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Back in the classroom

It has been months since line dancing instructor Ruby Wise was able to teach a line dancing class.

As a result, she navigated through a closet full of clothes and boxes of books in search of her desk Wednesday morning.

The desk was stuck behind items that the Senior Center of South Pearl River County collected for future garage sales. But Wise excavated the desk and pulled it out into the dancing classroom. She sorted through sheets of class rules and past performance schedules, trying to figure out what should be thrown away. She moved the St. Patrick’s Day tree still in the corner of the room from March into the closet, preparing the space for students.

The senior center had to close its doors due to the pandemic. Unable to teach, Wise line danced by herself at home. But line dancing alone didn’t have the same appeal.

“When you’ve got somebody to help and go along with you, the socializing, that’s the part I missed too.”

Although the senior center reopened on a limited basis this week, Wise wasn’t sure how many students would be willing to attend her first class in months, especially with the threat of COVID-19 still in the air. Nationally, COVID numbers are on the rise and older adults are at higher risk due to the virus.

“I’ve missed it. I’ve really missed it. Everybody has, but they’re just afraid to come back here. It’s wonderful. It’s good exercise and it’s good social, to talk to people. I found at home, I just, it was like I practiced a while and I said, ‘I just don’t want to do this.’”

The other two line dancing teachers that Wise works with are not ready to return to an indoor class setting, so Wise was not sure how many students would attend.

But three students did come to class—one brand new to line dancing. Tape outlined socially distanced boxes on the floor for them to practice in. All four women moved in time as Wise chanted at the front of the room, “step, step, slide.” Wise explained the difference between a slide and a grapevine. As they moved from the first simple routine, Wise explained new steps, demonstrating a jazz square for her class of three.

Although the class was smaller than the full room of people she taught before the pandemic, the dance steps were the same.