Progress 2022: Area dance clubs are hoppin’ | News

WESTWOOD You could call it group therapy with a fast beat.

On Thursday nights at the Flatwoods Senior Center on Reed Street, folks scoot their boots for three hours of line dancing and ballroom steps. On Fridays, the scene shifts to the Westwood Dance Club on Iowa Street.

Dr. Dante Oreta, a retired local physician, and his wife Frances bought the Westwood building three years ago after about 22 years at a facility in Greenup. He said 60 to 80 people come to the Friday dances.

“They can’t go to bars because they don’t like smoking, and they don’t drink, so they have to go to a clean place where there’s no smoking or drinking,” Oreta said. “This is the only place.”

“We don’t advertise, really. It’s word by mouth,” Frances said. “Whoever comes here always comes back.”

Oreta said the club moved from Greenup because the rent became too expensive. He remembers the first time he saw the Iowa Street building.

“It was nothing,” he said. “We really had to dismantle the roof, the ceiling, the walls. We had to put in two bathrooms.

“There was no water in this place, so we had to go and dig a trench all the way to the back so we can have two bathrooms.”

Debbie Henson, the Flatwoods Senior Center’s director, said attendance for the Thursday dances varies. Her friend, Ava Hignite, said it’s often because of the weather.

At 83, Nadine Carver, of Minford, Ohio, is just about the oldest regular at both the Flatwoods and Westwood dances, and she appreciates not having to drive to Columbus, Ohio, two or three times a week. She’s also one of the most accomplished. She’s scheduled to compete at a national dancing event in May in Florida.

“It’s kind of fun because I can still move at this age,” Carver said. “I like the Texas two-step. I also love waltz, polka. I love ’em all, as long as it’s a dance.

“Dancing is just something that will help you get through anything, even if you’re sad. It’s just a good feeling.”

Sometimes, romance blooms. Judy Smith, of Grayson, met her husband Oscar at a Friday dance.

“I asked him to dance,” she said. “We started dancing and he asked me out for dinner, and it just kind of blossomed from there.”

Line dancing involves a series of repeated steps performed in unison in one or more lines. Participants do not touch each other, but they can either face each other or move in the same direction.

The website waverlykarate.com identified 1961’s “San Francisco Stomp” as one of the earliest line dances. Songs for five others — Walkin’ Wazi, Cowboy Boogie, Electric Slide, LA Hustle and Tush Push — were written in the ’70s.

According to grizzlyrose.com, line dancing became popular in the 1970s — the same time as the disco era. Some of the early steps included the Electric Slide, Cowboy Cha-Cha and others.

The 1980 film “Urban Cowboy” generated interest in the Texas two-step. Line dancing was revived again in 1992 with the Billy Ray Cyrus hit “Achy Breaky Heart.”

Steve Carter, of Greenup, teaches line dancing. He said you can get a strenuous workout.

“We teach free to get (people) on the floor and get them some exercise,” Carter said. “I’d say I burn off 3,000 calories.”

Ballroom dancing has been around centuries longer.

On blog.dancevision.com, author Alison Borne said the early origins date back to 16th century Europe, when French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, wrote of a dance that he observed in 1580 in Augsburg, Germany, “where dancers moved together so closely that their faces touched.”

“Waltz, considered the oldest traditional ballroom dance, originated as a dance style enjoyed by lower classes,” Borne wrote. “Around 1750, a couples’ dance called ‘Walzer’ was popularized by peasants of Bavaria, Tyrol, and Styria. Danced in ¾ time, it eventually spread from the countryside, to the suburbs, and finally into European cities.”

By the mid-20th century, there were other influences. Among the faster steps: the tango from Argentina, the foxtrot in New York, the mambo and the rumba from Africa and later Cuba.

More recently, the TV series “Dancing With The Stars” has sparked interest.

Frances Oreta said it’s hard to attract younger people. However, a few teenagers attended a Feb. 18 dance at Westwood. James Roush, 14, of Gallipolis, Ohio, comes down most weekends with his stepfather, Scott Fannin. Unlike many of his friends, he prefers line dancing.

“It’s just something good to do in the evenings because most kids on Friday evenings would go home and sit down and play video games all evenings,” Roush said. “It keeps you occupied; gives you something new to do.”

Abigail Blair, 15, and her friend Makylah Tussey, 14, came to Westwood for the first time Feb. 18. Blair thought line dancing was “difficult.”

“There’s a lot of steps in the dance,” Blair said, “but it was fun.”

Tussey, meanwhile, was a bit more experienced.

“I take a dance class at Boyd County (High School),” she said. “I do line dancing all the time. I’m going to come back.”

Frances Oreta said there are plans for ballroom dance lessons. “We are going to try and start having a ballroom dance once a month, and then if that picks up good, then we’ll pick it up more,” she said.

There was one more question to answer: Which Oreta is the better dancer?

“I’m the better dancer,” Frances said.

Oreta responded: “Yeah, I agree.”

There are two weekly dances: 6:30 to 9:30 pm Thursdays at the Flatwoods Senior Center, 2513 Reed Street and 6 to 10 pm Fridays at the Westwood Dance Club, 216 Iowa Street.

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