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Getting in line

Accessibility and numberof dances lure people to step up country with style

Accessibility and numberof dances lure people to step up country with style

April 09, 2006|By KRISTIN WILSON

With all 50 members of her class standing in neat rows, Linda Henry turned up the volume and with the driving country beat of Rednex's "Cotton Eye Joe," the room was set in motion.

They shuffled, spun, clapped, tapped their toes and shook their derrires in time to the music during the class at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Halfway. The line moved forward, back and to the side, but as the famous fiddle tune sped up, feet got crossed, and some dancers found themselves spinning in circles.

Before long, line dance became a contact sport. One dancer's misstep and an out-of-sync movement from another resulted in a minor collision in the middle of the dance floor.

Still, it was big smiles and giggles that marked a recent beginners' line-dance lesson, rather than furrowed brows and scowls. While the new recruit country dancers were still getting down all their steps, they clearly were enjoying themselves.

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"The people make it fun," explains Sandra Nelder, 60, of Martinsburg, W.Va. "We all mess up at all times. We're all here to help one another."

Classes welcome new dancers

In the Tri-State area, there are two major country dance associations that get hundreds of dancers of all ability levels moving.

Some of these dancers got into country dancing because they love country music. Others showed up to a dance with friends, not knowing what they were getting into. Whatever the reason, learning a line dance and two-step can be addictive, they say.

With all 50 members of her class standing in neat rows, Linda Henry turned up the volume and with the driving country beat of Rednex's "Cotton Eye Joe," the room was set in motion.

They shuffled, spun, clapped, tapped their toes and shook their derrires in time to the music during the class at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Halfway. The line moved forward, back and to the side, but as the famous fiddle tune sped up, feet got crossed, and some dancers found themselves spinning in circles.

Before long, line dance became a contact sport. One dancer's misstep and an out-of-sync movement from another resulted in a minor collision in the middle of the dance floor.

Still, it was big smiles and giggles that marked a recent beginners' line-dance lesson, rather than furrowed brows and scowls. While the new recruit country dancers were still getting down all their steps, they clearly were enjoying themselves.

"The people make it fun," explains Sandra Nelder, 60, of Martinsburg, W.Va. "We all mess up at all times. We're all here to help one another."

Step up without a partner

For Casey Moser, 18, country dancing is a way to enjoy her favorite music. While her classmates at South Hagerstown High School might not dig it, she'd pick country over pop or hip-hop any day.

Line dance is just the thing for Nelder, who always loved to dance but had trouble finding a partner, since her husband shies away from the dance floor.

"The man I married, he doesn't dance at all. I mean he has no rhythm - none," Nelder says. But because line dance doesn't require a partner, she's able to keep her dancing shoes in constant practice.

For Alicia Platter, 11, learning line dance is actually helping her in school.

Learning coordination and memorizing precise foot patterns gives her more flexibility in physical education class, says the Smithsburg Middle School student.

Thousands of steps

Once beginning students get hooked, they can spend a lifetime learning country dances, says Linda Henry, a country dance instructor and DJ.

"There's probably 10,000 to 12,000 line dances out there," she says. And new dances are created all the time. They range from basic steps and movements to highly complex and detailed routines.

At a recent intermediate class, Henry taught a dance called Tequila Crazy. Looking totally focused - and sometimes frustrated - her students drilled the multiple steps over and over again.

Think this kind of dancing looks easy? Here's what Tequila Crazy sounded like as Henry called it out to her dancers:

"Walk, walk, kick ball change. Half turn and half turn. Rock step, full turn shuffle, back and a half turn shuffle. Rock step, back, back cross. Rock and cross. Triple step, behind sweep, behind and cross. Rock step, sailor step."

Got it? Now do it again.

Almost as many dances as steps

Henry and her husband Bill Henry got into country dancing in 1993. Their new hobby soon became a career, after Linda Henry started teaching country dancing and providing DJ services.

Between the Hagerstown Country Western Dance Association and the Cumberland Valley Country Western Dance Association there is a country dance almost every Saturday night in the Tri-State area. In addition, line-dance lessons are offered Thursday nights at The New Del-Mar Inn, west of Hagerstown.

Cancun Cantina West on Dual Highway offers a new venue for those interested in country dancing. The dance club, restaurant and bar offers beginners and advanced line-dance lessons three nights a week, says Jennifer Hare, managing partner. Wednesday through Saturday nights, the club will have country and dance music, including national and local country bands.

Nontraditional line dances such as the Cha-Cha Slide and the Booty Call "pack the dance floor," Hare says.

Start dancing

For more information about the Hagerstown Country Western Dance Association call 301-797-6786, 1-304-263-4041 or 1-717-263-0234. Cumberland Valley Country Western Dance Association can be reached at 1-717-762-6388.

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