It’s seven p.m. on a clear, cold January night, but inside the softly lit Asheville Ballroom Dance and Event Centre at 991 Sweeten Creek Road, a group of about twenty-five men and women from throughout Western North Carolina are warming up to the voice of their instructor. She’s explaining the basic patterns in line dancing, a simple and popular form of movement in which dancers stand in a row and repeat a series of steps in unison.
[dropcap]L[/dropcap]iteral lines have formed, ten to a row, and the toe-tapping music begins. Once known as a favorite stomp-down in country-and-western bars, today it’s performed at workshops, in dance studios, in ballrooms, and at colleges and retirement centers, to music that ranges from oldie rock to Taylor Swift’s contemporary “Shake it Off.”
This is a dance designed for solo performers—people who don’t need or seek a partner—which may explain why it draws more women than men. On average, men don’t choose dance as a leisurely pastime nearly as often as women, which means many women go without a partner.
“Cross one, two, three and four. Now triple three and four. Pivot, five, six, seven, eight, side touch…and repeat,” the instructor intones. A set of sparkling chandeliers overhead, a wall of mirrors, and a slick, polished dance floor form just the right backdrop. After all, to move gracefully (or not), one needs plenty of light and a warm, inviting space.
According to researchers, early humans had solid reasons to dance, including as a means to attract a mate and a way to bond in a group for survival. Examining the DNA of dancers versus non-dancers, scientists have since found that those who dance are better social communicators with higher levels of serotonin, known to boost moods. If that’s not reason enough to love the joy of dance consider this: dancers tend to be more symmetrical in their body types, which could help explain the key difference between dancers with natural grace and someone who trips not-so-lightly across the floor. In other words, as humans we are not created equal when it comes to dancing.
A middle-aged woman, new to the line dancing group, struggles to keep up, one foot and then the other out of sync with the beat. But before long, she’s starting to get it and her worried frown is replaced with a look of relief.
A distinguished gentleman in a trim leather vest, his salt-and-pepper hair carefully coiffed, appears to come fully alive only when the music begins. Swaying his arms and shuffling his feet in perfect rhythm, it’s pretty clear he’s done this a few times. More obvious, he’s in his element on the dance floor.
That sense of freedom, says Linda Hall, a line dancing instructor from Sylva, is what dancing in general and line dancing in particular, is about. Having loved dance since she was a kid, she teaches line and contra dancing at senior citizen centers in Jackson County, but also clogs and square dances.
“Line dancing is a great outlet for anyone,” she says. “It’s good, clean fun, great exercise, and though, like anything else, you have to work on it a bit, it’s pretty easy to learn. Most everyone picks it up within a month or so. In fact, I tell my students that if they can walk, they can dance. With two feet, at least they have a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right.”
Want to try it? A number of line dance lessons and events are held in Asheville and throughout Western North Carolina, including the monthly Line and Pattern Partner Dance Party from 7-10pm at the Asheville Ballroom Dance & Event Centre, 991 Sweeten Creek Road. Cost is $12 per person. For March and April dance dates (not yet scheduled) call 828-274-8320, or email Denna Yockey at: email@example.com.
Nancy Glover teaches Beginner and Intermediate line dance classes at the Opportunity House, 1411 Asheville Highway in Hendersonville, on Tuesdays from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. During her nineteen-year dance career, Nancy has tried shag, ballroom, clogging, and contra. She loves the diversity of music used in today’s dances and the fact that dancing draws people of all ages from all walks of life, not to mention its physical benefits. Call about her classes at 828-692-0575. Ballroom and swing are also taught at the Opportunity House. Call 828-698-0165 for details and schedules.
[quote float=”right”]A distinguished gentleman in a trim leather vest, his salt-and-pepper hair carefully coiffed, appears to come fully alive only when the music begins. Swaying his arms and shuffling his feet in perfect rhythm, it’s pretty clear he’s done this a few times.[/quote]Additional outlets for line dancing are found at the Athletics and Activity Center at 708 South Grove Street in Hendersonville, with a beginner class on Wednesdays from 9am – 10:30 am. Call in advance to register at 828-697-4900, or email Wanda Junek at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is linedanceclass.com.
The Blue Ridge Community College offers a beginner line dance class on Tuesdays from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. Instructor Betty Busch can be reached at 828-694-1700.
Less than thirty minutes from Hendersonville, in the small town of Saluda, North Carolina, is The Party Place and Event Center, featuring a 7,000-square-foot floating dance floor within a 12,000-square-foot facility (The Party Place is also used for private bookings). Smoke-free and climate-controlled year round, it has an elaborate stage and seats up to 350 people. Here, on the second Saturday of each month, a family-oriented Blue Ridge Contra Dance is held, which can bring up to sixty dancers at a time, their ages ranging from seven to seventy.
Known as a form of folk dancing, contra—unlike line dancing—requires two parallel rows of dancers and a sequence of dance moves with different partners down the length of the line. The dancers must listen and heed the caller’s instruction; generally an enthusiastic, knowledgeable person who encourages novices and motivates the experienced.
Contra has been around a long time and is often credited with influencing the steps associated with line dancing.
Judy Thompson, an attorney who was a senior partner at a law firm in Charlotte, but is now living in Saluda, has been involved in dance since 1987. She’s a regular attendee at The Party Place and was instrumental in helping bring contra to the Saluda venue.
“I dreamed about it for four years,” she says. “But we had no money to get us started. Through local support and the incredible, talented musicians and performers who provide our live music (sometimes at no pay), we’ve managed to create a place that draws people who have never heard of contra dancing.”
She continues her quest to attract dancers to The Party Place and Event Center year round, a venue she describes as “so beautiful it will blow you away.”
Just off I-26 at the Saluda Exit #59 on Friendship Road in Saluda, The Party Place and Event Center (formerly known as the Saluda Mountain Jamboree) offers contra lessons starting at 7:30pm on the second Saturday of each month. The dances begin at 8pm and end around 10:30. The next scheduled contra dance events are March 14 and April 11, with lessons at 7:30pm. For more information call 828-749-3676.
In the Bryson Gym at Warren Wilson College on 701 Warren Wilson Road in Swannanoa, beginner contra lessons are held on most Thursdays at 7:30pm with dances at 8:00pm. Contra is only one of several dances offered through the Old Farmer’s Ball (an organization that encourages traditional dancing). The March 20 dance date is designed for advanced level contra dancers. Check their website at oldfarmersball.com for the full schedule, or call the college direct at 828-298-3325.
On Saturdays once a month, contra dances are held at different locations in Boone. Sponsored by the Boone Country Dancers, the next event is March 21 at the Old Cove Creek School Gym in Sugar Grove beginning at 8pm (lessons start at 7:30). On April 25 and again on May 2, the dancers move to the Apple Barn in Valle Crucis. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for high school students, and kids 12 and under are free. For more information, including a complete 2015 schedule, contact John Pertalion at 828-406-0580, or visit the website at boonecountrydancers.org.
Though seasonal, Swing Set Big Band plays in downtown Boone on Depot Street during warmer months, enticing the local Appalachian college students to try swing dancing. There are no details yet on the swing dance schedule, but check with the college closer to spring.
If neither line, swing, nor contra dancing in Boone sound appealing, try clogging, jazz, hip hop, Zumba, creative movements, or belly dancing at the High Country Dance Studio at 188 Boone Dock Street. Visit their website at highcountrydancestudio.com, or call 828-773-1335 for details. Other private lessons can be scheduled in youth ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance through the Studio K Dance Workshop at 289 Daniel Boone Drive, by calling 828-265-6621. A new hip hop class for boys and creative movement for toddlers are available at the Northwestern Studios at 1474 Highway 105. Call 828-262-3262, or go their website at northwesternstudios.com, for more information.
Close to the Tennessee line in Brasstown, North Carolina (Clay County), Saturdays are often big nights at the John C. Campbell Folk School on 1 Folk School Road, about seven miles east of Murphy. That’s when the Community Contra and Square Dance takes place from 8:00pm to 11:00pm. Dancing, states the website, “is an integral part of the school.” Their next event is March 7, followed by March 21 and April 4 dance dates. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for kids 12-18, and $3 for those under the age of three. For details call 1-800-365-5724, or go to the website at folkschool.org.
Ron Darby, of Franklin, North Carolina, says his county of Macon offers swing dances and square dances, but he comes to Asheville for a change of pace. Retired from the aircraft industry in 1998, he says he used to be a drummer and, though somewhat shy, “always wanted to dance.”
“I began with the electric slide and then tried shag. Now I like to line dance and took lessons from Linda Hall. What I enjoy most is the music, especially the old rock ’n roll. As a former drummer, I can feel the beat and that helps in dancing.”
He tells other wanna-be dancing guys—many of whom he says are simply afraid to make a fool of themselves in public—they should forget their insecurities. Besides, just as in high school, it’s a great way to impress the ladies.
“Get out there, laugh about it and have fun,” he advises. “Hey, if you can’t have a good time, there’s not much point in doing anything.”
Back at the line dancing class at the Asheville Ballroom and Event Centre where the thirty minute lesson is over and it’s open dance time, host Denna Yockey says she began her own foray into dancing because she got tired of guys waiting to ask her to dance. A diminutive woman with a light-up-the-room smile, she’s been teaching dance for nearly twenty years.
“I started in Kansas where I had my own dance studio, then moved to Asheville about eight years ago. I’ve found a lot of line dancing and other forms of dance in this region. Now I teach (dance) for Asheville-Buncombe Technical College, the College For Seniors at UNC Asheville, the Harvest House recreation center, and several retirement communities in the area.”
She says nothing pleases her more than “spreading the joy of dancing.”
“I love the independence I feel by being able, especially in line dancing, to dance whenever I want to, whether I have someone to dance with or not. And I’ve made a lot of friends along the way.”
Asheville Ballroom Dance and Event Centre offers a number of dance classes. Check out their West Coast Swing Class on Mondays, with lessons starting at 6:30pm and dances at 7pm. The cost is $12 per person. Call 828-274-8320 for more details on the spring schedule.
From the traditional to off-the-grid, dance is readily found in Asheville and Buncombe County. For example, private lessons are available in Zydeco (a style that has roots in folk dance), Cajun, and Two-Step, all part of a four-week series taught by Deborah Swanson (but you’ll need a partner). Call 828-778-4878 for further information. Argentine Tango classes are provided through private lessons for individuals and groups by Rick Harris; for further information, call 828-779-3177. Healing Dance Sessions with Michelle Dionne is designed to help women through pregnancy and childbirth. Michelle also offers belly dancing. Visit her website at yellowsunfarm.blogspot.com, or call 828-664-9564 for more information. Belly dancing is also taught every Friday and Saturday at the Jerusalem Garden Café on 78 Patton Avenue in downtown Asheville from 7–10pm; for more information, call 828-254-0255.
For those who like the night life, there’s a Dance Party Friday and Saturday nights at 9pm at The Admiral on Haywood Road in West Asheville; call 828-252-2541 for more details. The Grey Eagle, at 185 Clingman Avenue in Asheville, offers contra dancing on Mondays at 8pm, with beginner lessons at 7:30. A $7 admission is required. They have swing and other dances as well. Call 828-232-5800 for details.
If you can clap, you can learn how to clog, say the Forge Mountain Cloggers, many of whom come from throughout Western North Carolina. You can find them at 764 South Mills River Road in Mills River, or by calling 828-891-2487. The Mountain Thunder Cloggers offer affordable classes for all ages, no partner required. Call 828-490-1226 for further details.
The Southside Studio in Fletcher, which serves Asheville, Hendersonville, and Fletcher, welcomes students from age four and up, with training available in ballet, tap, jazz, and hip hop. Call Kevin Overbey at 828-684-2118. Missy Lindsey, of Shall We Danz, provides instruction in ballroom, country western, line dancing, and choreography for wedding parties. Contact her at 828-712-8121.
Private instructor C.J. Stancil says you can quickly learn to dance “and enjoy all that Asheville has to offer,” through swing, Latin, ballroom, and nightclub dancing. Call 828-712-0325 for details.
The lengthy list goes on for dancing in the Asheville and surrounding vicinity, so dance instructors and enthusiasts say the best, most comprehensive lineup of up-to-date venues for dance events, performances, classes, workshops, and links to other dance resources throughout the region is danceasheville.com. The site is updated about once a week.
[quote float=”right”]Some are exposed to dance and something clicks. “The only thing they can tell you is, ‘I have to dance. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be happy.’ All forms of dance, I believe, fill a little hole in your heart.”[/quote]Traditionalists can enjoy the fluid grace of ballroom dancing through BlueRidge Ballroom in North Asheville along with other social forms of dancing, according to Linda Schlensker and her partner, Lee Cutler Smith. Ballroom is their forte with “social dancing”—a classification of dance in which socializing, not competition, is the primary focus. All students, however, must be serious about learning how to dance well.
While classes are held at the Homewood Event Center, at 19 Zillicoa in Asheville (Montford) about twice a week, Linda says they don’t have a full-service local studio because they travel outside North Carolina to teach elsewhere.
When asked why people come to their classes, Linda reflects on the many reasons her students say they want to dance. “For some, it’s because of external pressure. A fiancée, a spouse, or a co-worker insists they learn how. These are the folks that generally learn just enough to get by. Others are exposed to dance and something clicks. The only thing they can tell you is, ‘I have to dance. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be happy.’ All forms of dance, I believe, fill a little hole in your heart.”
To contact Linda visit her website at blueridgeballroom.com, email her at Lindaschlensker@gmail.com, or call 828-253-9108. Her site contains information on other local ballrooms as well, including Arden’s Black Cat, Fletcher’s DC Studio, and the Dancing Feete ballroom and Dance Center in Flat Rock.
If Baroque music is your thing, George and Linda Schissler teach a series of English Country Dances in Montford on most Sundays from 4–6:30pm at the Homewood Event Center on 19 Zillicoa Street. Beginner sessions start at 3:30pm with no partner necessary. Next scheduled dates are March 1, March 22, and April 19. Call 828-232-9900 for details.
Music festivals provide one of the best outlets for dance enthusiasts of all interests and levels. During spring through fall there are no shortage of festivals in Western North Carolina, including the French Broad River Festival, May 1-3, Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF), May 7-10, the Montford Music and Arts Festival on May 16, and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, July 30 – August 1. For a more complete list of 2015 area music and dance festivals go to: danceasheville.com and look for “Useful Dance Links.”
So why dance? The reasons are as varied as the styles and abilities of those who make the effort. But one Western North Carolina amateur dancer, when asked the question, summed it up best: “It has no hierarchy,” she explains. “No one owns dance, meaning everyone does, with the full freedom to express themselves. There’s no right or wrong to it. It’s you and you alone in the step; your pulse, your heartbeat, the rhythm of your life. That’s why music—and dance—is the universal language. It brings us together in as close to perfection as you’ll get.”
Dancing in March…
We’ve done the work for you
>Monday Practice Party
Every Monday from 7:30-9pm. $5 per person. Starts with mini-lesson and review. No partner needed.
Asheville Ballroom & Dance Centre, 991 Sweeten Creek Rd, Asheville, NC • 828-274-8320 • ashevilleballroom.net
>Mountain Shag Club Dance
Every Tuesday with lesson from 6:30-7pm and dance from 7-10pm. $5 cover.
Showtime Saloon, Fletcher, NC • mountainshagclub.com
>Dancing at the Maggie Valley Inn
Every Thursday from 6:30-9:30pm. Dance floor is in the Rendezvous Restaurant & Lounge with live music by Steve Whiddon. No cover.
Maggie Valley Inn, 70 Soco Rd, Maggie Valley, NC • 866-929-0201 • maggievalleyhotel.com
>Hendersonville Ballroom Dance Club
Every Friday with lesson from 6:30-7:30pm and dancing from 7:30-10pm. $7 for non-members
Opportunity House, 1411 Asheville Hwy, Hendersonville, NC • 828-692-0575
>Salsa Night at Mela
Every Friday with salsa dancing from 10:30pm-2:15am. $5 cash cover for women, $7 for men.
Mela Indian Restaurant, 70 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC • 828-225-8880
>Beach Night at the Hendersonville American Legion with the Mountain Shag Club
On second Saturdays. Bar and grill opens at 6pm with dancing from 7-10pm. $5 cover, with DJ David Hadden. Bar and grill open at 6:30pm.
Hendersonville American Legion, 216 4th Ave West, Hendersonville, NC • 828-301-2516
>Canton Country Dance
Every Saturday from 7-10:30pm. Dance is upstairs, look for sign on the front door. Wood floor & live music. Cost is $8. Refreshments available (non-alcoholic beverages, plus hot snacks).
Fannie Dorlan’s, 61-1/2 Main St, Canton, NC • 828-736-8925
>Smoky Mountain Dance Club Country Dance
March 7 and 21st. Line dance lesson from 6-6:45pm. Dancing from 7-10:30pm in the Moose Lodge building just off New Leicester Hwy in Asheville. $10 per person.
Asheville Moose Lodge, 1 Moose Heart Lane, Asheville, NC • 828-667-1870 • smokymountaindanceclub.com
Other Popular Dancing Venues >
5 W Walnut St, Asheville, NC • 828-253-2593 • 5walnut.com
The Admiral (Fridays and Saturdays)
400 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC • 828-252-2541 • theadmiralnc.com
Jack of the Wood
95 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC • 828-252-5445 • jackofthewood.com
Olive or Twist
81 Broadway, Asheville, NC • 828-254-0555 • oliveortwist.net
124 College St, Asheville, NC • 828-505-2568 • roomnineasheville.com
28 Broadway, Asheville, NC • 828-254-7072 • tressas.com
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