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  • Elaine Berberich

Dance! It’s good for the soul.

By Elaine Berberich

“Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance.”

Oprah Winfrey

Every Monday afternoon at Fairfield Harbour Community Center, something magical happens. Women with diverse backgrounds, and a few men, gather together and wait for the music and line dancing to begin. The beginner’s class is from 2-3 pm, followed by an intermediate class at 3 pm. Peggy Carhart teaches the beginner's class. She has been dancing for many years, including teaching line dancing in Florida; and moved here from Florida over 19 years ago and is originally from New Jersey. She starts slowly and makes the steps easy to follow, and will spend time working with new dancers who need extra help with steps. Participant Chris Jewell explained this: “When you learn a dance, it’s like learning a new language, building step by step.” Terms such as mambo, step-step, and rocking chair are part of the language. Experienced dancers serve as anchors on each side, helping new dancers and giving an example to follow. The music comes from different genres, rhythms, and artists. As you listen to the music, your foot immediately starts tapping, and you want to be part of the show and the fun. Dancing is also a great challenge for the mind because you have to connect the steps in your mind with what your feet are doing.

Rose and Henry Litke taught line dancing on Mondays and partner dancing on Friday evenings for many years. When they moved in July 2021, Lindy and Carol Lindtveit stepped in and continued the dancing program. They started taking over the Line Dancing and Partner Dancing programs shortly before Rose and Henry left so that they could help with the transition. Even though line dancing looks easy, the preparation is not, and teaching is much more than knowing the steps and the music. Lindy described this when he explained, “to ensure all dancers start at the correct place in the song, and at the same time, the teacher must do a short count, in time to the music's beat, to prepare the dancers to start on the next beat after the count. If the count is started too early, the dancers begin too soon, and if the count is started too late, the dancers start too late, resulting in a chaotic situation for the teachers and dancers. “

Lindy designed a computer program that plays the music and counting sequence to remedy this situation. A large number flashes on the screen at the proper time, counting in the dance, making it easier for the instructor and the dancers. The program has 175 dance numbers which can also be slowed down when teaching a new dance. The fear of "messing up" a countdown has kept many excellent dancers from becoming teachers, and this program eliminates that fear. None of the students knew the dances the way Henry and Rose did. Still, collectively, the dancers had a good knowledge base, and the program could continue if everyone shared their knowledge by taking turns leading the weekly classes with the aid of the computer program. The computer program is designed for anyone wanting to teach a class. The leaders work together in pairs each week, and no classes have had to be canceled due to lacking a leader. Lindy describes this as a "do it ourselves" program that shares the abilities of many talented dancers with a wealth of experience.

The leaders are Peggy Carhart, Judy Cole, Anne Griffith, Cheryl Stevenson, Sharon Nasutovicz, Barbara Franz, and Robin Gale. The leaders come from diverse backgrounds and diverse geography. Robin Gale is from Maryland, has a dance profession, and currently judges dance competitions. Cheryl Stevenson is from the Midwest and had a career as an occupational therapist and has been dancing since Rose and Henry started the program. Barbara Franz has a background as a teacher and has been dancing for six years and teaches a class in American Sign Language. Anne Griffith is from New York State and started dancing with Mark West in a beginner's class. Her high school English and theatre background explain her active involvement in Harbour Lights Players. Judy Cole is from Indiana, where she worked as a postal clerk and started right in with dancing when she moved to Fairfield Harbour in 2003. Sharon Nasutovicz moved here from upstate NY, has been dancing for six years, and loves every minute of it. Many dancers have developed friendships from spending time together on a common goal and the bonding of music and dance.

Everyone gives a great deal of credit to Carol and Lindy for keeping the dance program running along with many talented volunteers. The Lindtveits moved here from Long Island in 2011. They have been dancing since they were teenagers, are involved in line dancing and teaching partner dancing on Friday nights, and enjoy all types of dancing.

Classes have continued thanks to the determination of many and the love of dance. Classes are held year-round, and pre-registration is not required. Line dancing classes for beginners are held at the Community Center from 2-3 pm, and intermediate classes from 3-5 pm. Couples dancing is held at the Community Center from 5-6:30 pm on Friday nights. Prospective dancers can show up, watch, and then join the dance.

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