This is not a trick question! Where could you line dance every day and all day, seven days a week? The answer is …The Villages in Florida. I’m sure all you line dancers are right now packing your suitcases getting ready to go!!! But before you head out the door let me tell you a little about this line dance heaven.
This all stemmed from an image shining brightly in the brain of a Mr. Schwartz way back in the 70s. He wanted to build the perfect retirement community; one that would enable retirees from all walks of life to live healthy active lives pursuing their interests. Mr. Schwartz bought acres of land in central Florida and started building homes. Initially it was hard going, but eventually others began to see the merits of his dream and as of 2009, over 60,000 people now make The Villages their home. The Villages is made up of a number of Villages all of which have their own character …. and their own golf courses, recreation centers, swimming pools and so on. All beautifully designed and maintained. At the same time there are larger amenities that serve the entire community. Altogether there are 28 swimming pools, 23 Executive golf courses, 8 championship courses, in fact recreational facilities galore. In addition there are clubs for people with interests such as cycling, chess, figure drawing, philosophy, you name it, they’ve got it!
And, of course, the most critical part for us, The Villages is a line dancing paradise with instructors who attract hundreds of dancers to their classes as I have discovered over the last four years of visits, three of which were to teach at Jean Brewer’s Line Dance Festival. This last Festival (09) was sold out with 180 dancers, including a number who registered from outside The Villages – word had spread!
Jean hosts a covered-dish dance party for the guests, instructors and her dancers the evening before the Festival. Those Villages dancers sure know how to cook as well as dance! Then the workshop starts at 10 the next morning taking place in Laurel Manor. Check out the photo of this place, it is more like a posh hotel than a Rec Centre. This year Bill McGee from Orlando joined me to teach. Bill is a very popular instructor and also choreographs. I particularly remember the amazing and colourful Mardi Gras show routine he and his dancers performed on stilts at the Tampa Bay LD Classic a number of years ago; I don’t think anything has topped that since. Suffice to say, Bill has imagination and showmanship flair. The dancers thoroughly enjoyed his sense of fun and his warm, approachable manner. Between us we taught a mix of dances that we hoped would give everyone of all levels a chance to dance. (See list below) In between the teaching we had open dancing, allowing brains to rest and clear before inserting another dance!! We had a review session at the end of the afternoon workshop and that seemed to work well. Dancers were amazed at how much they actually remembered! Lunch was included as part of the package as was the evening dance. In the afternoon we were treated to an excellent routine by the ‘Sweet & Sassy Villages Line Dance Team’ ably led by Christine Bass. A smiling DJ Denny Rogers did a good job of keeping the dancers happy and was very receptive to requests. The volunteers were terrific and were there early in the morning, cheerful and ready for anything. The dancers were well looked after and they were indeed up for fun, what a friendly, welcoming group they were. We were all tired but very happy by the end of the day.
But let me tell you a little more about line dancing in general at The Villages. There is a class to suit everyone except for the more advanced funky dancer I would say. I visited two ultra beginner classes, one taught by Jean and the other by Margaret Koll, and there were over 200 dancers in each class and I’m told there is the same number in other ultra beginner classes. The instructors teaching this level class are wise; they are very thorough in teaching the basic steps so that everyone is comfortable. They teach very simple dances which incorporate these steps, to songs that everyone enjoys, and then constantly review them. The dancers were so keen and enthusiastic and their sense of accomplishment at learning these basic steps was a delight to behold.
Dancers who want to go a little further go to different classes for the next level, and then to an intermediate class to learn some of the trickier dances. The numbers are less in the higher classes but are still very good. It’s a clear indication that we need to keep our beginner classes full and give those dancers the confidence to move further along if we wish to keep our numbers up. I should also note that many of the more advanced dancers attend the classes at all levels to give support to the new dancers. What has also attributed to the success of the line dance scene here I feel has been the way the instructors work together and support one another. They attend each other’s classes, consult about dances and help each other out whenever they can.
I attended and taught at classes instructed by Darlene Miller, a delightful instructor with a photographic memory, Margaret Koll (mentioned above) who is tireless in her commitment to line dancing and who is helped by her equally dedicated twin Rose Knosp. Lola Miller teaches a class that is full of laughter and fun; you can’t help but laugh with Lola in charge! I visited with Bill Ray who teaches with wife Violet, both well known choreographers. This couple moved from Hawaii to live in The Villages. I also popped into Carol Simmons’ class. Carol spends 6 months in The Villages and the other half of the year in the UK where she also has her own class. Carol, with Sandra Speck, has two popular dances on the floor right now. ‘Gotta Love To Boogie’, and ‘Hanging Out In Florida’. It was a pleasure to spend time in all of these classes.
And, of course, I got to attend Jean’s classes. Jean is tireless and it seems to me that she rarely sleeps! On Tuesdays, she starts teaching at 9 a.m. (they start lining up well before class time), has a 45 minute break and continues to 3, and she repeats this on Thursday. She meets her beginners at the Square on Monday and dances with them; has a dance Sunday evenings, and attends as many classes as she can. Her warmth, enthusiasm and patience obviously endear her to her dancers and she always has time to go over steps and have a little chat. They sure are lucky in The Villages to have such dedicated and capable instructors.
So you would like to dance in The Villages? Well, to attend the classes in the Recreation Centres you have to live or rent (vacation rentals are available) in The Villages or come as a guest. However, as a non-resident you can register in one of the line dance classes offered by the College of Life Long Learning at a very reasonable cost, you can dance on the Squares and you can register for the Line Dance Festival. There are hotels in The Villages if you want to stay overnight. You can also check out the website www.thevillages.com to see about other opportunities for trying out life at The Villages. I’m hooked for sure!!!
DANCES TAUGHT AT THE WORKSHOP
‘Just one Look’ by Dee Musk – very popular
‘Sleep Now Child’ by Bill McGee – nice dance and lovely song
‘Swingin' In The Rain’ by Larry Hayden – felt fast when first learnt but once everyone was familiar with the steps they loved it.
'Do That Again?' -- New Improver/Easy Intermediate written by myself with Fred Buckley, and Andrew Palmer & Sheila Cox. Great country track from Trace Adkins from his latest album X (Ten). I have just put up a video which you can find at
'For Love' -- Easy Intermediate by myself to 'What I Did For Love' by Johnny Reid. Tim Ruzgar of Linedancer magazine reviewed Johnny's album last month and gave it five stars for both listening and dancing. It's a terrific album with lots of good tracks. Video for the dance at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKc5I6_4bxQ
'My Beautiful Sunday' by Deb Grimshire -- an easy beginner dance to good music
'Play The Song' -- New Improver/Easy Intermediate to Joey+Rory written by myself, video at
If you'd like to see Joey+Rory singing this song, check out the following video. BTW Joey is a line dancer herself.
'Sag, Drag & Fall' another nice beginner dance by Frank Trace
'Your Spanish Eyes' by Deb Small -- excellent easy beginner dance , very well received by the dancers