With her back to the roomful of eager learners, some wearing cowboy boots and fringed shirts, others in sneakers, instructor Rhoda Light showed line dancing steps that roused these seniors to whoop it up.
Double left. Double right. Double left. Double right. Shuffle forward with the left, shuffle back with the right. With the left foot: heel, heel, toe, toe. Quarter turn left.
“OK, you’ve got it. Let’s do it!” Light said to the 69 senior citizens lined in rows and ready to shake, wiggle and move their feet to the beat.
Glenn Miller’s tune, “Pennsylvania 6-5000" blared from the stereo. Smiles creased their faces as they danced, clapped and hollered.
“Crank it up!” the seniors yelled. They wanted a faster song. Light played an upbeat country song.
“The music plays an important part,” said Light, who uses a variety of songs familiar to the seniors--oldies of the ‘40s and ‘50s, including “In the Mood,” the “Bossa Nova,” polkas and country music hits like “Boot, Scoot and Boogie.”
Line dancing has become a popular pastime for the older generation at senior centers in Orange County.
The reasons: it’s good exercise, a good time and a dancing partner isn’t needed--a plus for single older women and widows who usually outnumber the men in the classes.
Indeed, the country-style dancing is therapeutic for both their minds and their bodies, Light said.
“It’s relaxing and it’s therapy,” said Light, 64, who teaches the 1 1/2-hour class Thursday afternoons at the Buena Park Senior Center and at several other places in North Orange County.
Light, who’s been teaching line dancing to seniors for four years and has a loyal following, said it helps to relieve depression, ease the pain of arthritis, and lower cholesterol.
It helps seniors to forget about their ailments and problems: dancing keeps them young.
“You feel happy, exhilarated. It puts you in a positive, good mood,” said George Bernard, 76, of La Mirada.
Yvonne Greenelsh, 62, of Cypress, had never danced in her life until she took up line dancing three years ago.
“It’s helped my arthritis and other medical problems,” Greenelsh said. “It’s a great feeling. Dancing makes you feel rejuvenated.”
Harry Morgan, 70, a retired chiropractor from La Palma, said line dancing not only works the muscles but keeps seniors from being bored.
“You meet a lot of people here,” he said.
Seniors learn steps such as the electric slide or the tush-push. But they agreed the steps take practice.
“If you make a mistake, you just laugh at yourself--and you do it right the next time,” Morgan said.
Odessa Irwin of Anaheim sat out the “Tennessee Twist” at a recent class. “That’s going to take a few extra lessons,” she said, adding that the only way to learn the steps is to keep doing them.
Irwin, who’s “over 70,” said line dancing “is more fun than anything I’ve ever done.”
“You feel like you’re part of something. You may not be one, but you feel like a Rockette,” she said.
Seniors can line dance to the music of the “Country Boys,” a senior citizens band, on the first Friday of the month from 10 a.m. to noon at the Buena Park Senior Center.
The band’s next performance is Friday.
Light also teaches at the following locations:
* Yorba Linda, Mondays, 10 a.m., Lake Park Mobile Home Park, 3700 Rose Drive.
* Anaheim, Mondays, 3 p.m., Anaheim Senior Center, 280 E. Lincoln Ave.
* Fullerton, Wednesdays, 10 a.m., Fullerton Senior Center, 340 W. Commonwealth Ave.