The Cal Poly Country Line Dancing Club (CLDC) is set to square dance at Stagecoach Country Music Festival April 28 to 30 as part of the festival’s formal entertaining group. CLDC is the only college dance group at the event and members get free admission in exchange for their performance.
The opportunity stemmed from CLDC adviser Leslie Rebik, who performed at Stagecoach last year. When the festival’s coordinators caught word that she instructed a group of college dancers, they jumped on the opportunity to hire them. According to Rebik, square dancing rarely attracts young people.
“Stagecoach wants to freshen their entertainers,” Rebik said. “They want a larger demographic of entertainers from the twenty-somethings.”
Though the festival and Rebik thought the the team would be a good fit, the students weren’t as sure. Booking a festival as big as Stagecoach is a huge time commitment, as the team had to take time off of class, learn the steps and fundraise to pay for costumes and transportation. However, Rebik remained positive.
“It’s been a challenge,” she said. “I think it’s been a good challenge.”
In mid-January, the students agreed to perform and preparation began. CLDC had exposure to square dancing at barn dances thrown by the club, but not many members had formal practice or training. CLDC had a weekend crash course to prep the members.
“We had the concept that because these are fast learners, we could do what’s called a blast class,” Rebik said. “We did one weekend [with] five sessions. They were able to dance, integrated into a local square-dance, in one weekend. It’s phenomenal. They are like sponges.”
Though the crash course was difficult, it proved to be effective.
“Over three days we had 12 hours of nonstop lessons,” construction management junior and CLDC President Trey Garcia said. “We were on our feet all day, grinding. It was a lot, a lot of work to put in. It was a great time though.”
Unlike square dancing, line dancing is usually choreographed and the group knows the exact moves for each song. Square dancing is another ballgame. Square dancers memorize several steps before the dance. During the dance, a designated caller announces a move to the dancers that they complete on the spot. The dance relies heavily on partners and group participation.
“[With] square dancing you have to be aware of everyone else in your square,” computer engineering sophomore Christian Johansen said. “[With] line dancing you do have to have awareness of the people around you, but you can just jump right in. You can try to learn a line dance right there. With square dancing it’s a little bit harder to do that. If you mess up often, the rest of your square will as well. It’s really a team sport.”
Though attempting a new dance style can be daunting, Rebik is confident in the team’s ability to try new things and broaden their talents.
“Our line dancers are not afraid to try new styles of dancing,” Rebik said. “They are not afraid to get in there and be a little silly, dress up in traditional square dancing clothing and they are going to look great.”
Still, some apprehensions remain for the team. Grossing $21.9 million and having 75,000 attendees per day at last year’s festival, Stagecoach is the third-highest grossing festival of any kind in the world, trailing Coachella and Outside Lands, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Architectural engineering junior Allie Fernandez said pressure on the team’s performance comes from the high level of talent that has taken the stage at the festival in years past.
“We are going to be performing with people who have been square dancing [for] a long time,” she said. “There is a lot of pressure on us, especially because we are representing our college and young people all together.
Worries aside, many CLDC fans are eager to see the team perform. Garcia said CLDC is the only college group performing at Stagecoach, so word has circulated about the team’s debut.
“Darren, our practice caller, said people up in Canada heard about us and want to come see us perform,” Garcia said. “It will be pretty cool.”