Come on, do the 'Achy-Breaky' Country-western stomp packs Union Bridge hall NORTHWEST

October 01, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

While most people spend Monday night getting in the rhythm of the new work week, Jackie Stambaugh and her friends dance to the beat of a different drum.

Make that a guitar.

Country-western dance lessons have dozens of would-be two-steppers flocking weekly to Union Bridge Fire Hall.

"We love to dance and we love country music," said Ms. Stambaugh, 42, a shipping clerk for Lehigh Portland Cement Company "We'd watch people do this kind of dancing and decided we wanted to do it too."

And she's not alone. Nearly 100 people turned out for the second installment of the 12-week program, which began Sept. 14.

"They come from everywhere," said Bob Boone, chairman of the committee. "We had somebody call us from Woodstock [in Baltimore County near the Howard County line] to ask how to get here."

"People just love this kind of music, and the dancing," he said.

They knew this style of dancing was becoming popular -- they got the idea to start the program after seeing friends learning country-western dance in their garage. But Mr. Boone, a 26-year veteran of the Union Bridge Fire Company, and his wife, Jo Ann, also a firefighter, had no idea it would be such a large-crowd draw.

Mr. Boone said he figured 30 or so people who really like the music would trickle in from time to time, stay for part of the 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. festivities, and be on their way.

And at $3 a person, they could turn a nice profit to put toward equipment maintenance and replacement for the fire company.

But that's not exactly what happened.

"When we first opened our doors, there were 25 to 30 people waiting outside, just waiting for the doors to open," Mr. Boone said of the first session in February. "About 110 people came for the first lesson.

"People love this, it's so unbelievable," he said. "You wouldn't think that people would come out on a Monday night and dance, but they do. Boy, do they."

During their first session, from February through May, the lessons averaged 125 people every week, Mr. Boone said.

By the time the first lesson started for the fall, on Sept. 14, 100 people took their places on the floor of the huge recreational space in the fire hall, ready for fancy footwork.

"It just seemed that week after week there were more people," said Ms. Boone. "This [popularity of the dancing] isn't just here. These line dances are sweeping the nation," she said.

"I don't know why they come out," said Mr. Boone, looking around at the people rapidly filling tables in the vast hall. "Maybe they just want to get out of the house."

Most of the dance "students" want more from the program than an alternative to flipping channels on the tube or staying home wishing for the speedy arrival of the weekend.

They gather to practice dances they already know, such as the "Achy-Breaky," spawned by the Billy Ray Cyrus mega-hit, or to learn new dances, like the second week's feature, the "Tush Push," whose name comes not from a song, but from a peculiar back-and forth motion the dancers make with their hips.

"This stuff isn't easy," said Steve Powell, the county's director of budget and management office, who cast aside his coat-and-tie office wear for more casual attire in attempting his first dance lesson.

"I think it's fun," Mr. Powell said. "I just wanted to try it and I am learning, but it's a lot harder than it looks, you know."

Dan Schoberg, who gave dance lessons in Taneytown during the summer with his wife, Shelva, said it may be hard at first, but eventually people get the hang of it.

"It's nothing to be afraid of, learning how to dance," said Mr. Schoberg, looking the part of a country-western musician in his straw cowboy hat and blue jeans. "You don't have to be an expert to start out."

Mike and Kathy Naill, a Union Bridge couple, attended lessons every week in both sessions and took lessons with Mr. Schoberg this summer, when Union Bridge didn't offer them. They even brought along their daughter, Kandy Krebs, 13.

"Kandy can two-step. We taught her," said Mr. Naill, who lays carpets and wood floors during the daylight hours.

"We come out for the enjoyment," Ms. Naill said. "He never danced before we started this."

Practicing for Fred Hoff is a little more complicated.

He said he travels 25 minutes every week from his Carroll Valley, Pa., home, where he joked that he has worn a path in the rug practicing various new moves.

"It goes from the kitchen, around the dining room table, out to the living room and back," he said, saying he had to learn to dance because he had to attend wedding receptions with the marriages of two daughters this year. "Now, I really do this just for fun."

The fun carries over into the work place for Sherry Bauer, 33, and Sandy Airing, 33.

Tuesday mornings find them practicing behind the scenes at the Taneytown McDonald's.

"I'll be working grill and she'll be working the pit" in the kitchen, Ms. Bauer said, "and if 'Achy Breaky Heart' comes on the radio, we just start dancing."

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