Bill Alkire and Susan English
Contras, squares, international
Bill Alkire grew up with dance as an integral part of his family's culture. Along with singing as a family his first experience with dance leadership was playing party games, an activity pursued by a circle of couples. The Methodist Church, to which he belonged, frowned on dancing but that was really a courtship activity. Young men and women promenaded to songs, spontaneously reprising some of their verses off the top of their heads.
He was only 16 when he really got interested in calling. His brother started a square dance band and Bill turned out to be the poorest musician so he got to be the caller.
While attending Ohio State University, Alkire made extra money running square dance parties. A local studio, looking for a square dance caller to sell packages of dance lessons hired him. While stationed in the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., he danced every night of the week.
When he moved to Wooster, Ohio in the 1950s as a community mental health professional, there was a square dance group meeting at Layton School, and they asked him to call. He's called there ever since.
As his career flourished, so did his hobby. He was spending all hie vacation time leading dancing and took an early retirement option to spend more time dancing.
His hobbies include the baskets he weaves from plant fibers, using his training in biology to determine which season species of leaves will be most malleable; and in the musical instruments he makes, such as the delicate tobacco box gourd fiddle, made with gourds he grows in his own garden, and highlighted by a hand-carved walnut arm.
Alkire and his wife, Susan English, at the mere mention of a two-step, tango, cha-cha, or rumba leap to their feet in synch to demonstrate it.
Bill has been on the staff of the Buckeye Leadership Workshop of Ohio and other camps, schools, and workshops and teaches at Wayne Center for the Arts and for Wooster Parks and Recreation. Beginning with dance workshops at Berea College in 1948, it has been a continuing growth process wherever he's been; when he's not teaching, he learns.
Alkire espouses the far-reaching, positive impact of dance, particularly the way it creates an instant community. Touch, eye contact, and non-verbal communication are all part of dance which really pulls out parts of a person that normally might not come out.
Alkire recently stepped down from leadership of the Cedar Valley Cloggers, the Wooster group he founded and taught every year for 27 years until 2003.
He received a plaque honoring him for his quarter century of involvement with Cedar Valley Cloggers, one of the gifts members presented to him at the organization's annual Christmas dinner.