Teaching Line Dance to the Visually Impaired

love-dancing1775507This past Wednesday, I began teaching line dance. Part of me was saying, “What in the world are you thinking?! You have been line dancing less than a year!”

Another part of me shouted out, “Just try it! It will be an adventure! If it doesn’t work out, you can stop. But for now, just do it!” I knew soon after I began line dancing that I wanted to share this wonderful experience with others through instructing. I definitely wanted to share my passion for line dance with anyone who was willing to try.

For the past 15 years I have worked for an agency that provides rehabilitation to adults who are blind and visually impaired. I have strong feelings about this community. I have seen that they are capable of almost anything they put their minds to. I have watched people walk in the front door dependent on family or friends to do for them, and chauffeur them around, but after receiving training go on to find a job and travel independently.

I also toyed with and looked into the prospect of teaching a class at the studio where I take my lessons. Between the two options, interesting enough, I was less concerned by the prospect of teaching line dance to adults with limited vision, so I decided to start there.

I decided the first line dance I would teach is the one I learned first:¬† Ms. Jody’s Thang.

I had ten dancers present. Four had no visual impairment. Two are experts in the field of Orientation and Mobility (O&M). These ladies help people regain their independence after losing vision. The other two sighted people are volunteers at the agency.

Of the six visually impaired, two were experienced square dancers, one of these is a man who is also hearing impaired, and wears a hearing aid. He told me he square danced for over 20 years, and used to teach classes, and asked that I not make the music too loud otherwise it would reverberate in his hearing aid.

Five dancers have enough vision that they were able to stay in line while we danced.

One dancer has very little vision and did well, but had some difficulty keeping in line with the rest of us as we made our turns. This is to be expected, and I’m working with the O&M Specialists to see if we can figure out how to help her. She told me she had a great time, and is looking forward to the next class!

All in all, it went very well. Although I was rather nervous. It was my first time calling the steps out loud and it is definitely a learning curve. I need to work on my audio cues since my dancers cannot watch my feet, they definitely need verbal instruction to stay in step.

It is said when you are line dancing, you must concentrate on the steps to the extent that you cannot be thinking of other things. I find this to be very true. Even the moment I begin to think, “Hey, I’m getting this,” I fall out of step. But having to call the steps out loud and keep dancing the correct steps? Whew!

For the first class, we worked on just one dance. We went through learning the steps one section at a time, then putting the sections together and finally doing a full rotation.

One problem I had was teaching the dance at a slower pace than the music. When I turned the music on, it was much faster than my dancers had learned to take the steps.

I also had decided to teach my dancers that once you learn a dance, you can use it for multiple songs! I love this idea! So we ended up learning the steps and dancing to Ms. Jody’s Thang at first, but I also found two other songs that worked perfectly. The only little problem is I had trouble counting the beats from when the song began, and I got flustered and kept starting the song over again, and apologizing. {How embarrassing! Oh, how I agonized over my mistakes for the next 24 hours! I also felt wiped out, thankfully not physically sore. Mentally, more than anything.}

I found an awesome website that allows you to enter the beats per minute (BPM) and find songs at that BPM, by genre!

Ms. Jody’s Thang (Remix) is 144 beats per minute. The other two songs I chose were:

It Doesn’t Get any Countrier Than This by Tim McGraw

It’s a Beautiful Day by Michael Bubl√©

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!