For 75 years, Nevada has had what local resident Cheryl Martin calls “our own little piece of the ballroom era.”
Not heavily publicized, the Don-Ce-Sar Dance Club was formed in the fall of 1938, when, according to a 50-year report about the club written by Jake Donellan, “a few couples were trying to find a way to have a dance, a drink and socialize; all of this without getting tossed in jail or talked about.”
The club — named by one of its charter members, Jack Chivers, after the Don CeSar Registry Resort in St. Petersburg Beach, Fla. — started with 35 chosen couples as a formal, ballroom-style dance club. The dance season went from September to March each year, and usually included five dances.
“You get a few people together who are good drinkers and can keep their mouths shut about who they were drinking with the night before. Then you rent the Legion Hall that is just across the street from the Story County Courthouse and jail,” Donellan wrote, adding, “it helps to be on good terms with the law (which we were).”
Donellan wrote that in the early days, dance club members would gather to have a few drinks before the dance, and maybe dinner, and the club continued these festivities until early 1943. Gas and tire rationing, and Uncle Sam’s need for a few people to help out in the war, halted the dance club briefly, but it regrouped in November of 1945.
Donellan was the first president of the Don-Ce-Sar Dance Club, which grew to an eventual membership of 50 couples. According to Martin, couples had to be married and had to be invited into membership as vacancies occurred. In its earlier days, said Martin, 62, who has been a member of the club since the early ’80s, all women were divided into committees of about 10 people each and each committee would plan one of the five dances for the season. The committee would determine the theme, decorations … all the things that helped with the ambiance of the dance. Because of the random mix of women who served on each committee, it was a way for people to become better acquainted with the others in the club.
“Back in the day, this (being part of and attending dances) was a priority — people scheduled around it,” Martin said, noting that it was a somewhat secret club. Martin said in its early years, before the mid to late 1980s, the dances included dance cards. “They (the men) would have to go around and fill up their dance card — there were 16 dances that they would have to dance with different partners.” Martin added that during the middle of the dance, there were also several “mixer dances” that would help people mingle.
Today, Martin said, the club has evolved to match the way that society has evolved. “People are busier now. Dance club happens and if you can’t make it, you can’t make it.”
While Donellan didn’t list when, the club eventually relocated its dances to the Indian Creek Country Club. That happened, he wrote, when the country club (in its earlier building) installed furnaces and was heated in the wintertime. The dances are still being held at the Indian Creek Country Club today.
Martin said the current dance season runs from November to March and includes four dances, usually held the first Saturday of the month.
“We have a social hour from 7:30-8:30, the music starts around 8:30 and plays till 11,” she said. The club has provided dance lessons at times during the cocktail hour, which Martin said is really fun, and is helpful to the younger members, as the Don-Ce-Sar Dance Club is about the old dances — the fox trot, waltz, swing, etc., even though newer music from the 60s, 70s and 80s is now part of the music mix.
Today’s Don-Ce-Sar Dance Club features live bands, including recent performances by FreeStyle of Ames and Planet Passenger of Jewell. Local band teacher Nate Fair, she said, has performed with his band for the dance club. “Some of these bands have performed many times, and for the first time, this year we also had a deejay to save some money and that worked out really well,” Martin said.
To help pay for the bands/deejay, the country club rent, food and bar, couples pay $140 in dues each season. And memberships today aren’t as exclusive as in the past; people who are interested are generally allowed to join.
Heidi Grimm, the current club president, and her husband Jason joined after they attended a dance club as guests of Melissa and Adam Egeland. “We had so much fun dancing and socializing. We like that it is a guaranteed night out with friends… And I really like music and dancing and dressing up,” Grimm said.
Grimm hopes that the Don-Ce-Sar Dance Club will continue to live on in Nevada. “It is part of Nevada’s history and it is something fun to have here in Nevada, so we do not have to travel to Ames or Des Moines. I also like that this is an opportunity to support local businesses, like the country club, and any local bands that we might have,” she said.
Martin said she likes both the dancing and the socializing. “It’s an evening of doing something unique. It’s not a ballgame,” she said.
The last two dances for this 75th anniversary season of the Don-Ce-Sar Dance Club are scheduled for Feb. 1, with the band Old School, and March 1, with the band Planet Passenger. “These are great opportunities for people to come out and see what we’re all about,” Martin said. It’s $20 for a guest to attend, and people need to contact Grimm first, so she can plan for the additional numbers. “We welcome married couples to come dance with us,” Martin said.
The club also hopes to make the March 1 dance a “retro” night. “We’d love to have past members come and take part, and we might include things from the past, like dance cards.” Those who can attend are also asked to contact Grimm ahead of time.
Grimm can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do not have access to email, please call Marlys Barker at the Nevada Journal, 515-382-2161 about wanting to attend.