are very welcome to attend the social dances. “We’ve had one gentleman’s granddaughter come with him. She was in her late teens,” says Neil. “She had a ball!”
“It’s so sad that the next generation… [will] never know how to do a foxtrot or a waltz quadrille,” adds Archibald. For newcomers who are unfamiliar with some of the old-time dances, there are long-term club members who are happy to teach them the steps.
“We have three people who have attended [the dances] over 30 years and we have three people who have attended over 25 years,” notes Neil.
At its peak, in 2000, the Good Time Seniors’ Dance Club had 299 members. Currently, the club has 62 members, with more people attending the events as guests. “Our attendance went down because of age,” says Neil. “Now that our younger people are hearing about us and coming, it’s started to grow again.” The oldest member of the club is 95 years old.
There is a strong sense of community in the group and milestones within the club’s membership are celebrated. “We give a pin to those who have been members for 25 years. We announce birthdays and anniversaries for those that want them announced. We just recently celebrated a 70th anniversary for one couple. We give a plaque to people who have been married for 50 years and we give flowers to people who have been married for 60 years,” says Neil.
Archibald and Neil are looking forward to another year of dancing. Archibald’s favourite dance is the polka, while Neil’s favourites are the polka and waltz quadrille. “It’s just a very entertaining, friendly, good place to go,” says Archibald about the club’s events.