Square dancing is supposed to be fun and full of friendship. The more than 500 square dancers who came off the cruise ship to dance at Centennial Hall last Wednesday showed exactly those characteristics. The problem came from the organizers of the event, Cruise Masters and Holland America. They were completely ignorant to the basic spirit of square dancing and did a poor job as hosts by not only neglecting to extend invitation to local dancers but barring our entry entirely.
The reason dancers signed up for this cruise was to meet and dance with people from all over the world. Why weren't local dancers included? The nondancer hosts of the Hootenanny stated that we, the locals, were not invited since we had not paid for the cruise and therefore had no right to be included. This made it impossible for anyone from Juneau to dance.
Not knowing this beforehand, I dug out an old petticoat and dancing shoes and followed the signs that said "Square Dancers Welcome." Arriving at the time advertised on the banner, I was shocked to be denied entry to the fun and festivities. Offering to pay a cover charge was not an option nor would they let me ask any dancers in charge if I could join in. As I sat outside the doors, I talked to dancers who were pleased to meet a young Alaskan dancer but showed disappointment with their hosts for not letting me dance. Some even approached the organizers to complain with little success. At the end of the day, one man did sneak me inside for the last few songs. It felt good to dance again after six years but also made me more furious at being excluded in the first place.
The article printed in our newspaper simply talked about a fun and friendly event that was held locally. There was even a quote from dancer and cruise escort Rick Ewing, stating "I wish we could get more people out, and more younger people." Mr. Ewing would likely have been outraged with the organizers had he known about the problem they had caused. Although Juneau no longer has an active square dance club, there are still dancers like myself who should join together in expressing their anger at being needlessly prohibited from dancing in our own town. It could have been very easy to include all dancers interested.