Bluffton dance class puts a little soul into staying fit, having fun

Special to The Bluffton PacketMay 30, 2012 

  • Sponsored by Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services, certified soul line dancing instructor Lynn Bryant's Bluffton slide class is 4-5 p.m. Mondays upstairs in the gymnasium at Bluffton Recreation Center, 61A Ulmer Road. Classes are $25 a month or $6 for drop-ins.

    Beginning in June, classes will be 5-6 p.m. Tuesdays.

    For more information or to register, contact Clarissa Douglas, of Beaufort County PALS at 843-255-6680 or Lynn Bryant at 843-521-7474.

"Yes, it's a beautiful day and all the ladies say, uh-huh" just like Ne-Yo sings in "Champagne Life" as Monday afternoon slide class gets under way at the Bluffton Recreation Center.

For the next hour, certified soul line dancing instructor Lynn Bryant will take a dozen dancers through their paces with the electric slide, cupid shuffle, cha-cha slide, the wobble and other classic line dance routines.

Performed to R&B, soul, hip-hop and Motown hits old and new, soul line dancing or slide dance has been embraced for more than 30 years in urban areas like Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and Baltimore. It's recently become popular in the South, where line dancing is often done to country music.

Bryant, who also teaches Family Slide Dance in northern Beaufort County, will have none of that. The retired educator, who travels to Bluffton from her home in Lady's Island to teach slide at the Ulmer Road Center and in Sun City Hilton Head, uses only the music that inspires Slide's moves. The steps can be slow and rhythmic or funky, freestyle stomping, but most of the routines are easy to pick up, and Bryant encourages dancers to "fake it till you make it."

"Slide dancing is something I've wanted to do for a long time," said Lori Thompson, who owns Curves in Bluffton and lives in Eagle's Pointe. "It's fun for me because I get to be a student and learn new dances in a casual environment with new people I maybe wouldn't have met elsewhere."

Barbara Hayes, a resident of Pinecrest, heard about Bryant from a friend who takes her classes in Beaufort. She signed up when the Bluffton classes started in March, and was among more than 60 slide dancers from throughout Beaufort County who packed the dance floor at Montana's in Bluffton for a "field trip" to celebrate Bryant's 56th birthday in April.

"She's a super teacher and has a lot of patience with us beginners," said Hayes, who has rheumatoid arthritis and sometimes wears an ankle brace on her right foot. Because slide incorporates freestyle movements with choreographed dance routines, it can be an energetic or low-key workout.

"It's a gentle exercise that is very easy on muscles and joints," Thompson said. "It's a great addition to my workouts at Curves, and Lynn makes it fun and relaxing."

The Monday classes in Bluffton at 4 p.m. are wedged between a noon class at Sun City and 6 p.m. class in Beaufort. Bryant, who teaches seven slide classes a week, said she naps at the home of a friend in between.

"My dancers' ages range from 20 to 80," Bryant said. Collectively known as Family Slide Dancers, Bryant's class members have forged new friendships and fostered cross-generational appreciation of black recording artists from Beyonce to Kanye West and Jay-Z's rap tribute to '60s soul singer Otis Redding.

Additionally, Bryant, who is white, has used her passion for dance to promote racial unity. Her late mother, Laura Markovich, moved to Beaufort County from Michigan in 1965 as a young widow with Lynn and her three siblings and married a black widower with six children. Together they had four biracial children.

Bryant grew up on St. Helena attending predominantly black St. Helena Elementary School, where she returned to teach for more than 30 years, retiring last June. Her 2002 autobiography, "'I'm Black and I'm Proud,' Wished the White Girl," chronicles Bryant's coming of age as part of a biracial family during the height of the Civil Rights movement in the South.

The book's title refers to her experience as the only white majorette with the St. Helena High School Marching Band, where everyone sang along to James Brown's "I'm Black and I'm Proud" as the band marched.

Bryant now teaches a weekly slide class in St. Helena in the gym where she learned to dance. Many in the class are her former pupils, now with children of their own, attending with three generations of their families represented.

"I always dreamed of having a club where people of all ages and backgrounds would come together and dance, just like at a family reunion or wedding reception," said Bryant, "so Family Slide Dancers is definitely a dream come true."

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