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'It makes me smile to come here everyday'

Rose White • Jan 3, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Beth Heybloom has been teaching line dancing to senior citizens for more than 30 years. But for Heybloom, it’s about more than just teaching the steps.

She runs a class twice a week at Four Pointes Center for Successful Aging in Grand Haven for about 25-30 people over the age of 50. After being a community educator in nursing homes, Heybloom started to teach line dancing when she was 26.

Back then, “a lot of people would sit in their chairs and move their feet,” she said. “To see where it’s come has been amazing. Now, these men and women are dancers.”

Heybloom has learned a lot of line dances over the years, and even started to make up some of her own.

“I found it was great for widows and widowers that love to dance but didn’t have a partner,” she said. “Because it’s still social and you’re with other people, but you don’t feel obligated to be dancing with a partner.”

Line dancing is the best-attended fitness class at Four Pointes, according to the Wellness Center Director Jessie Riley.

“Beth does an awesome job at making everyone feel welcome in the class,” Riley said. “At one point, we were over capacity of our current fitness studio and people were running into each other.”

The line dancing class is about more than dancing.

“Dancing is one of the best intellectual wellness activities (for seniors), in addition to physical exercise,” Riley said. “There is a lot to remember, plus coordination. Beth is really helping them stay healthy and stay active.”

Heybloom is also challenging stereotypes about aging and line dancing. She believes it’s not all about country music and the traditional approach to the style. Instead, she plays current music, like Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, and she just started using a Pitbull song.

“Beth keeps things really fresh in there,” Riley said. “It is challenging that stigma that they’re listening to old-time, boring music.”

Four Pointes believes in empowering and finding the potential in seniors, Riley said.

“Aging is not about decline, it’s about finding what you’re passionate about and letting that thrive,” she explained. “And the people in Beth’s class are empowered every time they come in here.”

“I (don’t) put as many limitations on the elderly,” Heybloom said. “It is a whole different outlook on the aging process.”

Some members of the class have been with Heybloom since the beginning. They have watched her dance and also seen her go through life.

“They have been with me, a lot of them, through everything,” she said. “When I got married, the birth of my son, his marriage.”

When the class started, Heybloom put a song on and went to the middle of the room. About 20 people started moving in a synchronized fashion, remembering the steps but looking to their teacher when they weren’t sure. She started another song, and as the group danced, they confidently yelled out “Fireball!” with the music.

“They are definitely my friends and not my students,” Heybloom said. “I just have fun. It makes me smile to come here every day.”

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