The Gnat Boxers history starts 1959 when it was founded by Bill Alkire. What began as a summer Wooster YMCA program became so popular that a series of 10 week lessons was established. Students at that time learned 20 calls during each 10 week session. Two years later the group known as the “YMCA Square Dance Club”, decided to go out on its own. The name “Gnat Boxers Western Square Dance Club” became the club’s official title in 1961. The name comes from one of the calls in square dancing – “box the gnat”- just one of the indications that there’s a lot more to this form of dancing than “do-si-do”.
Square dancing originated in the United States. Some elements of the dance often performed in mountainous area in its early days utilize a combination of movements from European folk dance brought to this country by immigrants. Square dancing has evolved as much as it has grown since those early days, making it a home-grown product of the United States. Because of this evolution in the United States, to the current status it has achieved today. Square dancers around the world dance to calls that are called in English.
The club banner and mascot, utilizing a cartoon bug with boxing gloves, were adopted in 1962 and have undergone only slight variations over the years. Callers have been equally stable, with Bill Alkire serving in the position until 1967, when Dick Mackey took over. The Mackey’s are still active in the group. We have had only two callers in the club since it was founded in 1959.
Every fall the Gnat Boxers hold beginner square dance lessons with Dick Mackey teaching. What was a series of 10 week lessons, learning 20 calls in 1959, has become a series of 25 lessons starting with a free square dance, and a promotion at the end of the lesson for the new students. Today’s dancers start with mainstream dance calls and progress to plus calls. The Gnat Boxer dancers learn up to 80 calls. When lessons end each spring the Gnat Boxer students are skilled enough to dance anywhere!
In 1981 round dancing was introduced to the club. Today’s dances still include round dancing between each square dance tip. The Gnat Boxers host dances on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month. Dances are held at the Ida Sue School, in Wooster Ohio.
The members of the club function as a social unit, and not just for dances. Members call each other to go to dinner or a show and special events. Many activities such as camp-outs, holiday parties, and mystery bus tours are all part of the Gnat Boxers' calendar. The family atmosphere is promoted within the club. Anyone from their teens on is encouraged to take lessons and become a member. Friendships developing within the group are a given. To widen the circle of friends and acquaintances even further, the Gnat Boxers reach out to other square dance clubs in a number of ways, including banner raids and retrievals. Square dancing is friendship set to music!
Come join us, or feel free to contact us for more information. You can reach Dick Mackey at 330 264-2725 or use the “contact” link to send an email to the club.