Diane Andrews from Diamonds ‘n Denim Line Dancing tells Jo Atkins how a shared love of Country music and a sense of curiosity brought the group together …
Where, when and how did your interest in line dancing begin?
In Port Macquarie, in 1995, my brother and his wife showed us a music video clip with people line dancing in the background. Being Country music fans, we joked that we should learn to line dance and exercise, instead of sitting around playing cards.
‘We girls’ followed through and registered the four of us for classes. My husband and brother grumbled, but they were curious. Everyone was so friendly. At the first class, we were all hooked. As they say, the rest is history.
Give us a bit of background history about Diamonds ‘n Denim Line Dancing – how and when did it form?
In early 2001, I registered Diamonds ‘n Denim Line Dancers. The name derived from the diamonds and sparkle of the ballroom dance floor to the denim-clad fun and frivolity of a Country music festival; line dance has it all. Modern professionally choreographed dance routines include waltz, Latin cha cha, two step, swing and even tango.
Gone is the image of ‘country hick with thumbs in belt’. We have grown up! Our group formed as a ’provider’ for Active & Older, a division of North Coast Area Health. Our aim is to provide low cost fun exercise in a safe and friendly environment. Line dancing is recognised by the medical profession as being beneficial in improving balance and aiding in falls prevention.
It’s not all about seniors; sportspeople all over the world, tennis players, bowlers, even boxers and footballers use line dance for co-ordination training. I have been sole instructor of Diamonds ‘n Denim since 2004, when my then fellow instructor left the group and retired due to ill health. We are very fortunate to have other qualified teachers and instructors within the group. These experienced dancers help newcomers and offer valued advice and back-up.
How many and what types of members does the club have?
The group currently has over 100 members. Ages vary, although most are seniors. Our youngest member is in her 20s; our oldest in their 80s. Line dance choreography caters for all ages. Dancing can be fast or slow, easy or hard. You don’t need a partner to line dance.
Many of our dancers are alone; they have lost loved ones and have come to us, usually recommended by a friend or medical advisor, for companionship and exercise.
When and where does the club meet?
Our classes are on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday every week. North Haven Bowling Club is our much loved sponsor club. Monday is at North Haven Bowling Club 1.00-3.30 pm, Tuesday is at Port Macquarie Guide Hall 12.30-3 pm, Wednesday is at North Haven Community hall 6-9 pm.
All sessions start with beginners class for the first hour, followed by intermediate / advanced. Cost is $6 and covers the full session from beginners through to experienced dancers. This allows dancers to advance at their own pace. Afternoon tea is included at most classes.
What sorts of activities does the club take part in regularly? There must be line dancing competitions?
Regular events for all of our dancers include two weekend socials every month. Visitors and groups in surrounding areas join us for an exciting and fun afternoon or evening of dancing, good food and camaraderie.
We also have 3 major events every year at North Haven Bowling Club, where the public can come along, free of charge, for an evening’s entertainment. We have an additional 2 regular demonstration bookings each year.
Because of time constraints, we no longer take bookings for demonstrations for Spring Fairs, etc. Likewise, our competition entries are limited. For five years, I, together with local friends, successfully entered line dance competitions. I then decided to wind back my own dancing and apply what I had learned to teaching in a class environment.
What are some of the highlights for club members? Have there been any competitions won / major events competed in?
Yes, we have a full trophy cabinet. At our most recent competition, our group won 1st place against both interstate and local dancers. This was indeed a highlight, and the group wears its medals proudly.
It’s good to remember though, that not everyone wants to dance to competition standard; although we are qualified to do so, our emphasis at Diamonds ‘n Denim is to have fun! Our motto is ‘Fun, Friendship, Fairness and Unity’.
Do you only cater for experienced dancers, or can people with two left feet join?
Two left feet dancers are most welcome. We were all beginners once. It takes only a couple of lessons to become familiar with class routine. Likewise, if you’re new to town and / or have line danced before, we’d love to see you. There are a lot of new friends waiting for you.
Where can people find out more if they’re interested in becoming a member?
For more information, have a look at our website at: www.didenim.com or phone me, Di Andrews on 6581 0898 or 0418 636 278, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Long time member of Diamonds ‘n Denim, Stan Letchford, explains why he loves line dancing.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became interested in line dancing?
I am 76 years old and retired. When my wife Sue retired about 15 years ago, a colleague gave her 6 line dance lessons as a retirement present. She asked me to go with her and although we struggled for the first few lessons, we are still here (and possibly still struggling with the steps!)
How long have you been a part of Diamonds ‘n Denim?
Sue and I have been dancing with Diamonds ’n Denim line dancers for about 9 years, after the other classes folded (because the instructor relocated to another town).
What sorts of activities do you take part in as a part of the group?
Diamonds ‘n Denim instructor Diane organises many activities outside of the classes, including local picnics, overnight weekends, local tours, such as our last outing to Cowarra dam, visits to other line dancing social activities and arranging guest instructors to visit and teach the latest dances.
She has organised and trained competition groups to compete (with success) in district and regional competitions and demonstration groups to provide entertainment at carnivals, retirement villages, school fetes, etc.
You must have a funny story or two to tell about your line dancing activities?
Not so many funny stories, but unusual activities … a couple of which have been doing a demonstration in the bull ring at the Long Flat rodeo in the interval following the bull rides (had to watch carefully where one placed one’s feet!) and having to borrow and use shovels and brooms to clean the road at Timbertown after the parade of horses and the bullock team, so that we had a place to dance.
What do you personally get out of line dancing?
I enjoy the dancing and comradeship of the other dancers. It is mild exercise physically and testing mentally in remembering the steps (have been exposed to over a thousand dances over the years – not that I can remember every dance, but enough to be able to enjoy myself at social events).
What would you say to anyone thinking of taking up line dancing?
To anyone wishing to try, all I can say is the people are friendly, encouraging, supporting and good fun, and Diane goes out of her way to make people welcome.
Find a good pair of dancing boots, or sturdy shoes and come and join us. You might surprise yourself!
Thank you Diane and Stan.