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Seniors 'get down' in line-dancing class

A group of approximately 20 local, female, senior citizens go to the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale every Tuesday afternoon to shuffle, shimmy, and cha-cha together for a couple of hours.

The women are participants in free line-dancing classes offered at the senior center every Tuesday. They do group dances, such as the Cupid Shuffle, the Electric Slide, the Jazzy Lady, the Homey Twist, and the Detroit Shuffle.

Many of them wear serious looks on their faces, while they simultaneously dance and watch their instructor's feet. Then, when the music stops, everyone breaks out the smiles, and high-five and hug each other.

Several women said they keep coming back to the class for the fun they have together, as well as for the exercise they get as they dance.

"I come to Riverdale every Tuesday to eat lunch, have fun and work out," said Hampton resident, Jackie Harris, who has been participating in the class for three years. "I've only missed one class in the last three years, and that was last week, because I was in Florida on vacation."

Jonesboro resident, Joycelyn Benham, one of the two line-dancing teachers at the senior center, said seniors should do activities, like line dancing, to keep their bodies in as good a shape as possible, as they get older.

"It really gets the exercise going," Benham said. "It keeps the heart rate going with some of the high level of energy involved with the dancing. The heart is the most important muscle we have in our bodies, and this is one way to keep it in shape."

She said participants in the class, like participants in any class at the Frank Bailey Senior Center that involves exercise, have to get permission from their doctor to sign up for the class.

There are actually two line-dancing classes that are offered back-to-back at the senior center, which is located at 6213 Riverdale Road, in Riverdale. The first class, which lasts from noon to 12:45 p.m., is the beginners class, taught by Benham, who said she previously worked as a professional dancer in New Jersey and Florida.

The second class, which lasts from 12:45 p.m., to 1:30 p.m., is the advanced class, taught by Palmetto resident, Glenda Gamblin, a self-taught line dancer who has been teaching line dancing at Clayton County senior centers since 2002.

"Your basic dance has 32 steps, and then they go up to 40, 50, sometimes even 60 steps," Gamblin said. "We may do as many as 10 dances. Line dancing is not just for country music, anymore. You've got your Latin line dancing, and every other type of line dancing you can imagine."

Riverdale resident, Dianne Pearson, said she prefers to take the more advanced class, so she can learn the more complex dance moves. She said she enjoys the class, for health and social reasons. "It's just good exercise and good fun," she said.

Newnan resident, Doris Jackson, said she joined the class a year ago, when she brought her brother, Jesse Jackson, to the Frank Bailey Senior Center to sign him for some of the classes offered there. While they were at the center, Doris Jackson saw a flyer for the free line-dancing class and decided to check it out.

Like Pearson, Jackson said she likes the class because of the exercise, and to have fun with the other women in the class.

"It was an outing for him, but I ended up getting something out of it, too," she said. "I like it because it gets my energy level up, and I just enjoy it."

For more information on the class, call the Frank Bailey Senior Center at (678) 479-5505.