A Timeless Dance

(WOODLAWN) The men and women coming into the Woodlawn Senior Center are bundled up to ward off the cold. They shed their coats as they limber seasoned bodies. In the adjacent gym music is thumping as these dance veterans log in for a dance class.

We’re not talking “Dancing with the Stars.” This is serious business, line dancing. Some of the participants use to do the “Madison” back in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. During the ‘60s and early ‘70s it was hand dancing, and by the ‘70s and ‘80s it was all about the “Bus Stop.” Fast forward to today and you’ll likely see people crowding to the floor, shuffling their feet, and strutting their stuff to the standard line dance songs. You've heard them before, “The Electric Slide,” “Booty Call” or “The Wobble.” That’s for beginners; these days you need an expert to tell you the new combinations so you can keep up with the crowd.

Randy Dennis, radio personality at Magic 95.9, instructs two line dancing classes from 9 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. every Thursday at the Woodlawn Senior Center. The courses are divided between, beginners to intermediate and advance level.

Ruth Daly, a participant in the class, has been line dancing for almost nine years. “I had just retired and I joined the senior center. Three months later, I saw that line dancing was being offered so I decided to try it,” said Daly.

“I don’t have any health issues, just knee problems, and my sister was the one who suggested that I do it to keep me moving. I plan to do line dancing until the day I can’t walk anymore.”

Dennis, a broadcast veteran with more than 30 years experience, is a familiar voice to Baltimoreans. He began line dancing in 1999. The disc jockey says he is always looking for something new to try. “I used to go to hand dance parties and the ladies would always outnumber the guys and they would have to wait on a man to ask them to dance,” said Dennis. “But when a line dance song came on they would light up because they no longer had to wait. So I got the idea to have a Line Dance Happy Hour at a club called Strawberry's 5000 back in ‘99 and they would line up down the street.”

Shortly after 2001, Dennis began equating his own weight loss to the line dancing and got together with some friends and made a video titled “Line Dancing for Health.” That led to Dennis instructing his own classes in 2004. After instructing classes locally from places like Energy Fitness in Randallstown to The League building on East Cold Spring Lane, a current student of his asked him to instruct some classes at the Woodlawn Senior Center.

“I want everyone to follow me,” as Dennis barks instructions to the rows of seniors who follow his every move. Sometimes he has to slow down but, after a few tries, they’re at full speed. Senior instruction isn’t new to the dance impresario. His first senior center site was the Oliver Center in 2008. “This helps with weight management, flexibility, muscle tone and mental faculties because as you get older, you lose it.”

When asked about working with senior citizens, Dennis simply responded, “What I’ve noticed is that they have challenges that come with aging and line dancing has great health benefits including improved condition of heart and lungs, increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness and weight management.”

As they wrap up the song some are waving their hands in front their face for air, others go grab a bottle of water, and some have their hands on their hips. Like a drill instructor, Dennis turns on the next song. “Are we ready?” The smiles he gives are infectious as they move through another routine.

In case you were wondering, Dennis gets paid for his services but assures us the money is not motive in instructing line dances— it is in the notion of helping senior citizens live a better quality of life.

#BMOREWEST

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Urban Journalism Project 

School of Global Journalism and Communication

Morgan State University

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