CULLMAN, Ala. – Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, a wonderful group of ladies meets at the Donald E. Green Senior Center ready for dance classes, but what the women get out of it is much more than just learning a few new dance moves. These ladies have created a sisterhood and they are hoping other senior ladies will join them. Led by instructor Sherry Boatright, the classes are broken into beginners, improvers and intermediate line-dancing. 

Many say they had never danced at all prior to participating and worried that they might be making a huge mistake. Instead, they realized dance classes were everything they needed.

Gwyn Blackburn comes to every class and has for nine years. 

She said, “I’m from Arley and that’s almost 30 miles one way, so that gives you an idea how much I love this class. It’s such fun and it’s such good exercise, but your body doesn’t know it’s exercise because you’re having fun!”

The Tribune sat in on the Improvers class recently and met the lovely dancers. 

Barbara Young has been dancing for five years. 

“I had retired and I was like, what am I going to do?” she said. “Someone told me about this and I came up here. Everybody was so friendly and it just enlightened my life. We love what we do. I can’t say enough about our teacher, Sherry Boatright. She is just there for us and it’s like a support group even. She plans things for us to do and she’s such a part of us and we are all just really great friends.” 

For those who aren’t sure if they are ready to lace up their dancing shoes, there are other
activities available for them at the Donald E. Green Senior Center, including games, exercise gym, music and art classes and other special activities throughout the year.

Said Young, “When I first came here, I couldn’t even move my feet. It was just so encouraging to me and I could see I was going to have so much fun. My favorite thing was, I walked in the door and I didn’t have one person that was negative. Everyone welcomes you and it’s wonderful.”

Nancy Thompson said Young was one of the first ladies she noticed when she visited the senior center, and Young was inspired by watching her dance.

“My mother actually found this place for me after my dad passed,” said Thompson. “My mother and I came some summers and I learned the dances. Then, my mother got where she couldn’t dance and things happened in our lives.”

Several years passed and Thompson and her mother came back in 2012 for the Sacred
Harp singing classes at the center. 

Thompson said she would hear the music coming from the gym and wanted so badly to join the line dancing. 

Thompson’s mother told her in 2017, “You oughta get out and do something!” 

Thompson said, “I knew exactly what I want to do! I want to line dance. So, I did. Oh and the ladies are so accepting. I didn’t know the dances and they never laughed. I love it here so much.”

Teresa Pritchard moved to Cullman after living in Chattanooga for almost 20 years. She didn’t know many people despite being born in Cullman.

She explained, “I’m retired and didn’t have anything to do. I was bored. I had a lot of things on my mind. My sister had died early at only 42. Line dancing… whatever you have going on in your brain that’s not good: sad, depressed and upset, you come here and line dance and you forget it all. Just concentrating on the steps and learning the steps just alleviates the pain. That has helped me heal. My mom passed last year and the same. I was still dancing and had all the support and love from everyone here. They are really close friends to me and I appreciate this center and everything it has done for us.”

One of the newer members, Dona Adams, discovered the dance classes when she came to the center to walk seven months ago. She decided to join the ladies on the dance floor one day and fell in love with it. 

“I told her (Boatright), ‘Listen, I’m not a morning person. I can’t come to the beginner’s class,’ but the next time we were supposed to be here, I was here early. It has changed my life. I needed something,” Adam’s said with tears in her eyes. “It has been a wonderful thing for me. I have made so many great friends.”

Vickey Smith added, “We all have problems in our life. This is the place we all come and we forget about those problems. It’s good exercise on top of all that.” 

Smith pointed out that learning the dances and steps takes time, but anyone can do it.

“I feel wonderful. I go to the doctor one time a year. I don’t have high blood pressure and I’m not diabetic. I haven’t gained weight and its helped muscle mass,” Sue Burns said of the health benefits she has experienced.

Burns is also one of the many Spirit Kickers looking forward to their Kicking Cancer event coming up on Oct. 26.

“Dancing is good for your body and good for your brain. My doctor told me, ‘You are my example for everyone else to just keep dancing because it keeps you going.’ It’s been great for me. It’s very good for you mentally to be around other people,” said Burns.

Shirley Nelson, who is 87 and looks amazing, couldn’t say enough about the positive things dancing has done for her overalL health and well-being. 

“You have to keep active and keep moving!” said Nelson.

Rachel Scroggins retired from Redstone Arsenal in 2017 and moved home to Cullman. 

She said, “I am grateful to have a place to come for exercise that’s free!” 

She encourages others to come join them.

Some of the dancers are part of the Senior Spirit Dancers and Kickers and perform outside of the senior center. The Spirit Kickers are scheduled at several places including Senior Day and the Cullman County Fair.

Young said they will be doing “Uptown Funk” at the fair and a few other amazing routines.

The dance classes are free at the Donald E. Green Senior Center. The classes are every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and are open to ladies 50 year and older. The beginners class is from 9:15-10 a.m. Improvers dance from 10-11:15 and the Intermediate class follows from 11:15 until 12:30 p.m. For information, call 256-734-4803 or stop by the center at 1625 Cleveland Ave. SW in Cullman.

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Christy Perry

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