Western Rhythm

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IMG_9772-Edit line dancing mary schmidt_no credit needed
Mary Schmidt (left) leads a beginning line dance class in Laguna.

Instructor Mary Schmidt discusses why line dancing is not only fun, but also provides a great workout for all fitness levels.

By Jessie Dax-Setkus


Skip the classic workout gear and throw on some cowboy boots instead as you try out a popular style of dance that doesn’t require much experience. The city’s line dancing classes are offered Tuesdays at the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Senior Center, serving as a great way to get in some much-needed steps—plus, according to instructor Mary Schmidt, line dancing is a great workout that can rival a gym session.

Schmidt has been leading the lessons for about five years and has also taught quick sessions at Laguna’s Hospitality Night. Visit lagunabeachcity.net to sign up for her beginner class and learn a new style of choreography while working on your wellness.


Laguna Beach Magazine: What is your background with line dancing?

Mary Schmidt: I’ve been line dancing since it got really popular in the ’80s. The Marine Room [Tavern] used to host line dancing in the back room with a live band. I’ve been line dancing ever since—going to the Swallow’s Inn in San Juan Capistrano and going to The Ranch [Restaurant & Saloon] in Anaheim. I’ll spontaneously lead the electric slide and get the crowd dancing with me.


What are the health benefits of dancing?

MS: Dancing boosts your cardiovascular health; dancing also builds your core strength. It promotes flexibility, good posture and reduces back pain, [and] it improves your mobility. Dancing is a [low-impact and] fun way to promote weight loss. We usually average about 3,000 steps per class. And it’s easy. Dancing is a form of weight-bearing activity. It can help maintain your bone density. … [Plus,] there’s a lot of memory involved when you are learning new dances and doing a lot of cross-brain, mind-to-muscle movement. Dancing can help decrease anxiety and stress, increase self-esteem and improve your … [overall] well-being. It can also help everyone feel more socially connected.


What can you expect from a class?

MS: Having an hour of so much fun. I make sure that … [my students] stay relaxed and congratulate them on learning steps, sequences and terminology. They will leave the session feeling rejuvenated and have a sense of accomplishment.


What kind of music do you incorporate?

MS: Whatever song I’m going to present, it has to be the right beat or tempo for that particular dance, but I reach out to all country-western genres. As I’ve told the class, I don’t call my class country line dancing; it’s beginner line dancing, because you can do the electric slide to The Beatles [or] to The Rolling Stones. … It’s a dance that can adapt to any music genre. But I think it’s just really fun to do it to country music and that’s how I present it.


What do you think makes your class fun?

MS: Well, if you ask any of my students or any of my friends, fun is my middle name. And dancing is fun. The music is fun and there’s a lot of laughter during class. … And I welcome questions so no one ever gets left behind.


What equipment should you bring to class?

MS: I always suggest that the soles of your shoes are leather or have a smooth surface so you can glide and slide a little bit on the dance floor. … If you wear fitness sneakers, you won’t be able to really move. … Some other things to bring to class are … [a] willingness to learn—don’t take yourself seriously, relax and, before you know it, you’ll be dancing with the best of them.

Step in Time

These products, available at local stores, are all you need to try line dancing for yourself.

The Shop Jeans
Get into the spirit of line dancing by donning classic blue jeans—like Rolla’s ORIGINAL STRAIGHT DENIM PANT, which features a high-rise, straight leg design that tucks comfortably into your cowboy boots so you can show them off during class, $129, at The Shop. Laguna Beach. (949-715-8308; theshoplaguna.com)
Coast Hardware water bottle
The leak-proof cap on Zoku’s 16 OZ. GRAY BPA-FREE WATER BOTTLE makes it easy to toss in a bag and take to class while the double-walled glass core ensures that your drink stays cool, $31.99, at Coast Hardware. (949-497-4404; acehardware.com)
We The Free The Perfect Tee 3
THE PERFECT TEE, a cropped, loose-fitting option from Free People’s We the Free collection, is an everyday staple that can be worn before, during and after your lesson while providing enough space to comfortably move around as you dance, $38, at Free People. (949-519-3056; freepeople.com)
Boot Barn Wynter Western Boots
Giddy up to class in the traditional Cleo & Wolf WOMEN’S WYNTER WESTERN BOOTS, made with comfortable distressed leather plus a leather sole and rubber heel that are perfect for sliding across the dance floor, $249.99, at Boot Barn, Lake Forest. (949-455-0211; bootbarn.com)
Rip Curl Surf Series Sling Waist Bag
Sleek in style but still roomy enough to hold your items during class, the SURF SERIES SLING WAIST BAG features two zipper pouches as well as a water bottle pocket to help you stay organized on the go, $49.95, at Rip Curl Laguna Beach. (949-715-4885; ripcurl.com)
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