Health benefits of line dancing haven't gone out of style

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, January 26, 2014

JANESVILLE—Janet McLean spoke clearly into her microphone from center stage so the 40 line dancers could follow her instructions.

“Toe forward, there's your step, bounce, bounce, grape vine, toe forward, step, step, bounce, bounce,” McLean said as she demonstrated the sequences of steps.

Eight lines of dancers mimicked her moves.

Then McLean shouted, “Five, six, seven go!”

“This is your happy song, so look happy,” she said.

Everyone in the Janesville Senior Center's Line Dance 1 class bounced in unison to the beat of the music.

About 30 people have been attending the basic beginner line dancing class that began Jan. 9. It teaches the basics of line dancing through easy dances to those who have no prior experience, McLean said.

Even though line dancing kicked off more than two decades ago, it's still being danced to today.

"It is a great way to have fun and as well as getting exercise," said McLean, who has been teaching the dance for 19 years at the center she supervises.

The senior center also offers two other line dance classes each week. Line Dance 2 on Tuesdays is a beginner class for dancers who know the basics of line dance. Line Dance 3 on Mondays is an intermediate class.

"Many of us find ourselves addicted to it in a good way, but the dancers also love the music, gain confidence as they master the dance and form friendships," she said.

Line dancing has its roots in country and western and folk traditions. It became a modern dance trend in 1992 along with the Billy Ray Cyrus song “Achy Breaky Heart.”

"It is one of the best (fitness) activities you can do for total body wellness, McLean said. "Dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while allowing you to engage in a social activity."

She believes line dancing is especially stimulating to the mind and can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The senior center isn't the only place that offers line dancing.

"I take lessons Thursday evenings at the Marine Corps League. We teach the same dances (at the senior center) so people can come here, as well. The music is only one-third country; the rest is variety," she said.

As long as it has a good beat, people will enjoy dancing to it, McLean said.

Joyce Archer has been line dancing for 15 years and attends all three line dance classes at the Janesville Senior Center.

“I come to the beginner class because there's such good camaraderie, and it's fun watching others learn,” she said.

Archer, 78, Janesville, also knows first-hand line dancing is good exercise for the body and mind.

“Dancing is the best thing for your health and mind because you have to remember the steps. Besides that, it's fun,” she said.

Beginner Deb Stover enrolled in her first class three weeks ago to get some exercise. During her first class, the 63-year-old Janesville woman was lost, sweating and worn out. But she came back.

“The first four dances were repeats of the first class, so I got it,” Stover said.

“It doesn't feel like exercising,” she said. “I'm having a good time with new friends who are so supportive. Everybody keeps coming back because it's fun.”

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