I first heard about Line Dancing from a friend at my Calligraphy class in 1996. It sounded like a good way to start exercising and losing weight again after giving birth to my daughter, Jessica. However, due to some health complications (a hole found in my mytral valve to the heart) I only began dancing in August 1998. I heard about a class running at the Glenwood Old Boys Club in Durban North. The same lady, Alicia Bologna, taught at the Westville Civic Centre, so I attended twice a week. I loved it and became addicted immediately. I met some wonderful people and enjoyed the friendly, fun atmosphere tremendously. The bonus was, I lost almost 15kg within about 6 months!
I had never really been partial to the “cowboy or cowgirl” image, but decided I was going to simply go along and enjoy the dancing. I love all genre’s of music and found that dancing to country music ONLY, became a little boring, for me personally, after a few months. I was still excited about this new dance discipline I had been introduced to and wanted MORE! I began researching Line Dancing on the internet and made some wonderful e-friends online who assisted me by bringing me up to scratch with what the current trends were then. They sent me music (via “snail mail” in those days) and emailed step sheets regularly. Learning a dance from a step sheet was a new skill that, at first, I found very daunting and took a while to master correctly. I continued attending classes regularly, read anything and everything I could lay my hands on related to line dancing and continued corresponding with my overseas friends regularly. I tried to find local teachers and only managed to make contact with Jayne Wilson, Vicki Bannister and Caryl Cusens. Jayne and Ken taught out at Ballito and were very helpful and willing to chat and share information on what dances they were teaching in their area. They had apparently heard about line dancing from an Australian lady. Caryl Cusens taught on the Berea and was thrilled that there was more interest in line dancing and that there would be another class in Durban and was also very willing to advise us. Vicki Bannister had a small class going in Pietermaritzburg and was also very happy to advise me on what they were doing in Pietermaritzburg. Vicki had qualified as a line dance instructor in the UK and was the only person in SA, at that stage, with a qualification in this dance discipline.
In 1999, Alicia was no longer teaching regularly in Durban North due to renovations being conducted at the club where we danced and the Durban North dancers were anxious to get a class going in our area so that we could continue to dance regularly. Occasionally a couple of us would attend a class on the Berea with Caryl Cusens at the old Playhouse Company near Tollgate bridge. This was a great help and eye-opener too as we realised just how much we had been missing out on over the years. They were doing some stunning dances!
The Durban North dancers began meeting at one of the dancers, Claudette Noah’s, home each week, and danced in her courtyard. I taught some of the newer dances that I had been sent from the UK and America and some of the dances that Caryl Cusens had very kindly recommended. I will never forget - one of the first dances being "Cajun Mambo Walk" which most line dancers still call "Mambo no. 5". Soon it became a little crowded at Claudette’s, so we decided to be brave and take it a step further and look around for a venue in Durba North to start a proper Line Dance Club. Alan Travers offered to be our DJ and help us with music. This man had the most amazing music! Alan and I sat and worked out a teaching programme and he very kindly made CD compilations for this, in preparation for the classes. Claudette offered to be our “secretary” and she set up class membership lists and cashed up after each class – and to this day, she still does! Thanks Claudie, you are a real treasure!
We discovered that the Durban North Pigeon Racing Club was available on a Tuesday and Thursday evening and “Border-Line Dance” was officially “born” in December 1999. We had 28 people on our first night and it just grew from there. It was a new “rage” that seemed to take Durban by storm, at that time. By April 2000 we had approximately 80 members. This amount of people was too much for the tiny venue we had, yet, almost thankfully the current “phase” died off for a while and by the end of 2000 we were back down to a steady membership of about 40-50 dancers, which was a lot easier to cope with.
In May 2000 we had our first Social at the Italian Club in Durban North in order to meet dancers from all the other line dance clubs. We hope it would bridge the proverbial gap and encourage ALL line dance instructors to interact, network and most of all, work together for the greater good of line dancing. This was the start of the many “big” Socials in Durban and surrounding areas. It was wonderful as all the Clubs starting taking turns at hosting inter-club Socials and we all worked on a core of similar dances which we all taught so that our dancers could ALL be on the dance floor at the same time. It was such a thrill seeing so many people, doing the SAME dance, to the SAME song, all in unison. I was even more fired up and decided to do everything I could to contribute and ensure that line dancing would continue to grow, not only in our area, but Nationwide.
In 2001 we made contact with Carol Ann from the Cape and discovered she had also been teaching line dancing for years before we even knew she existed. She was hosting the first SA Line Dancing Competition, “Under the African Sky”, on the weekend of the 26th of May 2001. Adjudicators and dance personalities, Rob Fowler & Stella and Rick Wilden, attended from the UK. Carol Ann flew to Durban and attended our class, conducted a workshop, teaching us the dances for this competition. Border-Line Dance, JK Dance Studio and CC’s Dance Ranch (now Dance@CC’s) all attended this event in Cape Town. It was an amazing experience for KZN dancers to be on the dance floor with so many people! We met some incredible dancers from all over South Africa. We decided WE wanted to host the SA champs the following year....
Later in 2001, Caryl Cusens hosted the first “Battle of the Boots” Line Dance competition on Wednesday the 22nd of August 2001. She had Arthur Furrer (from Switzerland) and his wife, Roshila, adjudicating this event. This was a Provincial event and was a great success. This event instilled even more confidence and enthusiasm in dancers and instructors alike, and they were very keen to improve and dance in more competitions. Caryl was happy for us to use her name “Battle of the Boots” for the following year’s event. We planned months in advance to host BOTB 2002 on the weekend of 21st September 2002.
We had Bill Bader on board and he coached me through the entire planning of the Battle of the Boots 2002. I could never thank Bill sufficiently for all his advice and patience... It was time consuming and hard work! If I had known what I know NOW, I would never plan an event like this again.... I travelled all over the country conducting workshops to teach the competition dances to all the instructors and met the most amazing dance teachers... The Mavericks in Gauteng organised a dance workshop and stunning Social for us. The Cape, as always, were SUPER hospitable and I was thrilled to meet Karin van der Merwe, Jenny, Neville and Maggie, Shirley and Charmaine, to name a few. They also hosted Socials after the Workshops in order for us to get to know each other better.
By this time, we had made contact with the majority of line dance groups throughout Southern Africa and had an amazing response to our event. We were fortunate to have approx. 240 entries and as many spectators per day. The event was held at the Hellenic Centre in Durban North from the Friday through to the Monday of the following week, ending with a children’s competition, arranged solely by Bernice McMagh, called “Kidzz Stomp 2002”. This event was held at the Northlands Bowling Club. Our adjudicators were Bill Bader and Grant Gadbois (Vancouver BC) and Vicki Bannister (Pietermaritzburg).
Between 2002 - 2005, it all became a bit of a blur for me as my personal life became a mess and my marriage was over... My husband “felt neglected” due to the time I devoted to line dancing (especially during the planning of BOTB 2002). My devotion to Line Dancing never failed, I was just not physically, mentally and emotionally capable of being as driven and full of “gusto”, until I had healed... I tackled Line Dancing with renewed vigour at the beginning of 2007 and decided to change the name of my dance club to BEE LINE as I wanted my OWN identity back along with getting my life back...
Nowadays it feels like we have gone from one extreme to the next... Everyone seems to have jumped on the competition bandwagon and competitions are being held left, right and centre, and it’s almost got to a stage where, unless one is totally encumberance free, wealthy enough so that you don’t need to work, one cannot possibly participate or attend all these competitions. There are just TOO MANY COMPETITIONS now. It appears that we now have two types of line dancers, the general dancer who enjoys dancing and attending classes for FUN, and the serious competitive dancers who hardly even come to class, or if they are there, are so busy going over competition dances in the next room, or so exhausted from practicing for their competitions, that they are no longer participating or having fun in class and learning the normal dances along with everyone else...
Competitions sadly change some people... Some dancers never make an appearance until there is a competition on the horizon and then they expect coaching and to dance under your club name... I had always hoped that Line Dancing would grow, but not to the stage where it became ONLY competitive and less Social and sadly, less fun. I feel there are too many competitions and too few Social events such as Workshops. Clubs host Socials all the time yet we appear to have all gone back to our little “Islands” and the interaction and networking between Instructors no longer exists... I believe we need to strongly review and remedy this situation, forthwith. I, for one, dance and teach dancing as a form of recreation – it’s my hobby and a way of me giving something back to my community. I do not want the fun taken out of line dancing by having to announce a new competition on the horizon every couple of months. I vote for more line dance workshops, which will ultimately benefit the competitive dances anyway and provide a “lighter” side to line dancing.
I derive great pleasure from teaching Line Dancing, mostly because it’s a dance form that ANYONE can participate in, one does not require a partner, line dancing brings people great joy, fitness and health and a great sense of achievement! It provides people with a “safe” social outlet, no matter what age they are. I would never have met all the wonderful people I now regard as friends, had it not been for line dancing... Teaching dancing has taught me a new level of humility and respect for others as well as patience.
I find it most humbling teaching Beginners (as I will never forget my first lessons) and cannot describe the pleasure it gives me when I see my efforts “pay off”. By this I do not mean in a remunerative sense either... When one sees a dancer obviously feeling a sense of achievement and you can stand back and watch your class simply having fun with the dances you have taught them, you know you have done your job well. It is so incredible when you are able to watch a person “grow” in confidence. Initially when you meet them, the first thing they inform you of is that they have “two left feet”... Eight weeks down the line, when you remind them of this, they have moved beyond this and are beaming as they now have mastered approximately 6 dances! I also hope that these dancers remain humble and never forget how they started so that they, in turn, may encourage and assist beginners to enjoy line dancing as much as they now do.
Being able to teach is a GIFT and a blessing and I am truly grateful that I have been given the ability to be a great and patient teacher and that I have the time to share this with others each week.
I am a bubbly, free spirit and am far too talkative for my own good – the words “verbal dysentery” spring to mind... I love all types of music and dance, yet appear to excel in the funkier dances. Waltz is one of my weaknesses which I am determined to work on as I love the graceful movement yet need to execute this correctly... I love any dance that’s a challenge to learn and dance and aspire to learn new technique all the time by constantly reading up on latest styles and technique in ALL dance disciplines. It’s a personal challenge for me as I was not able to attend dance classes as a child (for many reasons) and most of what I have learnt about dancing is self taught by reading and practicing - OFTEN. I was only able to attend Ballroom and Latin for a few months and learnt a bit about the basics, for which I am now grateful.
I have attended other classes over the years, as an adult, such as Modern and Modern Jazz, Tap dancing, Hip-Hop and Nia. Still hope to try belly dancing and am enjoying the new Salsa class in our area. I also invite teachers from other dance disciplines to guest teach at my classes to enable my dancers to broaden their vision on dancing as a whole and learn other techniques. For example, a modern dance teacher could teach us how to improve on our funky dances, a Ballroom and Latin teacher can show us correct rise & fall technique in our Waltz or do a cha cha with better technique...
I enjoy choreography a great deal, but more so from the aspect of the team or demo group level. It is so rewarding to put a team medley together. We are so fortunate to have such an abundance of incredible dances available on the internet that there is hardly a need for us to choreograph our own dances. I rarely have the time and will only choreograph a dance if a piece of music get’s my attention and there is not a great dance available online to learn to the music.
I am passionate about dancing and dance teaching and hope to continue to contribute in some way to the success of Line Dancing in South Africa and enjoy the support of dancers for many more years to come. I treasure the special friendships I have acquired though line dancing. Line dancing classes are very different to other dance classes as they appear to be less formal and there is always that element of fun and laughter. I have yet to go home from a class feeling “flat”. The spirit of the class is always so uplifting. You can arrive at a class feeling totally exhausted and once you start dancing, you just seem to become revived and get that second burst of energy! I thank all of you who believed in me sufficiently as an instructor, from the start, and through your amazing support, kept me going through all these years...
Dancing is not only a great form of exercise and recreation, but it is one of the best forms of therapy too. It’s good for the mind, body and soul and a form of exercise I would recommend for anyone. I am so grateful I discovered line dancing and am healthy and fit enough to continue teaching....