Call them, and they will come.
That’s the premise on which the Australian national square dancing convention, held this weekend in Bendigo, is based.
Visitors from as far afield as Germany, Canada and Japan will flock to Bendigo Stadium and follow the instructions of expert ‘callers’, the microphone-wielding men and women who dictate the dance moves of light-footed participants.
The dance style is a hybrid of moves and grooves from around the world, first performed in America as a way to bridge divides between different ethnic groups.
Event convenor Mike Davey, from Melbourne, is marking his 43rd year as a devoted square dancer.
He was just a teenager when his parents first “dragged” him to a hoedown, the name sometimes given to a square dance.
“They said, ‘If you don’t like it, you never have to come again’,” Mr Davey remembered.
“I went along and couldn’t wait for the next one.”
Mr Davey now runs two square dance club, the Jaybee Square Wheelers and Mike’s Plus Club, and has called for events across the globe.
He expected as many as 700 people to converge on Bendigo for the annual event – 50 of them callers – and perform moves like the “grand right”, “grand left” and “allamande”.
“A lot of these words were invented,” Mr Davey said.
Bendigo will host a 1960s-inspired event, with hand-painted cut outs of mid-century icons Elvis Presley, Julie Andrews and the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover adorning stadium walls.
An area set aside for refreshments has been nicknamed the Whiskey A Go Go after the 1960s American nightclub franchise.
While the sport was once competitive, it was now solely a social affair, Mr Davey explained.
It was not uncommon for dancers to find romance inside the square either, he said, having met his wife at such an event.
Square dancing will not be the only style on show this weekend, with the stadium also playing host to round dances and clogging, a series of moves Mr Davey likened to tap dancing.
Members of the public are welcome to watch on as dancers perform their off-the-cuff routines, which began on Thursday night and run until Monday evening.
Learn more at www.bendigonational2017.asn.au.