Over 10,000 people have waltzed into the hearts of Texarkana College’s Country and Western dance instructors’ lives since 1982 and their boots are still scootin’ in preparation for the next round of classes that begins next week. Long-time dance instructors, Sandy and Dick Francis and Linda and Jeff Taylor, can’t wait to meet the next group of dance students enrolled in classes offered through TC’s Community and Business Education Center.
Sandy and Dick Francis, along with their friends Jeff and Kathy Taylor, met in 1980 at a Country Western Dance Continuing Education course held at Liberty-Eylau High School. The couples became life-long friends and spent years dancing together and perfecting their technique while traveling to dance halls across Texas. In 1982, the couples began teaching classes at Arkansas High, New Boston, DeKalb, Texas High and several area country clubs before being asked to teach by James Powell, TC’s coordinator of Continuing Education Department at the time.
“We jumped at the opportunity to teach at the college because it offered more space and support for our classes,” Francis said. “Everyone knew where it was located and enjoyed going there. We found we could teach larger groups in a central location if we taught at the college.”
Francis said that when the word got out about the classes at the college, huge groups of people would show up for lessons.
“At one point, over 200 people came for the first session. We didn’t want to turn anyone away! We taught the class with all 200 dancers the first night and then divided them into two classes for the next session,” said Francis. “We had folks tell us when we stomped during one of the dance moves in the line dance, the entire building shook- we loved it!”
The foursome laid a solid foundation for success and continued to teach classes together for close to 30 years. In 2012, however, Kathy Taylor lost her battle with cancer. Although it was difficult to keep the momentum of the classes going after their loss, the remaining three instructors felt the need to continue dancing and instructing. In 2014, Jeff married Linda, who has become an avid C&W dancer herself, and together they are continuing the tradition.
Over the last 35 years, classes have included people from all age groups including students as young as 10 years old and senior citizens up to age 90 years old.
“We’ve had parents bring their kids with them to lessons and have had groups of high school students sign up to get ready for school dances,” Francis said. “Classes are suitable for all ages and all dance backgrounds.”
In the beginner Country and Western I class which begins January 30, students will learn the Cotton-Eyed Joe, Two-Step, Three-Step, Waltz, Broken Two-Step (or Shuffle), 6 Turns to the Shuffle, and one line dance.
In the Country and Western II class, beginning February 27, students will concentrate on more turns on the shuffle and on an additional line dance.
“We have made some great friends and met some of the most interesting people from all occupations and walks of life,” said Francis. “We are thankful to each and every one of the approximately 10,000 people who have waltzed into our hearts through the years. We can’t wait to meet the next group of dancers!”
Cost of the Country and Western I (beginners) class is $40 for a four-week course. The Country and Western II (intermediate) class is $45 for a four-week course and you must have a partner to take the class. Classes meet on Monday nights in the Great Room of TC’s Truman Arnold Student Center. Registration is available through the TC Community and Business Education Center online portal at http://ce.texarkanacollege.edu. Interested persons may contact the Center located in the Nelson Administration Building, 2500 N. Robison Road, Texarkana, Texas or call (903) 823-3270 for more information.