A local dance studio is Cha-Cha Sliding with a purpose.
Smooth Flava’s Gainesville chapter is holding line dancing classes at Bo Diddley Plaza, at 111 East University Ave., on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. All profits made from the dance lessons go towards helping K-12 students pay tuition at this summer’s I AM STEM camp, which provides children with early exposure to STEM resources, skills and careers.
Run by lead instructor Wanda Lloyd, Smooth Flava has taught line dancing, urban ballroom, Dallas Fort Worth swing out and Chicago style steppin’ in Gainesville since 2017. As a third-grade teacher at William S. Talbot Elementary School, Lloyd said she began dancing in 2015 as a social and fitness activity.
“I got into it for exercise and as a fun way to meet grownups, given that I teach all day,” she said.
She said the routine nature of line dancing is what makes it a fun learning experience.
“They learn basic steps that are usually in most line dances, and then they’re just learning different sequences at that point,” she said. “I'm hoping that they'll see that because of the repetition in line dancing, it becomes something that they can pick up very easily, and the music is really fun.”
During the pandemic, Lloyd held socially distanced line dance classes outside of her house. On June 8, Smooth Flava hosted its first beginner’s line dancing class at Bo Diddley Plaza.
“We started beginner’s line dance classes at Bo Diddley for more exposure and to get people interested in dancing,” Lloyd said.
Kim Terrell, a quality assurance analyst at Tower Hill Insurance Group, and her husband, Derrick Terrell, operations and sales manager at Creative Industrial Solutions, joined Smooth Flava dance group around two and a half years ago after receiving several invites from current members.
The couple said while they’ve seen new dancers initially come to Smooth Flava doubtful of their abilities to line dance, they eventually grow self-assured with practice.
“Beginners arrive with low confidence in being able to remember the steps,” they wrote in an email. “After repeating the steps, they walk away feeling confident and amazed that they have learned a new line dance in such a short time.”
They said the dance group’s atmosphere makes them feel part of a family made up of high energy, welcoming and fun individuals.
Year round, Smooth Flava raises money to send students to the I AM STEM camp. On June 12, the chapter hosted its fourth “Teach Me To Dance” fundraiser at Citizens Field in Gainesville.
According to WCJB-TV, the goal was to raise $7,200 in order to send 20 kids to the summer camp at no cost. Along with classes and other fundraising activities, Smooth Flava totaled $10,000 in scholarship donations, and 27 kids could attend the camp.
I AM STEM’s 2021 summer camp session, titled “Jingle Jangle in June and July,” runs from June 21 to July 16, either face-to-face or virtual classes. As Smooth Flava’s proceeds go towards paying student tuition, the tuition costs for the camp, in turn, go towards supporting I AM STEM’s partnering non-profit organization Caring and Sharing Learning School, which is a public charter school in Alachua County serving grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
Kandra Albury, co-CEO of MTE Publishing, followed Smooth Flava’s Facebook page for about a year before attending a dance lesson. She and her business partner now attend classes regularly.
Albury said the partnership Smooth Flava has with I AM STEM is a great cause.
“Line-dancing in the name of STEM is a win-win all around, for adults dancing with a purpose and for students learning with the future in mind,” she said.
Smooth Flava takes dancers from all levels, ages and backgrounds. Being held outside, Lloyd said the new classes at Bo Diddley create a laid-back, inviting and enjoyable space for all members of the community.
“Everybody comes dressed very casually, and the environment is just really fun. Bo Diddley gives us the opportunity to have a melting pot of dance because there's so many different people there.”
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