Paul McCartney isn't who you'd expect to hear in a room full of line dancers, but "Peaches and Cream" was the first song line-dancer wannabes practiced at a learning session at last Friday night.
While dancers can still sashay to the sound of southern drawls and Texas twangs, they can also slide, slide, kick, step to other rhythms like Latin, jazz, rock and even rap, said the group's teacher Barb Dutterer.
"People think of country line dancing when you say 'line dancing,' but it's really just 'line dancing,' as the music now is often eclectic," she said. "I use anything with a good beat," added Dutterer, who is teaching in Elkridge on Friday nights.
The dance classes, sponsored by , are fundraisers for two local projects: the and the Homework Club of .
The pastor of CrossLife attended but didn't look too comfortable on the floor. "I don't dance," said Rev. John Mackall, who laughed. He added, "But I have great respect for anyone who can do that; my mind just doesn't work that way."
His mind did, however, think dancing was a good way to get the community excited about physical fitness. And there's also that element of fiscal fitness involved, as the event's profits are earmarked for restorations needed on the Brumbaugh House, which is home to the Elkridge Heritage Society; in addition, the funds provide snacks, supplies and transportation for the Homework Club at Elkridge Elementary.
Mackall said he encourages anyone who wants to participate in the . Novice dancers and those taking up dancing after sitting on the sidelines for a few decades are welcome, he said.
Though Elkridge resident Ceci Brockman hasn't danced for quite some time, she was dancing last Friday night, following closely the steps of teacher Dutterer. "I haven't danced in about 25 years, but it's fun and good exercise," Brockman said, just as the next jazz number was beginning.
Dutterer, a baby boomer, said she was surprised to find that many young women today don't dance. "In my day, we danced in our living rooms in front of the TV to dance shows or took dance lessons," she said. But with her students, she takes it slow and teaches, literally, step-by-step until students catch on and progress to the next dance move, whether that's a jazz box or a grapevine.
There is a certain amount of finesse and detail to line dancing, said Dutterer. Dancers' memories must adroitly arc back to previous dance steps to be repeated in proper sequence. This is no swirling, whirling dancing; there are slides and shuffles that must be learned, because it's difficult to cover mistakes in a dance that requires not just two people being in step but the entire population of a dance floor to move as one.
Taking the floor
Outnumbered last Friday night was Brian Smith, who was the only man at the session. Smith, of Columbia, said he's a country music fan who would like to perform better out on the dance floor at Cancun Cantina, a nightclub in Hanover that features lots of line dancing.
"We have some men come to classes," said Dutterer. "In fact, I had one young, good-looking man come by himself to classes. I found out he was learning because his girlfriend loved to line dance."
Dutterer, along with her husband, has been teaching line dancing for Howard County Recreation & Parks for more than 20 years.
Last summer, Dutterer retired from the Howard County Public School System, where she worked as a counselor. She said that now she has more time to devote to dancing, and teaching dancing. But she's still a pro at giving guidance; she often lets her dance students know when she'll be going over to Cancun Cantina to dance, so they can meet her there and take to the floor feeling a bit more at ease.