Claudette Morrison could have danced all night, even though she started at one in the afternoon. Conditioned by countless hours of work with her “Jazzy Ladies,” the Georgetown line-dancing enthusiast welcomed an equally excited combination of experienced dancers and eager beginners to her 2019 “New Kidz on the Block” workshop held on Saturday, August 10 at Beck Recreation Center.
“I’ve just always loved to dance. I’ve been teaching line dancing since 2014,” said Morrison, who says she learned the art from watching and interacting with YouTube videos. “There’s a lot of good instructors out there but right now my favorite would probably be John Woodhouse,” she added, elaborating on the different types of line dancing: country, rhythm and blues, hip-hop and soul, which has a lot in common with country. “We do soul. This is just like western dancing but we have more of an upbeat music. It’s the same count.”
While dozens of synchronized feet stepped, swirled and slid across the gym floor under Morrison’s direction, DJ/choreographer Pleasure White from Elizabeth City, North Carolina played songs like “Be Thankful,” “Simple Love” and “Work it Out,” occasionally sneaking time away from his equipment to enjoy a few routines for himself. The event also drew dance talent from around South Carolina.
Franklin Jones, a friend of Morrison’s and a visiting instructor from Columbia, took time to explain his commitment to line dancing. “It’s great; it’s good exercise, good cardio, good way to work out, and also a stress reliever.” Jones, who has been dancing for 12 years, got started when an interested coworker from the Department of Corrections, invited him to a class. “She stopped doing it, but I just kept on doing it,” said Jones who has also worked as a substitute teacher. Some of his favorite tunes are “Cut a Rug,” “Metamorphosis,” “Charlie Sheen” and “TNT.”
Karen Mickens, an instructor from Sumter, reiterated the health benefits of line dancing, adding the mental stimulation that comes from both the exercise and the fellowship. Her praise was similarly unrelenting for Morrison. “I dance with everybody in the area and Claudette is one of our favorites. She’s trying to introduce Georgetown to line dancing. It’s a culture. We just have a great time. It’s just positive vibes in the air—nothing but positivity here. We love each other; we have a beautiful time here and we meet some wonderful people throughout the U.S!”
Instructor Jennifer Jones, 56, from Columbia’s “Southern Groove Line” commented on her day of dance, “It was wonderful. I loved it. I’m very tired but I loved it. I love the socialization.” Jones encouraged young people to find something that they really enjoy and “just get up and do it.” She summed up, “With exercise, it’s kind of like a mundane thing, but with line dancing you can put your own little twist to it and if you make a mistake, nobody knows—”
“Or cares!’ interjected another voice next to Mae McKelvey, a home health care provider from Charleston. McKelvey, who affiliates with line-dancing groups in the Carolina area, discussed her weight-loss journey from 231 pounds to 187 that she attributed to five years of line dancing. Aware of the importance of motivation and movement, she also mentioned a few gains her clients have enjoyed with line dancing. “The ability to use the strength that they had before, like using their arm muscles. They’re not so weak in the arms or in the legs anymore. They’re more active,” noted McKelvey.
Landi Willie, who drove four hours from Easley to help with the workshop, credits line dancing for her 20-pound weight loss. “I’m doing it for my health and I’m doing it to maintain my weight,” said Willie who started dancing five years ago in Greenville. “From there--that’s when I met Claudette—so we’ve been good friends ever since, so every time she has her affair, I’m here to show up and represent her,” she said energetically.
The afternoon portion was filled with a jewelry exhibition from Bessie Gamble, fresh food from Georgetown’s Walker Express, a raffle and a good-natured game of musical chairs with prizes going to Jennifer Jones and Ricky Potts.
Morrison concluded after six hours of dancing, “I just came from New Orleans and I’m leaving Tuesday to go to a line-dancing event in New York. Sometimes we have 12-hour marathons,” she said, undaunted, “but I always have an annual workshop in August.”
Morrison offers classes on a regular basis for seniors at the Beck Building on Tuesdays (10:30-11:30 a.m.) and on Thursdays evenings (5:30-7:30 p.m.). On Wednesdays, she teaches a beginning class at the Howard Center. Additional information may be found by visiting Claudette Melton-Morrison’s Facebook page or by calling (843) 359-0840.