My introduction to country dancing took place in 1980 when I attended a United Cerebral Palsy benefit at a local country lounge. There were several country bands entertaining the crowd throughout the day. The dance floor was packed with line dancers and couples making their way around the floor. What a spectacular site for a country music lover. With little to no dance background I knew I needed to find out where to learn these dances. That night I noticed a sign on the wall that said free lessons would be offered beginning in 3 months.
I couldn’t wait that long ! I found classes at several locations around Portland and Vancouver. I was enjoying myself so much that I found myself taking lessons and dancing several nights a week.
Often at the classes I attended, students who had difficulty learning some of the steps would come to me for help. I would take them to another dance floor (where available) or to a corner of the lounge where we would not be a distraction to the ongoing class. I would carefully break the steps down so that they were easier to learn. *I have found over the years that students have many learning styles and I just have to find what works for each individual.
My instructors began asking me to help at events and classes that they were teaching around the Portland Vancouver Metro area – from Longview, Washington to Salem, Oregon which I really enjoyed. In the summer of 1983, I was asked to teach my first line dance on my own at the largest country dance club in Portland “The Flower Drum”. After agreeing to teach, I learned that this would be during the Rose Festival – the Navy ships would be in-port and that there was a huge country dance event taking place in Portland that would bring dancers from all over the USA to town. The club booked several radio promotions advertising the band that would be playing as well as the fact that there would be dance lessons. The place was packed ! My first solo class when very well. Several students and experienced dancers complemented me on my teaching skills. One couple who were nationally recognized in the country dance community told me that I was one of the best instructors they had experienced. Wow, what a compliment!
As they say, the rest is history. Country dance and dance instruction has since been a very important part of my life ever since. I have been teaching weekly lessons since 1985 as well as teaching at events attended by as many as 500 participants. My enjoyment comes from seeing the very tentative student at the beginning of the hour break out in a big smile just a few minutes later, when they realize “Hey, I’m dancing!”
Over the years I’ve taught weekly lessons at several local clubs beginning at Jubitz (Ponderosa Lounge), Blue Moon Tavern, The Red Steer, Jollies, The Spare Room, Six Point Inn, Big Daddy’s OT, Silver Star Saloon and North Portland Eagles Lodge.
My Philosophies regarding C/W Dance Instruction:
It is extremely important to me to teach dances exactly as choreographed. I have the utmost respect for those who take the time and put in the effort to create the dances we all enjoy. Changing steps in a dance for whatever reason (don’t like it, can’t do it, etc) to me is just plain wrong.
As a nationally known and well-respected instructor/choreographer once said: “If you don’t like it or any “part” of it, don’t teach it.” “Never, Ever, Change it.” Changing the steps to a dance is like changing the words to a song – it’s disrespectful of the artist/choreographer. If you are taking lessons from me and learned variations or learned the steps differently; out of respect for your fellow classmates please save them for after class as it can be very distracting when folks are trying to learn.
Line Dances: A Line Dance is a Line Dance is a Line Dance ! The whole idea and concept of line dancing is for everyone on the floor to be moving together, creating a beautiful “moving” picture. For me nothing is more pleasing to the eye than to see a large group moving in time, together, to the beat of the music. Slight variations are occasionally provided by choreographers. However, on the “social” dance floor, continually doing variation after variation or facing a different “wall” than others on the floor – does not fit with the whole idea of “Line Dancing”, It takes away from the “look”, it violates the whole concept of the “LINE” Multiple variations and turns should be reserved for the competition floor.
Dance Floor Etiquette: I believe in it, I teach it, I stress its importance. I also understand that not everyone knows about it and not everyone will choose to follow it. However, if you keep in mind that if everyone follows Dance Floor Etiquette – it allows more people to be on the dance floor at the same time without bumping into one another.
Thank You, and Keep On Dancing !