Line dancing, anyone?
If you’ve been to weddings and gatherings, you’ve probably jumped into the line dance to try and keep up with the directions given in the music: “Move to the left, move to the right…”
Line dance has all participants form lines on the dance floor with all dancers facing the same direction. They follow steps that are given in the song, or steps that are associated with the dance.
It’s not a waltz, a tango, a polka, yet each dance has a rhythm and a tempo.
The line dancing program offered by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District instructor Ginny Coppess has been a staple on Mondays at the Irwin Center for the past six years.
“My goal is friendship and dance to have fun, and it’s also exercise,” she said.
The park district group has favorites they like to hear during the 90-minute session, and they aren’t necessarily what a party DJ plays. For example, the park district group does dance the Electric Slide, but it doesn’t use the recognized party song, Coppess said.
She’s not adverse to teaching new dances and will create the dance steps for participants.
“If I’ve never taught the dance before, I’ll turn on the music, I‘ll do a demo of the dance, turn off the music and then we work on the basic steps,” Coppess said. For example, she’ll call out: “One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight, start with the right then the left 6 steps and then 2 back.”
“And it’s four walks around the room and I’ll put on the music and we’ll dance as best as we can, since it’s the first time. If I teach a new dance, I’ll probably do a review for three to four weeks so everyone can get used to it,” she explained.
While these line dances may be just six or eight steps, they help invigorate the mind and exercise the body.
Participants are generally women in their 50s and older. They come for the camaraderie and the exercise. Some among the group of 20 to 25 regulars will socialize or go out to lunch after the Monday session.
At 88, Luvenia Sykes is the oldest member of the group. She’s been there dancing since the beginning, she says. Her daughter enrolled her to get her up and moving. She’s also participating in activities at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Homewood resident Charlene Garth had tragedy strike twice in a week. First her husband died, and then two days later her daughter died. “I was looking for something to do” and happened upon line dancing “and I’ve been loving it ever since. I’ve met some beautiful ladies, and an outstanding teacher, of course.”
Nancy Gicewicz of Homewood joined the group five years after being part of a township line dancing group.
Coppess said the group isn’t a beginner class, but she has had beginners join. If they catch on, they stay and graduate into the group of regulars who are intermediate to experienced dancers.
Coppess and her husband are ballroom dancers, but she learned line dancing with her sister.
“My sister and I went in 1988 to Purdue Calumet where they offered line dancing,” she recalled. They took lessons “for six weeks. We loved it.” Together they joined a line dancing club that met weekly.
“I picked up the dances easily and I was invited to become a member of the National Teachers Association.” She trained in Joliet and worked with mentors. Coppess said she “went for a year and learned the line dances and they gradually gave me a chance to teach.”
She’s had a group at St. Kieran’s Church for more than 10 years, one in Steger and another at a church in Homewood.
She developed her own Country & Western line dance group in the 1990s called “Smokin’ Boots Country Dancers.” After a time, interest in dancing only C&W waned. Today her line dancing group is “Rockin’ Line Dancers.” Supporters of park district summer music programs in Irwin Park may have seen them get up and dance as the entertainment performs.
One thing that has changed is the group’s volunteer work. Before the pandemic, the dancers would go to senior centers and other places to demonstrate and get people to join them. But when the country went into quarantine, so did the dance volunteers, Coppess said.