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Country-Western Championships Set Dancers Twirling

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Honolulu isn’t exactly the hub of country-Western dancing. In fact, it doesn’t even have a country radio station. But that didn’t stop one couple who pulled on their boots and flew here Saturday for the World Championships of Country Western Dancing.

The dance floor of the Disneyland Hotel was a flurry of lace-covered satin, sequins, tassels and of course, hundreds of cowboy boots and hats. The third annual event drew nearly 3,000 people, mostly professional and amateur dancers from 37 states and Canada.

And in the middle of it all were Terri Leei, 40, and boyfriend Boz Bosley, 55, the only couple from Hawaii. Their hobby is an expensive one, since they must either travel to the mainland to receive dance instruction or hire mainland dance coaches to fly to Hawaii.

“We’re at a huge disadvantage. We have nowhere to go, no instructors or music stations,” Leei said. “Our last coach came from Washington, D.C.”

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Despite their disadvantage, their love of dance has driven them to practice and enter competitions as close as Denver and Albuquerque and as far as London, where they won the International Open Division. That qualified them for these world championships, which continue through today.

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Leei and Bosley grabbed the audience’s attention as they, along with five other couples, took the floor in the preliminary heat for the top division in the two-step, a lively, quick-paced dance.

“Two-step is a dance that is very social, easy to learn and can be danced by everyone--that’s why it’s so popular and has such a wide appeal,” said event director Steve Zener.

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Of all the competition’s dances, including waltz, cha-cha and polka, the two-step was the most popular at the championships.

“We nailed it and had no problems. We were extremely happy with it,” said Leei, almost breathless as she and Bosley came off the floor after the two-step competition, in which they danced to the song, “Still Out There Swinging.”

Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony tonight, after today’s final competitions.

The “junior youth” and “junior teen” competitions were crowd-pleasers on Saturday and evoked loud cheers from the audience.

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“Five years ago, country music wasn’t cool with kids,” Zener said. “But then Garth (Brooks) came along and made country popular with everyone including youth. So now we have an influx of youth in dance facilities like nightclubs and community centers.”

Will Yearty, 13, and his 8-year-old sister Julie charmed the audience on Saturday with their flamboyant dancing in the Junior Youth Two Step competition.

The youngsters from Gulf Hammock, Fla., have been dancing for two years. They became interested in country-Western dancing through their parents, who had been taking dance classes.

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“I feel real proud and honored to be here,” Will said, after the two-step competition. “It makes you feel part of a real big family to come to these championships.”

The brother and sister only practice an hour every week, coach Don Stewart said.

“He’s in Little League, she loves squirrel hunting and fishing with her father,” Stewart said. “This is just a piece of their life, and that’s the way we want it to be.”

For Julie Yearty, the championships were like a vacation, until it came time to actually dance. Then she got nervous.

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“At first when you get on the dance floor you’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to do that, then I’ve got to do this,’ but when you get into it you just think about having fun,” she said.

Dancers are judged for execution and technical merit, much like ice-skating competitions, Zener said.

The sponsor, United Country Western Dance Council, said it will award prizes worth $60,000 today, including Caribbean cruises, trips to Hawaii, a spa, custom leather jackets and special edition cowboy hats.

“From what we have witnessed here at this event, it reassures us that 1995 will be a grand year for everyone who loves to dance country music anywhere in the world,” said Zener. “The level of dance has risen to a new level of perfection.”

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