Looking to dancein all the right places
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Grace Wilson (right) and Connie DiJohn kick their heels line dancing at the Jim Thorpe/Penn Kidder Senior Center where Wilson teaches line dancing on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., except for holidays and bad weather. Classes are free and the public is invited.
Grace Wilson of Albrightsville is not only looking to dance in all the right places, she's taken up the proverbial baton, or whatever is its equivalent in dancing, and teaches line dancing at the Jim Thorpe/Penn Kidder Senior Center.
Not bad for a 79-year-old who didn't know the first thing about line dancing when her friend introduced her to it in 1999. "A group used to meet at the Albrightsville firehouse," Wilson said. "My friend loved line dancing and talked me into trying it with her."
"I love to dance but my husband does not," Wilson continued. "But in line dancing, you don't need a partner. You dance with a group. It was perfect."
"We learned maybe 20 dances, and taught them to anyone who was willing and wanted to learn. It was fun. It keeps you in shape, and keeps you moving and active. We danced: The Waltz Across Texas, Alabama, That's Where I Belong, and Red-Hot Salsa."
Wilson began teaching line dancing when the Center moved to the former Stoney Creek Hotel at Rt. 903 and Smith Road, and continued when the Center moved to its current location at 1874 State Route 903 in Penn Forest Township outside Jim Thorpe.
"Line dancing is usually a form of Country-Western dancing," she explained. "Most of the music is country-western, although you can do it to almost any music that has the right beat."
Although line dancing is popular with both men and women, her Center classes have tended to attract women. "Many women like to dance," Wilson said. "But not their husbands. So you can dance with others in a group without needing a partner."
"I had no background in dancing before I started line dancing, none at all" she noted. "The first time I line danced, I loved it. We went to places that held line dancing usually Ramblers Ranch, which is now Penn's Peak. Once a week they had line dancing groups where they taught the steps and gave you a chance to dance for the evening."
Her friend suggested starting a line dancing class at the Center. "At the first session we practiced several dances. The ladies in the Center enjoyed watching and soon joined us." Even though the old Stoney Creek Hotel center was cramped and rickety, their classes rarely drew more than ten dancers, so it worked out there, and was even better at the new location. "You can line dancing anywhere if you have a little bit of room and some music," she said.
"When someone first come to our class, I start with an easy dance, not too fast, and with only a few steps to learn. When they get comfortable with that, we can move onto another dance, maybe one that moves a little faster and adds a few more steps."
Readying to teach, Wilson slips off her street shoes and into her Western boots. "It's better to dance with boots with leather soles. Most street shoes have the rubber soles. Rubber sticks when you want to slide. You can't get the proper feeling."
"For beginners, we start with a dance called Alabama. It only has four groups of steps. It's easy and it's not too fast."
Wilson teachers at the Center on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., except for holidays and bad weather. "In the one-hour session, we typically do four or five dances," she said. "If we are teaching a new dancer, we go slower-it takes longer."
"Line dancing keeps you young. It keeps you limber. It keeps you in shape," Wilson advised. "You feel young by being active, by being interested in things, and learning new things-and it's something you can do year-round."