There was talk of chickens and pigs at North Oakland’s Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library on Friday night, but it wasn’t a discussion of Animal Farm. Jordan Ruyle named the barnyard critters while calling out square dance steps as part of a monthly event he puts on with his wife’s quartet, the Squirrelly Stringband.
Dances with names like “Birdie in the Cage” and “Monkey in the Middle” attracted neighbors young and old to the library, where dance partners formed squares with three other couples and followed instructions like, “Swing, swing that pretty little thing/All join hands in one little ring.” The space’s long wooden floor let upwards of 20 people perform Virginia Reel-style numbers, with couples dashing under the archway of arms formed by their fellow dancers.
“Square dancing is a really novice-friendly partner dance,” said neighborhood resident Loren Rauch. “You don’t have to be really experienced.”
Ruyle, who learned how to call out square dance steps with colorful “patter” by listening to old recordings and attending regional dances, started the square dance last spring as part of a fundraiser. He and the band decided to keep doing the event just for fun. “What I enjoy about it is just kind of that connection between the dancers and the music,” Ruyle said. “I feel connected with everybody who’s dancing, and with the band.”
“We live really close,” said dancer Heather Kuiper, “and it was just great to come hear live music and have a chance to do some social dancing.”