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BBC to record square dance

BY LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

Even Paducah's proudest residents will admit that the British Broadcasting Company doesn't often have cause to drop in on this town. It takes something special to lure one of the network's film crews to western Kentucky.

Something like a square dance.

An upcoming documentary about Southern music will bring the BBC to Paducah, where they'll interview local musicians and film a square dance at the Elks Lodge.

"Paducah is where the Mississippi Delta meets Appalachia, so we are the perfect chapter to go between blues ... and bluegrass," said JD Wilkes, a Paducah musician who helped organize the network's visit.

Wilkes also coordinated the dance, inviting a Colorado-based musician and square dance caller called T-Claw to town. These days, traditional square dances are about as rare in Paducah as visits from foreign film crews.

"As far as I know, there hasn't been much of a traditional style square dance in Paducah in a long time," said T-Claw, whose nickname "has something to do with toenails, or maybe the clawhammer banjo."

He would know. A Nashville native, he fell in love with the art of square dance calling while living in Olympia, Wash. He now tours the country in an attempt to generate interest in what he considers a dying art form, instructing new dancers and calling out the moves at square dancing events. He's managed to find about three ongoing square dances in Kentucky and started his own revival in Louisville.

"Everyone is super skeptical. The term 'square dance' has a lot of stigma, but if you can get anyone through the door, the upper 90th percentile loves it. Even if they don't dance much, they love being around it," T-Claw said.

The traditional dances T-Claw calls don't have much to do with what people see on TV. That's modern Western square dancing, and it requires extensive lessons. The wide-skirted dresses, cowboy hats and bolo ties are often mandated by dress code. And you're not supposed to mess up.

Friday's event, by contrast, welcomes beginners and non-dancers. T-Claw will offer a half-hour dance lesson before the dancing begins at 8 p.m. For those who don't wish to dance or end up in a documentary, it's still a chance to bring and share food, play cards and socialize, he said.

"It's a great way to accelerate meeting new people in a friendly, welcoming environment and have fun," T-Claw said.

Music starts at 7 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 310 North Fourth Street. The dance lesson begins at 7:30 and dancing starts at 8. There will be a $10 donation at the door.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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