Seniors toeing the 'line'

January 29, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

It's 10 o'clock in the morning and about a dozen dancers are kicking up a strut.

A hip-hop song is playing in the background and the group steps, slides and turns to the rhythm.

A female, short in stature, disappears into the sea of movement, clapping her hands to the music, not bothered that she's a little off beat. After all, this is about having fun.

With the party atmosphere, this could be a group of teens learning the latest dance craze. But it's not.

This is a group of older adults who come together once a week to learn line dancing.

Offered by the Washington County Senior Center at Girls Inc., the class meets every Wednesday in the center's gymnasium.

The current session began in December and more people have been showing up for lessons each week, instructor Linda Henry said.

"We have a real cross-section of participants," she said. "Some people love to dance, and enjoy ballroom and jitterbug. Others have a little bit of dance experience, and some tell me they have two left feet."


Regardless of their abilities, when it comes to line dancing, everyone has fun, she said.

Henry said she and her husband have always loved to dance. About 15 years ago, they signed up for line dancing classes.

Today, she teaches at senior centers and clubs across the Tri-State area.

"Everybody loves line dancing," Henry said. "And it's particularly good for senior citizens. It's great exercise and a great social activity. It's also a good workout for the mind, having to remember all the dance steps."

Henry said classes start at the beginner level - "slow and easy" - and progress to the intermediate stage.

"We learn a lot of steps," she said. "But I try to tell people not to give up. People are actually surprised at how fast they do catch on."

Line dancing is nothing new. And it continues to change, becoming more sophisticated and soulful.

"It's not just country-western," Henry said. "You can line dance to any kind of music."

Henry said she uses music from the 1950s and 1960s, Frank Sinatra songs, some country and hip-hop.

"I try to have something for everybody," she said. "I want people to enjoy themselves. That's why I try to add humor to my classes. Line dancing isn't about being serious. It's about having fun, getting out on the floor and being with other people."

Barbara Ward, 65, of Hagerstown, said she saw the class advertised on the senior center calendar and decided to give it a try.

"I don't dance," she said. "But I wanted to do it for the exercise."

Ward said it's also a great way to make new friends.

"It gives you a chance to be with people your own age," she said. "I enjoy it very much."

Wayne Ross, 76, of Hagerstown, said he has always loved to dance.

"But line dancing is a new challenge," he admitted. "I came to see if I could do it."

So far, Ross said, the steps have been relatively easy to follow, "but I need more repetition to let it all sink in. It would be nice if it were offered more than once a week."

Besides the fun of dancing, Ross said the classes will give you "a good aerobic workout."

"You're definitely moving out there," he said. "It's great exercise."

Charlotte Levens of Hagerstown was attending her first class and was glad she decided to participate.

"I love to dance," she said. "I think this will be fun. At least it will get me out and help me forget about my aches and pains."

Kathy Fisher, manager of the senior center, said the classes are free and open to anyone 55 years of age and older. Classes are held on Wednesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. at 626 Washington Ave., Hagerstown.

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