By Debbie Adams
Before COVID-19, each Tuesday morning the “Steppin’ in Time” dancers met at the Charles R. Hill Community Center in Vinton for line dance classes.
Instructor Shelly McCallum started the sessions 10 years ago with one class and just a handful of participants. The numbers multiplied over the years until she had two classes on Tuesdays and more on Sundays. Most of the line dancers are retired seniors.
On March 13, 2020, the Community Center closed due to COVID-19 and the dance classes were temporarily discontinued. McCallum says classes reopened 15 weeks later, on June 23, but with restrictions on class sizes and required health screenings before class each week.
Classes have been restricted to one day a week at the Community Center and limited to under 20 participants, socially distanced six feet apart by marks on the floor. After dividing the classes in half, McCallum now teaches four classes on Tuesdays—two before lunch, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.
Temperatures are taken before each class. Participants are asked some questions about their health and travels. Masks must be worn upon entering and exiting the building, but not during the dance exercise classes.
McCallum volunteers her time to teach the dance classes. Ten years ago, she approached the town and asked to form the group. She still spends hours outside of class studying dance, preparing for the classes, and preparing the music for the playlist.
She and Lori Spickard, who fills in as the instructor on occasion, say the classes are “like family.” Spickard thanked McCallum for sharing her talents with what has become a huge group, who have discovered during the pandemic that “nothing is more important than family and friends.”
Before COVID-19, students also made appearances at expos and demos in different venues, including nursing homes, assisted living centers, and at the annual Vinton Senior Expo (also postponed repeatedly this year due to the pandemic).
On August 11, the Steppin’ in Time students surprised McCallum with a dance party celebration of her 10th anniversary. This was their first “get-together” since COVID-19 struck.
They also celebrated the life of class member Jake DiGiorgio who recently passed away, just before the scheduled party. He had provided the music during the classes and even danced. He and his wife, Sandy, met at the line dance class back in 2017.
A group of dancers, led by Spickard, provided the entertainment for the large group of line dance class members and their friends. Spickard had spent the months of COVID-19 “stay at home” restrictions choreographing four dances and teaching them to five other class members at her home. Members include Andrea Reed, Freyja Williams, Billie Ritchie, Sandy Young DiGiorgio, and Veronica Stewart.
Spickard put a lot of thought—and time on Google–choosing the music for the dances she then choreographed. There were props for each number, handed out by dancer Paula Carr. Each dance opened with “Ready, Girlz?” and “How does this one start?”
Dance No. 1 during the anniversary party was to the tune “Dance, Dance, Dance” from 1976 by the Steve Miller Band. Spickard said they started rehearsing for this number back in January– sometimes on her deck, sometimes indoors, depending on the cold factor. Props for this dance were straw hats.
Dance No. 2 was a waltz to Kenny Roger’s “Somebody Must Feel Like a Fool Tonight” from 1991. Carr handed out scarves for this one.
Next up was a madcap dance to “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses),” a one-hit wonder by John Fred and His Playboy Band which made it to No. 1 on the charts for two weeks in 1967. Props for this one were crazy eyeglasses.
For the final dance, the ladies donned surgical gloves for “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” from the Georgia Satellites group back in 1986. Spickard said this was their attempt to make the best of the unfortunate COVID-19 situation by adding some humor.
The celebration ended with some bagged snacks, again following COVID-19 guidelines.
“It is so good to be back,” said McCallum.