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When anyone in Walterboro thinks of line dancing, they immediately think of Terry Pournelle.
Living near the beaches of South Carolina, Pournelle grew up listening to beach music and dancing the Carolina Shag on the Isle of Palms.
“My love of music and movement developed with teaching aerobics classes and then moved into line dance,” said Pournelle. “I would teach a line dance either before or after class … word spread, and I was asked to teach line dance for the Senior Friends at the hospital.” The rest is a 23-year history of line dance instruction.
Pournelle hasn’t only enjoyed her classes in Walterboro — she has also danced/taught in S.C., N.C., Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, New York, Vegas, Australia and Chicago. “I’ve written about 50 dances over the years. Most have been published on several web sites. I’ve probably taught 400 dances over the years. That doesn’t mean I remember them all, but we do have our favorites that we have danced for 20-plus years,” Pournelle said.
She has also trained dancers for competition and choreography competitions, but her love is just being able to dance like nobody is watching. “There’s no stress that way!” she said.
When she first began teaching, the line dance was a counterpart of country music. It has come a long way from its original roots that encompassed boots, cowboy hats and western shirts, to today’s contemporary dance attire and soft shoes or sneakers.
“There are still some areas of line dancing that I keep totally country … but I enjoy all music, so I teach oldies, beach music, Irish, jazz, country and a little funky,” said Pournelle.
In the past, Pournelle has taught a line dance camp in the summer to children as young as 8. She and the children even wrote a dance together. Her oldest student still dancing today is 91. She once had a member who danced when she was 96.
Not everything has always worked out perfectly for Pournelle. She is hearing impaired with a cochlear implant which makes it hard to hear the music. She has to work extra hard to hear the start of a song. Her students are understanding and make adjustments accordingly. Through this, Pournelle has learned to never give up on something you love because of a small problem.
She has proven her tenacity at overcoming her handicap by being nominated for Beginner Dance of the Year for a dance she choreographed called “Key Lime.” The national awards were presented in Las Vegas, and she was a runner-up. She was also nominated for regional instructor of the year. Even after 23 years, Pournelle is not ready to hang up her dancing shoes.
“We have a workshop coming up in January in Charlotte, N.C. called ‘Big Bang.’ I will teach five classes and dance in a themed show on Saturday night. Dancing at workshops takes you a notch above your hometown because you are dancing with top choreographers, instructors and dancers from around the world,” she said.
“Locally, we are now dancing at the Colleton County Recreation Center on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 9:30 with new classes starting in January. I’m proud to say we still hold the price to $20 a month! I also teach aerobics/sculpting/chair exercise classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. I’m a senior fitness instructor, so my classes are geared to 50 and older; however, you don’t have to be a senior to take the classes,” said Pournelle.
She tried to explain her love of line dancing and teaching. “It’s so much fun when the music is motivating, and you can move your body to get some exercise too. Some dances have intricate patterns, and it’s like putting a puzzle together, with each step fitting together perfectly. It’s so rewarding when that last step or puzzle piece is learned and the dance is complete. It is such a feeling of accomplishment. My group, the Scootin’ Boots, works hard learning dances and sharing our love of dance with local nursing homes, the Veterans Victory House, churches and schools. We’re not perfect but we sure do love to dance!” said Pournelle.