By JEFF MARTIN
Iíve never been interested in dancing.
Well, thatís not entirely true. Once, during my freshman year in college, I went with some friends to a basement bar in Kent, Ohio, and proceeded to swallow whatever liquid I could get my hands on. Consequently, I found myself slam dancing, or ìmoshing,î with a horde of sweating arms and legs.
At one point, I was picked up off the cement floor, lifted halfway into the smoky air, and then dropped like a 14-pound bowling ball from the tender fingers of an 8-year-old.
These days slam dancing has been replaced by sit dancing, and I canít think of a more entertaining way to celebrate my new hobby than driving over to the American Legion on Mechanic Street in Ellicottville every Thursday to watch the line dancing group, Satin-N-Spurs.
Mind you, I didnít go looking for such a group. When I met her, my girlfriend had been going for a few months with her mother and aunt. And because all men tend to do everything their girlfriends ask them to do (at least in the beginning), I went.
At first I was a bit, well, bored. I wasnít a huge fan of country music, so that was hard to swallow (though I have since come to enjoy it). To this day, I mostly sit and watch my girlfriend and the other dancers, and Iíve found that itís more relaxing than most of my off-work activities. Thereís something unique and impressive about the way each dancer has memorized a series a steps. Thereís the ìstompî and the ìvine,î two movements that are seemingly incorporated into every performance.
And leading the group is a small woman name Gail Archer. Feisty and adorned with a perpetual smile, Archer is an unmistakable leader. While she hasnít convinced me to get up and try to dance, she does her best to make those who arrive feel comfortable.
Archer started the group three years ago ó April 5, 2010, to be exact. She had started a class in Salamanca before that, but that turned out to be unsuccessful.
ìFor whatever reason, people stopped showing up,î Archer said recently.
Archer had no formal training except for attending a group in Salamanca for 10 years. When her first group venture didnít work, she looked toward the Ellicottville, Great Valley and Little Valley area.
ìI thought, Iím gonna start my own group in that area,î she said.
Satin-N-Spurs has since become, as far as she knows, the only group of its kind in the immediate area.
On a recent Thursday, the dancers kept pouring in the side door of the American Legion. Whether it was because of the sudden nice weather or because people were eager to dance, Archer clapped her hands, announced she was starting and flipped the switch. The music thundered in the hall and feet started moving. Soon the tiled floor was scuffed up. Dancers, about 20 of them, were learning a new dance with the popular song, ìTornado.î
Still, Archer stresses that the music is more than country. There are also selections of hip-hop, waltzes and mambo. I ask if she offered lessons in the tango but her expression suggested no.
ìItís not just country music,î she said. ìA lot of people think thatís all it is.î
Each dancer puts one dollar into a jar each Thursday. The money is used for pizza/wing parties held every six weeks. During those major events, other dance groups from Olean, Faulkner and Wellsville show up and show their stuff. Or sit, like me.
ìPeople who donít like to dance do pretty well if they try,î she said, laughing. ìEven those dancers who have been dancing for a long time make mistakes. You see them going in all different directions, but thatís what line dancing is all about. Mistakes are funny.î
Yeah, mistakes are funny, but mistakes made on the dance floor by yours truly arenít quite as funny.
But maybe someday Iíll get up ó if not for myself, then for my lady.
For more information about the group, call Archer at (716) 258-0099.
(You can contact Jeff Martin at email@example.com.)