The Centennial Squares have danced their way into the history books in the King and Tobaccoville area over the past 25 years.
Formed to help provide entertainment for the King Centennial in 1988, the group has kept their toes tapping, racking in awards and providing a glimpse to the past while putting smiles on the faces of area retirement home residents.
“This group performed at the Centennial Ball,” said Marty Marshall, who has become the group’s leader through the years. “After the Ball, the group continued to dance together for fun and fellowship and to learn new figures and more intense Appalachian square dancing.”
Marty, and her husband Bill, who passed away in 2001, helped pull the group together into a more formal dance team in 1991.
“In the beginning, the Centennial Squares danced and performed over 100 times per year,” said Marshall. ” They performed at the Dixie Classic Fair for 20 years. In addition, they have danced in competition at the N.C. State Fair, senior events, retirement/rest homes, picnics, birthday parties, mall events, private parties, Dollywood, events in North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, Andy Griffith Reunion Festivals, and Pilot Mountain Mayfest.”
Marty said forming the group, and eventually building a dance hall on their property to dance in, came naturally for her husband.
“He had been calling dances since he was 17,” she said. “His granddaddy used to call square dances at Moore’s Springs back in the teens and 20s and then his daddy called dances, so I got started there.”
Armed with their expert leadership and a love of the art, the Centennial Squares have claimed a number of awards and recognition over the years.
“In 1994 they won the Ruth Jewel Trophy at the North Carolina State Fair which is the best overall in the dance category,” said Marshall. “They have also won Senior Games and came in third at the state level. The Centennial Squares were featured in the movie ‘Lost Stallion -Journey Home,’ which stared the late Mickey Rooney and his wife and was filmed mainly at the Hicks Farm in Walnut Cove.”
Original members of the team included Bill and Marty Marshall, Frank and Ann Campbell, Dub and Dare Reich, Dennis and Mary Lee Moore, Jack and Ruth James, Willie and JoAnne Kreeger, Phil and Pam Joyce, Gaylon and Carolyn Moran, Mike and Nancy Carmichael, Junior and Judy Bertaux, Joel and Frances Tedder, Archie and Lanoria Slater, and Carl and Margie Marcacci.
The membership of the team has changed some over the years, adding Jack and Lynda Brant, Harold and Jane Browder, William and Joyce Gibson, Athalee Dinkins, Sarah Hauser and Melvin and Judy Long, but everyone who has been a part of it says the experiences they have had, and those they dance with, are like no others.
“My favorite thing is being around all of my friends, but as far as the dancing part — I like all of it,” said Harold Browder, at a 25th anniversary party held at the Marshall house recently.
Newcomers Melvin and Judy Long, who joined the group just three months ago, agree.
“We had been going to listen to music and dance at different places and we met Marty and she asked us to join,” said Melvin. “We fell in love with it. We are learning some new moves from some of the older folks and it is a lot of fun to do. It is very rewarding.”
Participation in the group has helped draw couples together and provided support when dancers have lost loved ones.
“I lost my wife a few years ago to cancer and so I have a new partner who tries to keep me in line,” said Browder. “It is kind of what has kept me going. I just keep on dancing and try to do things where I don’t have to sit in the house all the time.”
Mike and Nancy Carmichael said they were not even married when they joined.
“We were in it for about 10 years before we got married,” said Mike. “I do not know what would have happened if we had not gotten involved with this. The people are just great and like a family.”
Phil Joyce said dancing at the State Fair was probably a highlight over the years, but noted that the team had had some great times dancing at other places like Dollywood and Myrtle Beach.
“We were in a barn there and it was really, really hot, but we had a decent crowd and it was one of our highlights,” he said. “We did a lot of traveling and had some real good times. This is a group where the camaraderie is really tight.”
After Bill Marshall died, the group cut back on its travelling and today focuses more on performing at area rest homes.
“When you go into the nursing homes and see these people lighting up and smiling, that is what makes it great,” said Dare Reich.
“We practice in the winter and then the people at the rest homes start calling Marty and every Thursday we go somewhere to dance,” said Browder. “We go to Kernersville, Winston-Salem, King and Clemmons. When you see someone in one of the homes a lot of times it will look like they are asleep, but then you see they are patting their foot and it makes you feel good. At a lot of the places where you have people in good shape we will try to get them up and do some simple dances with us.”
Marshall said the dancing also keeps the team in good shape, both physically and mentally.
“It is great exercise,” she said. “We are dancing for at least 30 minutes at a time non-stop and not many people our age can do that.
“We are never too tired to dance,” agreed Mike Carmichael.
For more information or to book an event contact Marty Marshall at 336-924-4574 or by email at email@example.com.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.