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Alison Bathgate is celebrating 21 years teaching line dancing in the Clarence Valley. Image: Contributed.

Lining up to celebrate 21 years

Emma Pritchard

Alison Bathgate can still remember going to her first line dancing class with her friend Helen Smith in 1995.

By the time the class was over, she was hooked, swept away by the joviality, love and laughter that makes line dancing so much fun. It’s about the social interaction, an exciting time to challenge yourself to learn new steps and movements, stimulating your mental health, and of course, making plenty of new friends. Fast forward to 2021 and Mrs Bathgate is still line dancing with the same passion and enthusiasm she had when she danced her first steps 26 years ago.

And this year, she’s also celebrating a special milestone. When one of her previous dance instructors Pam Love moved in 2000, Mrs Bathgate offered to take over her role, and 21 years later, she is still teaching. “I still have a lot of the original ladies who were in my first class, dancing with me today,” she said happily. “I’ve probably taught hundreds of people line dancing through the years.

“It’s not hard to learn and it’s a great way to have fun and socialise.” Mrs Bathgate said there are many health benefits associated with line dancing too. “It’s excellent for your balance and you have a special awareness of knowing where you are on the floor, which challenges your brain and keeps it active. “It’s good for fighting dementia and to learn new steps each week, and music also has an extraordinary way of helping the body remember.

“Your muscles remember how to move when you hear music and your feet remember where to go, one after the other. “A lot of people incorrectly think line dancing is just dancing in a line, but it really is so much more than that.” During her 26 years dancing and teaching, Mrs Bathgate and her dedicated dance groups have entertained in aged care facilities, danced through the night at Relay for Life events, and joined 7000 others in the longest line when Australia held the Guinness Book of Records title for the largest number of people dancing the same steps.

Mrs Bathgate and her dancers have also raised over $30000 for local charities including the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter, SES and RFS, and her current students are aged between 12 and 80. “No one is too young or too old to start line dancing,” Mrs Bathgate said. Mrs Bathgate holds classes 4 times a week in the T.J. Ford Pavilion at Grafton Showground and accepts new students at the beginning of each year.

An official celebration of Mrs Bathgate’s 21 years teaching line dancing featuring a social evening and workshop will be held at 7pm on June 18 at the South Grafton High School Hall. Gordon Elliott, a well-respected choreographer from Sydney will also be attending and holding a workshop for line dancing enthusiasts at the same location on June 19 between 1:30 – 3pm.

More information to come.