Dance instructor Tama Mays

“Forward-forward, swing-swing, one shuffle-forward, turn back…” belted out popular line dance instructor Tama Mays to a packed gymnasium of “Ultra Beginners” at Redlands Community Center.

“Oh, I love this class!” exclaimed 76-year old Felicidad Labuni while rhythmically toe-tapping and clapping to the familiar melody, ‘New York, New York.’

"Tama is a very good teacher and a nice person—very kind. We all just love her!” “It’s a lot of fun!” added Alan Mathey with a glowing smile. “We’ve been coming here for five years.”

“Dance is a fun way to exercise without knowing you’re exercising!” exclaimed Karen Lesondak, another of Mays’ students.

Line dances started gaining popularity during the 1980s and ’90s and were created for specific country songs.

One example is the dance which was choreographed for Billy Ray Cyrus’ big hit song, “Achy Breaky Heart.”

And unlike ballroom dancing, no partner is required for line dancing, which means that anyone can join in on the fun at any age.

I quickly discovered that Mays is a ball of fire, full of animation and pep as she led her class through the various series of line dance steps, many of which are repetitious.

In line dancing, everyone faces the same direction and performs the steps in unison at exactly the same time.

There is no physical contact between dancers. Mays is blessed with a voice strong enough to be heard above the music with no mic needed.

It was fun to observe so many smiles crossing happy faces throughout the dance numbers as well as the mad dash for water bottles that dancers made between songs.

“You’re probably not going to remember the sequence of steps right away — maybe not even for eight weeks of weekly lessons,” Mays said. “But then suddenly a light bulb will flash and you’ll say, “I think I’m getting it!”

She recalled how elated she herself felt the day when she finally caught on. I started shouting, “I got it!”

Mays is a retired school librarian who became interested in line dancing thirty years ago. She has been teaching it for the past 15 years.

“I didn’t want to teach,” she recalled. “I call myself a reluctant teacher. I just wanted to take lessons, but there was no one else around to teach, which is how it all began.

“I started out by teaching line dancing to students at Kingsbury Elementary School where I worked as a librarian,” she said.

“And not only did the kids pick it up fast, but they also taught me a thing or two about dance moves.”

Today, Mays teaches three line dancing classes a week at Redlands Community Center and the adjoining Redlands Senior Center at 111 W. Lugonia Ave. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons.

For those with no line dance experience, Mays strongly recommends starting out in the popular “Ultra Beginners” class which is held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Fridays.

Line dance enthusiast Fran Gambino, an advanced student, said, “Line dancing exercises your brain as well as your body so it’s a double benefit. Besides I’ve made a lot of nice friends. It’s a comfortable atmosphere where no one is critical of others. And Tama is a wonderful teacher. We all love her!”

When Bill Davis was asked why he attends class, he said, “Because it’s fun!”

No registration is needed and all are welcome to drop in and join the fun. Classes are offered free of charge.

Jan Fowler is an award-winning columnist and author. She was voted “Ms. Super Senior California USA,” a category reserved for women age 75 and older. Send comments to janfowlerusa@yahoo.com

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