MARIETTA - Six months ago Ricks Faulk didn't know a do-si-dos from a promenade, an Allemande left from a swing-your-partner or a caller's command from rap.
The last time he danced was at his high school prom - more than 45 years ago. But after his wife died, the 64-year-old Faulk felt moved to dance again, so he walked through the log cabin dance hall of The Twin State Twirlers. The square dance club, which has been around since 1972, specializes in rekindling spirits and re-energizing limbs. Clubs members say it's all about fun - and that skill, or lack of it, shouldn't keep anyone away.
"I knew I had to get out and meet people and get a little activity into my routine," Faulk said. "I had to find a new place where I could go. It was time to make a move. I can't remember having more fun. I plan to stay for a long time."
Now he is a regular at the club's Thursday night hoe-downs at the community building in Marietta.
While other square dance clubs have come and gone, The Twin State Twirlers has actively recruited members. The club has 42 members and any given Thursday at least half off them dance the night away.
"If you don't keep new people coming in, it won't stay alive," said the club's longtime caller, Joel Spivey. "It's a neat place to meet. We have fun. You have to keep it enthusiastic and fun. There's not a stranger in the crowd."
That welcome-mat feeling was evident Thursday as members shouted greetings to each dancer who stepped onto the wood floors of the community building.
Even though most club members are over the age of 60, Hillary Whitley is far from it. The 14-year-old dances for some of the same reasons as her elders.
"When I'm here I feel like I've gotten away from everything," said the rising freshman at Fairmont High School. "A couple I used to go to church with got me here two or three years ago, and it's fun."
Carrie Stiples travels 40 minutes from her home in Maynor, S.C., to dance with the Twin State Twirlers. It is one of four dances she attends each week.
"I love everybody and everybody over here loves me," she said. "That's the kind atmosphere we have around square dancing."
No alcohol is allowed - or needed.
"There's no way you can have any more good, clean fun," said Albert Smith. "We also don't allow cursing. We're a big, happy family."
Bobbie Ashley, club president for the past six years, said members are more than dance partners.
"It's almost like a church in that we care for one another," she said. "We know birthdays, anniversaries and have a prayer chain for the sick. We're very caring people who are connected by more than just square dancing."
Pauline Evers, the club's vice president, has been square dancing for 17 years.
"It's great mentally and physically, and an outlet for our daily lives," she said.
Bill Britt said square dancing provided a remedy for his "leg problems."
"About 15 years ago, when my wife died, I was sitting there at night with my legs hurting all the time," he said. "I went to doctors, and they couldn't find anything, much less fix it. This cured me from having 'crazy legs' or whatever I had. Sometimes you just don't ask why something works."
Spivey said it takes about six months to get the basics of Western style square dancing and about a year to have a firm handle on more advanced steps and calls.
A person can manage if he knows left from right, can hear the calls and knows how to put a little skip in his step.
"You don't have to be a dancer or have a lot of rhythm," said Joann Locklear, the club's secretary. "We laugh at our mistakes, and do so especially with beginners to show them that they're here to learn. We never take ourselves too seriously."
The club incorporates a few line dances into its nightly schedule. Linda Wilkerson is the lead line dance instructor.
The Twin State Twirlers has special parties and often travel to dance with other clubs in Wilmington, Raleigh and Myrtle Beach, S.C. The next square dance road trip is Aug. 20, when members will go to Georgetown, S.C., to dance with the Ocean Wave Square Dance Club.
Turns out that square dancing can be quite a bargain: Dinner and dancing for a couple is $16.
"Now where on Earth can you get fed and have a chance to dance the night away for $8 apiece?" said Spivey, who has called square dancing for 30 years. "You can't hardly go to a movie for that little."
Most club members can't stay seated long for a flick.
"We get a little rowdy and noisy," said Gene Smith, who has been square dancing for 31 years. "This makes our mind and body alert. But we do get carried away a little. But it's all kept in perspective. A few years ago there were 30,000 of us in Louisville for a national dance, and I remember a policeman saying that it was the first time at a major event he didn't have to raise his voice or call for help."
Age doesn't matter. Ashton Odom, 83, and his wife, Smitty, 85, are the oldest Twin State Twirlers. Smitty danced Thursday for the first time since leaving the hospital, and at the end of the night announced plans for her birthday dance.
" I will dance, so everyone come," Smitty said.