Jazz up the work week with line dancing

By Lori O'Brien


WESTFIELD Slowly and methodically, Vance Reed calls out cues for the beginning line dancers who are listening intently to his calls and watching his feet as they gracefully glide across the hardwood dance floor.

Reed loves teaching line dance classes and seeing the enjoyment of others as they learn a variety of new dance steps each week.

On a recent Wednesday evening at Bentley Billiards, Reed spent some time talking about his two favorite things dancing and teaching prior to his students arriving at 7 p.m.

Reed's class is considered a beginning level line dance class and on the evening of Feb. 21, there were 20 students of all ages eager to get started.

Linda Nareau of Palmer and Rose Thresher of Ware were among the attendees who said they eagerly await the Wednesday night classes. Nareau loves to dance for the exercise benefit as well as the social interaction of meeting others. For Thresher, classes lift her spirits and make her feel great.

Both also stressed it's a great way to make new friends and emphasized that Reed provides a supportive and nurturing environment for learning.

Reed said he usually puts on some music about 30 minutes before the session for individuals who show up early and want to dance or just listen and get inspired.

"At any given class we review the last three weeks' lessons and teach a new one," he said. "I play a 'break song' in between each of the four lessons of a fairly recent dance that has been taught so that they can either take a break or dance. Then the next lesson starts."

When the lesson session is over for the evening, usually around 8:15, Reed plays music appropriate for line dances for about an hour for the students to dance to.

"This is mostly by request and is not strictly limited to lower level line dances as I do have some more seasoned line dancers who attend," he added.

Reed said his love for dance began when he was young as his parents enjoyed square dancing and brought all five children along to learn. While Reed was in the Navy, he learned to two-step and line dance, but when he became stationed in the Springfield area more than 20 years ago, he found few options to enjoy country dancing.

"Since I needed a dance partner, I had to teach one," he said, adding, "others saw what we were doing and wanted to learn and one thing led to another."

In 1988 Reed taught his first "official" lesson at Harvey's Saloon in Chicopee, and as they say, the rest is history.

The cost for the class at Bentley Billiards is $4. Upon arriving, individuals pay the bartender for the lesson.

With the reopening recently of Trumpets on Memorial Drive in Chicopee, Reed has also once again begun providing country dance lessons for a nominal fee on Thursday evenings beginning at 7 p.m.

Reed said there are innumerable reasons why area residents should consider getting off the couch and onto the dance floor.

"Ask 10 dancers for reasons and you get 10 answers," he said. "The most popular is it's fun."

Why does Reed enjoy it?

"Where else can a guy go out and do two of his favorite things [dancing and teaching] and get paid for it?" he joked.

Reed also emphasized that through his dance instruction over the years, he has made so many friends he started "Club Vance" which at one point boasted 800 members.

"Country dancers are the friendliest crowd I've ever met," he said.

In addition to dancing to country music, Reed insists on mixing it up with familiar swing music, as well as tunes from the 40s and 50s.

"I also play blues, Irish music and even Queen," he added.

For individuals or couples interested in learning the Two-Step, Watermelon Crawl, Blame it on the Bosanova or Boot Scootin' Boogie and many more, contact Reed via e-mail at clubvance@comcast.net.