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Live, Love, Line Dance: Locals step out & shape up with free classes

RESERVE — The Regala Gymnasium in Reserve was covered in black and gold Tuesday night as more than 70 line dancers clad in Saints gear showed off the moves they’ve learned in biweekly classes since April.

The energetic group was connected not only by music, but also by the success stories they’ve shared through line dancing.

Donna Washington struggled with high cholesterol, even after tailoring her diet to fit her medical needs. That started to change when she joined in on free Steppin’ Out & Shapin’ Up Line Dance classes, led by volunteer instructor Susan Bailey.

“When I started coming here, my doctor was shocked,” Washington said. “My cholesterol is in the low 200s right now. I’ve lost four inches in my waist.”

Line Dancers take advantage of numerous health benefits in classes held twice weekly from April to August in Reserve.

She’s not the only one who has slid into better health.

Participant Denise Smith has a total knee replacement approximately one year ago. Line dancing has brought her not only increased mobility and balance, but also a decreased risk of dementia.

Other participants have lost as much as 40 pounds from dancing twice a week. One of the newest members of the group said she would certainly be back for next year, noting the workout she received from line dancing was more comprehensive than what she experienced in Jazzercise.

In addition to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, line dancing also works as a muscle toner and a stress reducer, according to assistant instructor Erica Cola. She said the exercise increases mobility without joint damage, aids in weight loss efforts and promotes positive social interaction with others.

None of it would be possible in St. John the Baptist Parish if it weren’t for certified instructor Susan Bailey.

Natalie Robottom was among the cheerful line dancers to walk out onto the gym floor in second-line fashion Tuesday in Reserve.

Known for her upbeat and enthusiastic nature, Bailey started line dancing in her backyard with her youngest daughter more than 10 years ago. She recognized line dancing as a valuable asset to those who yearn for the health benefits, without the funds required for a gym membership.

“I wanted to give back to my community through exercise,” Bailey said. “I took classes and became a certified instructor.”

Bailey has brought line dancing to St. Charles Parish, Houma, Gonzales, Thibodaux and beyond. Steppin’ Out & Shapin Up came to St. John the Baptist Parish three years ago.

Susan Bailey is a certified line dancing instructor. She volunteers to teach others through her group Steppin’ Out & Shapin’ Up (S.O.S.U.) Line Dance.

Parks and Recreation Director Kerry Watkins is glad to share the gymnasium with the community.

“You should see all the participants and all of those from the neighboring parishes who come to participate,” Watkins said to the crowd Tuesday night. “I have enjoyed watching y’all dance. I see the happiness and joy in your faces as you go through these classes.”

Wednesday’s performance celebrated the end of 2019 classes with support from family, friends, elected officials and nonprofit volunteers. Door prizes and refreshments were included.

Parish President Natalie Robottom was among the line dancers, and she confirmed the cost-free program would be back for men and women of all ages in 2020.

No experience is required to join in the fun, according to Bailey. She said classes would resume in April, allowing her ample time to cheer on her favorite sports team.

“I tell everybody that line dance has a season,” bailey said. “Line Dance season is from April when daylight savings time starts until August, because I’m a Saints fan. I go to the games.”

Bailey is also available for backyard parties and other small group lessons. She can be contacted at susan.bailey@stjamesparishla.gov.