At the Lawrence Theater at the Fort stage, a group of mostly women gathers regularly to practice their dance moves, have fun and maybe learn something new at a free drop-in Urban Line Dance class.
Urban line dancing has been around for more than 60 years, but instructor Deitra Mayfield got her start a little more than 20 years ago. She and some friends had been going to clubs to dance informally and got noticed. They were invited to a dance gathering called United We Dance. The friends then decided to form their own group in 2004 — Triple Take Productions — and started learning different dances.
“We learned the line dances by attending other classes,” Mayfield said. “There wasn’t too much YouTube at the time. Now, it’s all over YouTube. But at that time, you almost had to appear in person to somebody’s class.”
Over time, they learned many different dances, and met a lot of people in the line dance world from all across the United States.
“Just about every state you go to has a line dance class,” Mayfield said. “Currently, here in Indianapolis, there are like four or five major groups that you can learn line dancing from. But then there are also some individuals that just teach line dancing.”
Mayfield is one of those individual teachers. She’s been offering the Lawrence-based class for a couple years and said she has a few regulars. Others drop in when they can.
“It changes every week really,” she said. “You know, sometimes, I’ll be thinking I’m the only one that’s going to show up. Other times I come in and I’m just amazed, ‘Where did you all people come from?’ Because we are utilizing every crook and cranny of the stage at that point.”
A recent class was one of the busy nights, with about two dozen people on stage following along as Mayfield led them through different dances. She starts out with simple dances and builds the group up to more complex steps.
The class lasts two hours, but people come and go as their schedules allow.
Janice Gardner is one of Mayfield’s regular dancers. At 71, she said she still loves to dance, but the biggest reason she shows up is the teacher.
“This lady right here,” Gardner said, pointing to Mayfield. “This is the best thing going, right here.”
Gardner said she likes to dance whenever she has an opportunity, because it’s fun and good exercise.
Mayfield knows a lot of different line dances and has even choreographed some original dances.
“My dances kind of like stayed locally here. But at some event out in Las Vegas that I did not attend, one of my dances was taught,” she said, “It got back to me that they had taught my dance out there. So, there’s a few people that, as far as the West Coast, the East Coast, North Carolina, I know are teaching this dance that I made up.”
That dance is to the John Legend song “Penthouse,” and a video of it can easily be found on YouTube by searching for “Penthouse line dance.”
As more dancers show up, the class starts and everyone finds a spot on the theater stage. Mayfield turns on the speaker and starts the first song. There’s not a lot of detailed instruction as they start moving, but the steps are repetitious. After a few minutes, it would be easy to follow along even for a beginner.
Mayfield said not everyone catches on quickly, but it’s still fun.
“I have one lady and I’m so proud of her because, you know, she doesn’t necessarily catch on to the steps right away, but she’s been consistent in coming and just moving,” she said. “I love that she has stuck it out.”
Because Mayfield’s class shares the theater stage with other productions and events, it doesn’t have a consistent schedule. To find out when classes will take place, visit artsforlawrence.org and click on “events.”
Mayfield’s Urban Line Dancing class is free and registration isn’t required. Donations are accepted.
Urban Line Dance fun facts
According to the Urban Line Dance History website, this version of line dancing can be traced back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the rise of The Madison.
Dave Bush Jr. was the “godfather” of urban line dancing and created many different dances in his 66 years. Bush was born in 1947 and died in 2013. Some of the dances he choreographed were “Bus Stop,” “Silky Smooth,” “Chesterfunk” and “Running Man.”
Some popular line dances through the years are the Hustle, YMCA and the Electric Slide.