Family steps up to inspire others

FAIRMONT – The Berbernes, a Sherburn family that participates in the Lake Promenaders, came to Red Rock Center in Fairmont on Saturday. By reaching out to Fairmont, they hoped to create more awareness of square and round dancing in the area.

At Red Rock, the Berbernes had enough participants for square dancing.

Every third Saturday of the month, the family hosts square dancing or round dancing, and each month has its own theme. In September, it will be Old School. In October, they will feature a Monster Mash/Halloween.

For generations, the Berbernes have integrated dancing into their family. Cheryl Berbernes and her sister began dancing at ages 8 and 9. Now Cheryl, who can dance to both the boy’s or girl’s side, is teaching her 2-year-old niece.

Cheryl grew up with her grandpa as a cuer, someone who tells the round dancers what to do. Both of her grandparents, now in their early 90s, recently retired from dancing, but on occasion they will still get out on the floor.

“You can dance from birth to death,” said Fran, Cheryl’s mother.

“And you can do it anywhere,” Cheryl added. “I’ve danced in locker rooms, swimming pools and out in the grass. You can even square dance without using your hands.”

Cheryl said the dances are healthy, for mind, body and soul, and the Lake Promenaders are certified by the American Heart Association. Enthusiasts say square and round dancing relieve stress and keep a person active, motivate kids to listen and help prevent age-related diseases.

Yet the Berbernes have had a hard time getting anyone involved.

“Most associate square dancing with what they learned in gym class – which is junk,” Fran said.

While the Berbernes are based in traditional square dancing, they adapt to more modern styles. They have learned how to match the beats so well that they can dance to not only country, but to groups like the Backstreet Boys or Michael Jackson.

Square dancing first originated when American settlers hosted a barn-raising. It spread around the world during the world wars, thanks to U.S. troops.

“That’s why all the calls are in English,” Fran continued. “Even though you might not understand someone in another country you visit, square dancing has become a universal language.”

The dancing group accepts all kinds of people, regardless of sexual orientation, religious organization or race.

In Western square dancing, endless possibilities await for free spirits eager to learn dancing.

“If [the music you listen to] has a beat, you can dance to anything,” Cheryl said.