“Champagne Promise.” “More Than I Can Say.” “Dance The Night Away.”
These are not the titles of romance novels or Hallmark movies but rather the names of line dances as taught by instructor and dancer extraordinaire, Jean Cain.
Jean teaches line dance classes each week at Mississippi senior centers in Southhaven and Olive Branch. Spend just a few minutes with this amazing 80-yearold dynamo and you will easily be converted into understanding how dancing can keep you fit, vital and healthy.
Jean was raised in North Memphis and her early memories include dance lessons provided by the parks commission. Those lessons subsequently put her in the limelight as the dancers performed at football games and other public events.
In high school she was a cheerleader and a majorette and, years later, during her own teaching career she became the majorette’s sponsor as well as helping with dance and theater programs.
She married right out of high school and began life as a busy wife and mother of two daughters, and in an ironic twist she enrolled her daughters in a summer arts program only to find out that they had the same instructor that had taught Jean years before.
Feeling a pull towards teaching at the age of 30 Jean, entered Memphis State University and continued on with night classes earning a Master’s Degree. From there she entered the Memphis school system and taught at a number of schools, including Locke, Goodlett and Westhaven.
To each school she brought her love of dance and performing and sponsored a variety of arts programs -- dance, drama, writing.
Twenty seven years of teaching and a million dance steps later Jean retired, but facing some health issues she began a walking program, logging in four miles a day. That put her in good physical condition for becoming an instructor for the line dance classes began in 2008.
When asked how she learns the dances, Jean said that she used to attend regional conferences and seminars but now learns via online classes.
During our interview she was comfortable tossing around performer’s names that would most likely confound many senior citizens.
“Line dances are not just relegated to country stars like Keith Urban and Florida Georgia Line,” she said, “but I also teach to the music of hip hop stars like Bruno Mars and Nelly.”
She recently downsized into a new neighborhood and easily summarized her philosophy on aging by explaining that rather than going into a 55 plus community, she chose her new house after a visiting the area and seeing children on bikes, young parents pushing strollers and neighbors working in their yards.
“I certainly did not want to be where there were only old people on my street. I like seeing and being around all ages. It’s one of the things that helps to keep you young.”
Line dancing is a proven activity that is perfectly suited to older adults. It is low impact, can be done indoors, requires no special equipment, is good for balance and is an excellent way to engage not only the body but the mind as well.
The steps are intricate and complex and learning these steps improves concentration.
“It’s like learning a second language,” Jean said. “It’s a win-win situation. I think line dancing should be a part of all P.E. instruction in every school.”
That certainly sums up Jean’s approach to her passion for dance. She’s been taking one step at a time for 80 years and it looks like she will not be slowing down any time soon.
Joyce Miles will be writing an occasional column about mature adults who live colorful lives in retirement or during later years. Colorful lives could include people following their passions, acting on novel ideas or pursuing something unusual. Contact her if you or someone you know lives a colorful life and would like to share the experience. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org