by Keith Knight
Every week, I find myself in the middle of a sweat-soaked dance floor, filled with smiles of all ages, moving together to some of the most infectious country songs. And every week, I stop and ask myself the same question, “Why is this so addictive?”
Country line dancing is making a resurgence. What started in the 1970s, and became wildly popular in the 1990s, was due for a comeback. Part of the comeback may be due to the accessibility of instruction, with platforms like YouTube and Instagram, and even local line dance classes made available to aspiring dancers. Back in the early ‘90s, you had to go learn as you go, but now you can load up on all your moves in your living room, and show up ready to shake it at multiple venues packed with wood floor weekend warriors.
Why is country line dancing experiencing a resurgence in popularity? One big reason might be that after the extended isolation of the pandemic the opportunity to get out and have fun in groups is even more exhilarating than ever. Maybe it has to do with the opportunity to learn something new, or the adaptability and accessibility of any age or experience level. It could be that the draw of line dancing is the ability to fly solo, and have times to grab a partner and two-step. In some cases, it’s the most exciting form of exercise available, and it offers work-weary people a time to cut loose and burn those calories and cares away. One more big factor is the continual growth of country music popularity, and the themes and resonance of simple life and back road beats that are precious to so many of us, but I believe there’s especially something magical that can’t be pinned down.
The first time I went line dancing I was sure I’d never be able to do what all those people were doing out on the floor. The moves were too many, too fast, but all it took was one dance lesson in the middle of the evening at the DanceMor Ballroom in Swisher, Iowa. I learned one single dance, and got sucked right into chasing the feeling of more moves, more songs, more fun. What started out as looking like a western wallflower blossomed into a full-blown boot ballet. Once my wife and I were firmly fixed in this line dancing get together, it didn’t take long for all our daughters to get caught up as well. This is when we really started seeing the magic of the line dance resurgence.
This is an all-ages party, with a little bit of something for everyone. I get to sing along with songs that I’ve loved for years, like Alan Jackson’s ‘Good Time’ and Steve Earle’s ‘Copperhead Road’, while my daughters rush out to the floor for Shania Twain’s ‘Giddy Up’ and the Jane Dear Girls ‘Merry Go Round’. And strangely, the floor is packed with all ages when ‘Fireball’ makes an appearance, from 8 to 80, you’ll find almost every type of person out there ‘making it shake’ to the ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie.’ In a way, it’s a small glimpse of the wonder of humanity, when everyone sets differences aside in order to lock step in agreement. No matter what life is like outside that honky tonk, inside we are all headed in the same direction, and in those moments when you’re lost and can’t figure out the steps, there will always be someone who will point you in the right direction. It’s a safe place to figure the steps out, with a little help from new friends, and a reminder straight from John Michael Montgomery, that ‘life’s a dance you learn as you go.’
The line dance movement is building momentum again, and it came just at the right time. With so much animosity, stress, and frustration in the world, one of the best ways to handle feeling overwhelmed is to grab your friends, get out there, and kick up your heels. If there’s not a line dancing opportunity close to you, then maybe you might even consider starting one. At the very least, you can always start in your home, and just cut a rug in the living room.
I never anticipated that in my 40s I’d be discovering a brand new obsession. It has not only injected a new level of fun and excitement into my marriage, but it has turned into a family affair that is making lifelong memories. If you would’ve told me that I’d be fully invested in this ten years ago, I’d have thought you were crazy.
I got ‘roped in’ to line dancing, but it didn’t take long to find my way back into the joy of country music, step by glorious step.