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From “Positively Entertainment” Magazine  – December 2009

by Eric Two Rivers

If you ever found yourself out for a night’s entertainment, listening to some music and suddenly a group of people start dancing in organized lines, with all of them locked-in to a series of steps and almost flawless execution, you may wonder if they are connected on a psychic level. Or, a couple may begin dancing around the floor in what’s called a two-step and you find yourself thinking, “That looks so cool, how do they do that?”

It’s known as country dancing and, here in the Portland/Vancouver area, one of the people most responsible for so many folks knowing how to do it is Connie Jo Collins, owner of CJ’s Country Dance Instruction; and she’s been teaching country dance every week since 1985!

Across the USA, country music is far-and-away the leading radio format and the largest draw in live audiences as well. But here in this area, even with two very strong country-format radio stations, there are very few country bands and even fewer live music venues devoted to the genre. It’s a mystery to this writer. But people love to dance and in Karaoke and on juke boxes through-out the area, there is lots of country played, and lots of folks dancin’. It’s just too much fun not to!

Collins says she can have anyone dancing the two-step within five minutes and it’s true! She did, in fact, have this writer and companion dancing the two-step, even doing a couple of turns, in less than five minutes and it was fun doing it! Many times, this writer watched couples doing this dance; the fellow seemingly effortlessly guiding the lady around the dance floor in a kind of quick-step fashion, spinning her inwards and back as they move as one to the music. Now it’s understood; it’s easy and fun!

Collins has taught country dance since 1985 and has no plan to stop anytime soon. She was at Jubitz for years and has a very long list of companies and corporations in her resume of country dance clients that reads like a Who’s Who of industry in the region. Currently, she’s teaching at Jollies in Vancouver every Wednesday evening, with the first Wednesday of the month devoted to partner dancing and the other Wednesdays spent mostly with line dancing. She’s very flexible about the format and will shift instruction to please whatever direction the majority wants on a given night.

Collins’ specialty is instructing beginners, but they’re not beginners for long. Her motto is “never give up” and her friendly, pleasant attitude and trusting vibe makes everyone around her feel at ease, so they learn quickly. Her students come from as far away as Longview, St. Helens, Gresham, Clackamas, Oregon City, Salem and more, all having a great time. There is a modest fee of $6 for the lessons and a card is available that will get you five lessons for $20, offering a bit of savings. Collins says, “Guys are always needed and welcome,” especially on partner’s night (first Wednesdays).

Jollie’s is a Vancouver landmark, visible east of I-5 just north of the Clark County Amphitheater, for many years. It is one of only two or three venues in our area that caters to country music, with Karaoke music through the week, and live music on weekends. (Please check the Bandstand for listings.) Jollie’s is a full-service bar with an extensive menu, and with CJ’s country dance lessons every Wednesday. Check it out, you’ll be glad you did! (Tell Connie Jo that Eric sent ya!)

Note:   Connie Jo is no longer teaching at Jollies – You’ll find her teaching Monday nights in Vancouver at the Silver Star Saloon (Andresen and Fourth Plain), and three times a month at ilani Casino, Ridgefield, Wa    (Classes start at 7:30pm)

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From “Positively Entertainment” Magazine  – 2006

Country Dance  by CK

Country dance lessons; have you ever thought about it?

For many, dancing to music is a life force issue; feel the music and move. Some people never sit still, they even dance to commercials! Without any formal dance lessons of any kind, some people learn dance steps by watching, moving and feeling the music. If taking a class makes you nervous; if you’re afraid you might mix up right and left, or not follow verbal instructions without the music, you can succeed the first day of the class.

With or without the “buddy system,” a casual date or new friend, country dance lessons can be as exciting as your first teen-age dance. Connie Jo Collins, instructor at the Ponderosa Lounge, warmly greets you, directing you to a place on the dance floor. Collins has a gift for teaching; she is clear, calm and easy to understand. She takes time whenever there is someone needing help, or a little more information.

Collins begins by speaking about the basics of line dance and etiquette on the floor. You can have various styles, be creative or be traditional, straight-up basic, as long as you stay in the flow, even when you are still in the learning process. She starts off slowly, counting the first “1-2-3-4” and then repeats, asking if any one needs more help.

Often, everyone does well and when you fall-in for the line-up, you can be at any position. This gives you lots of freedom to try to get in the swing of things. This writer was in a unique position to view almost everyone across the floor and was fine. When the music starts, you can move right along; no need to feel silly or uncoordinated! Even this writer passed the class!

If you confess any fears to Collins, feel secure that she understands different learning styles. Collins says there are two basic ways people learn in dance lessons: Counting and phrasing.

Connie Jo has taught dance since 1985. She loves to find people who think they can’t dance, because she knows many alternate ways to help people learn. Collins says, ”If someone really has the desire, there isn’t anyone who can’t learn.”

Connie Jo is a wonderful teacher, with the ability to get any party or event off to a “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” No group is too large. She has taught as many as 400 people at one time; also, no group is too small. In addition, Collins promotes several great western bands.

For more information, contact CJ Collins www.cjcountrydance.com

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