square and round dance in eastern ontario

Paul Adams

Paul Adams started Traditional Square Dancing in 1954, at the age of twelve, at Grays Barn near Ramsayville, Ontario. Paul’s father was a fiddle player and Square Dance Caller and Paul accompanied the family on Saturday evenings to the local dances, learning to Square Dance with his mother while his father played fiddle and called the dances. Paul soon noticed that if he asked a girl his age to dance a Waltz or a Two-step they would likely refuse, however, if he asked them to Square Dance they would quickly accept, so it didn’t take him long to figure out that if he wanted to dance with a girl, Square Dancing was the way to go!

Paul’s father also taught a group of Junior Farmers to Square Dance and they would go on to compete at many Fall Fairs throughout the Ottawa Valley. From the Square Dance books his father had, Paul studied and memorized all the different dances including: Dip & Dive, Bird In The Cage, Lady Round Lady and The Grapevine Twist. On Saturday evenings when there weren’t any dances to attend there would always be a house party and that is where Paul got his start as a Traditional Caller.

In 1958, a Modern Square Dance Caller from Ottawa came to Ramsayville to teach Modern Western Square Dancing to the local school students. Paul and his sister, Mary, attended these classes, however, there weren’t many, if any, Modern Square Dances where children could attend so they continued with Traditional Square Dancing.

In 1961, Paul began a four-year tour of duty with The Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment of Canada as a piper. Upon taking his release from the military in January, 1965, Paul returned to Ottawa and began his 37-year career working for Otis Elevator Company and, more importantly, he met Judy Smythe. Paul and Judy married in May, 1967, bought a home in Orleans and started their family.

In 1972, Paul and Judy, along with neighbours Karl and Edna Williscroft began teaching Traditional Square Dancing to their Queenswood Village neighbours at social community gatherings. A year later, when dancers expressed an interest in learning Modern Square Dancing, Mr. Burt Harvie, who had recently been posted to Rockliffe Airbase, was contacted and hired to teach them. In the little community shack the neighbours had built for social community events, The Village Squares was born, with Paul & Judy serving as the President Couple. For forty-five years, The Village Squares has continued to dance every Wednesday night in that very same community centre.

During the 1974-1975 dance season, Paul convinced Burt to teach him to call Modern and, with Judy’s encouragement and support, began to hone his skills by calling one tip a night. In September of ’75, Paul & Judy began teaching their first new dancer class and four squares of new dancers graduated in the Spring of ’76. A couple of weeks later, Paul called at the Ottawa Square and Round Dance Association’s Spring Jamboree, his first open dance.

In September ’76, Burt and his family were posted back to B.C. and Paul & Judy were hired as the Village Squares Caller Couple, a position they’ve held for 42 years. Eager to improve their abilities as instructors, Paul & Judy twice attended The Earl Johnston/Al Brundage Callers School in Connecticut and Virginia. Paul will tell you that it was attending this callers’ school that he learned so much about calling, including the invaluable technique of sight calling. Paul & Judy were calling and teaching The Village Squares, two nights per week, one for the Village Squares Beginner class of four squares and one for the Village Squares Mainstream Club when they were contacted by the Grenville Gremlins with an offer to become their club’s caller couple. Accepting the offer, two more nights of calling were added to Paul & Judy’s schedule. Not only was Paul calling four nights a week now, on club nights, for both the Village Squares and the Grenville Gremlins, Judy taught Round Dancing for the half hour before the square dancing started and cued rounds between the square dance tips.

Soon after, Paul & Judy were hired to call Open Dances in Kingston, Napanee, Cornwall, Montreal and Peterborough. With the increasing momentum and growth of Modern Square Dancing, 1978 brought about the 1st Canadian Square and Round Dance Convention, held in Edmonton, AB. Eager to participate with the 6000+ registered dancers and callers from across the nation, Paul and Judy packed up their two children, a babysitter and the family dog in their van, hauling their tent trail across Canada to attend. Taking in many of Canada’s great sights along the way and experiencing many memorable adventures, Paul and Judy took part in the Penticton Jamboree (Penticton, BC) and the Kelowna Peach Festival (Kelowna, BC) before arriving in Edmonton for three days of dancing to callers and calling to dancers from across the nation. What an unforgettable experience!

In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Square Dancing was moving away from memorized routines and learning new calls toward more formation & definition choreography. As so many new calls were being written, note services publishing material on how to use these calls were becoming overwhelmed. CallerLab, an international association of Square Dance Callers, began to concentrate on positional dancing. This was in an effort to control the number of new calls and enhance positional dancing over the long term, utilizing the full definitions of those calls.

Though Paul discontinued his membership with CallerLab after almost a decade of calling, he continues to adhere to all of the CallerLab rules, guidelines, programs and code of ethics. With Plus level dancing becoming the “new Mainstream”, Paul & Judy hosted a Plus workshop in the summer of 1980, enabling Mainstream dancers to dance in the Plus hall when they attended the 2nd Canadian Square & Round Dance Convention, which was being held this time in Ottawa.

The success of the workshop and numerous dancer requests led to the conception of PJ’s Plus Club, which, in its hey-day, hosted fifteen squares at W.E. Gowling E.S. in the west end of the city and ran successfully for thirty-six years, until Paul & Judy closed the club in April 2016. In addition to PJs, Paul & Judy formed another club in the early ‘80s at the request of the dancers but this time, it was for children of Square Dancers. The Adams Apples learned to Square Dance and were able to attend and participate in the 3rd National Convention in Halifax in 1982 with their parents. Two years later, some of these children, along with their parents, were invited to dance on the NAC stage at a Gala Performance hosted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau for the visiting Premier of China. The list of top Canadian talent performing at this event included Les Grand Ballets du Canada, The Canadian Brass, opera singer Maureen Forrester, local fiddle player Peter Dawson and Square Dance Caller Paul Adams. Being invited to participate in this event was quite an honour. Not only was this an opportunity to showcase Square Dancing to top Canadian Officials and elite national talent attending the Gala, but also globally as the event was televised live via satellite around the world!

This was before the days of live streaming via the internet and fortunately, one of Paul & Judy’s neighbours owned a VCR and were able to record the event so they could watch the Gala themselves afterward.In 1993, after 15 years as the Club Caller for the Grenville Gremlins, Paul made the tough decision to leave, as fatigue from work as an Otis supervisor, driving, calling, teaching and his Rheumatoid Arthritis flare-ups were taking their toll on his health.

Always dedicated to supporting dancers’ interests in improving and challenging themselves, later that year, Paul & Judy formed the A1 Club, Adams Aces, and a few years later, hosted Sunday afternoon Improve your Plus Definition Dancing workshops. In 2007, The Cookie Club was formed for dancers wanting to dance a full Advanced level program.

Outside of club commitments, Paul and Judy, along with Caller Couple Keith & Rita Watters, hosted a decade of sold-out New Year’s Eve Dances and for five years they hosted The Lake Dore Camp & Dance Weekends.

On occasion, Paul has also been known to put his poetic skills to use. He has written lyrics to singing calls celebrating milestone anniversaries of The Grenville Gremlins and The Village Squares and at the ’96 Convention in Edmonton, to promote the upcoming ‘98 convention being hosted for a second time in Ottawa, P aul wrote lyrics to a singing call encouraging dancers to attend the event. It was during that ’98 Convention that Paul had the privilege to call for dozens of squares of dancers on the lawn of Parliament Hill and, for the final tip to close out the event, called “Canadian Saturday Night”, lyrics he wrote encapsulating the incredible time everyone had during the Convention.

Paul & Judy are active members of The Ottawa Area Caller Association, have chaired OACA meetings and have served on the EOSARDA Board. Paul is credited with coaching at least three Ottawa Callers as they began their calling career. Never missing an opportunity to promote the Square Dance movement, over the years, they have worked in local Intermediate (Gr. 7 & 8) and Secondary schools teaching students to Square Dance, called many party nights, commonly called “One Night Stands”, and provided entertainment for seniors living in local Residences. In 2000, Paul & Judy were honoured to receive the Trillium Award of Merit from the Ontario Federation in recognition of their contribution to the Square and Round Dance movement in Ontario, and in 2017 they received the Ontario 150 Award from the Ontario Government for their efforts as community builders and promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.

Paul & Judy have dedicated many decades to the Square Dance movement, be it in the form of Traditional or Modern Square Dancing, Round Dancing to Level 3 & 4, Contra Dancing, Line Dancing or Clogging. They have continually acted in the best interest of the dancers and have done their best to support and advance the Square Dance movement. Square dancing has afforded Paul & Judy many opportunities to travel and meet some incredible people, forming lasting friendship along the way. Paul & Judy’s motto is: never abuse, overuse, or cheat the dancers, treat your partner like your microphone, and try to leave the movement as good as it was when you found it