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Friday 9 December 2016

Opinion: I still love to line-dance even if my body won't toe the line

Ann Fitzgerald

Published 22/10/2016 | 16:00

Ann Fitzgerald loved line-dancing from the first moment.
Ann Fitzgerald loved line-dancing from the first moment.

I recently got to reprise one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done - teaching line-dancing.

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It came about when a friend, who had just turned 50, said she had promised herself to mark the event by getting fit. I said the fittest I had ever been was when I was teaching line-dancing, as the craze swept the country 20 years ago.

I loved line-dancing from the first moment. As for the teaching, I got involved through an aerobics teacher pal who was asked to teach a class and, as she was already busy, put my name forward instead.

I ended up teaching 13 hours a week, sometimes more. I was also writing full-time.

Monday and Friday, it was two sets of two hours, Tuesday three hours and Wednesday two hours, across West Limerick, in halls, VECs and pubs.

I had to take Thursday night off to keep, literally, one step ahead of my own classes by doing a class myself. Nowadays you could just Google it but the word hadn't even been invented at the time and wasn't added to the Oxford English Dictionary for another decade.

Our nearest venue was the River Room Motel in Newcastle West. The classes were taught by what was trumpeted as the country's leading line-dancing troupe, straight from Break for the Border, Step In Line - which included an aspiring actor named Colin Farrell.

I don't know if I'm being fanciful but I believe I can actually remember him, strutting his stuff in his black Stetson, jeans and sleeveless denim shirt with the top couple of buttons unopened. Oh, the excitement.

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I've gone to the internet this time and I've discovered that, along with the expected American presence, there are lots of videos of kids, golden oldies and Asians getting in on the act.

All the old favourite dances are still on the go: Electric Slide, Slappin' Leather, Boot Scootin' Boogie, Trashy Women, Tush Push. They bring back memories of simple good-natured fun.

There was little alcohol involved as, though the dances in general are not difficult, you need to concentrate. It's a perfect path to a current fad, mindfulness. I'm also looking forward to trying some of the dances that have crossed over from other codes, the Cupid Shuffle and the Latin Ah Si.

So why did it dwindle? These kinds of things tend to come and go. But, I also think, because the steps are quite easy, the complexity of dances comes from creating longer sequences of moves and this can be off-putting.

This current foray is not a commercial enterprise. It's about getting together with a few friends for a bit of exercise and a few laughs.

Many of the women work outside the home at least part-time and we seem to spend most our non-formal-working hours doing housework or ferrying our progeny to and from some activity or social engagement, so we have little time for a social life ourselves.

It's not that we're complaining but we sometimes forget that it's actually not just good but also important for children to see their mums as having a role in the world other than a mothering or domestic one.

The company keeps you going and the strong rhythm keeps the feel-good endorphins flowing. My advice is always "don't look down, keep the count in your head and the beat in your heart". Once you've learned the basics, you can be as economical or vigorous in your moves as you wish.

Some are trying to lose a few pounds.

I myself could do with a bit of toning. I am not much heavier than I was then but my shape has changed. And not in a good way.

My boobs have gone south while the fatty tissue that once plumped my derrière has migrated east, west and even, gravity-defying-ly, north, on to my tummy.

I don't expect miracles but the return of a little bit of a waistline is surely not too much to hope for?

I'll enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Yeehaw.

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