AUBURN — Music bounces off the cinder-block walls in a room at the Hasty Memorial Armory on Friday morning, pushing dancers to put everything into their well-rehearsed, choreographed routines.  

Bad hips, replaced knees, aches and pains don’t slow down a core of veteran line dancers who travel a local circuit.

“It’s why I do it. It helps me stay in shape,” says Jan Randall of Auburn, who has been doing it for 20 years. A dozen women, ages 65 to 90, weave and shuffle about the tiled floor in a brightly lit recreation room off the gymnasium. 

The ringleader, Rina Cloutier, pulls CDs from cases. They range from country to French favorites and even some rock, “but none of that new stuff,” pipes in one of a dozen that showed up this day.  

Rolling laughter and other quips and comments follow.  

“It’s $3 a class,” Cloutier says.” Some of the girls come to all of them … there are a couple men who join in from time to time, but men usually can’t hack it and don’t last.” 

Two classes each week in Auburn and at Montello Heights Retirement Community in Lewiston and one in Lisbon keep Cloutier and her troupe busy. Montello Heights is the most popular.  

“We have about 20 who show up there regularly,” she says. “Many of the residents come down and watch. They sing along to the old French songs, whether they know the words or not.”

It started a dozen years ago for Cloutier. She was working at the Lewiston Multi-Purpose Center and discovered a line dancing class right there. She decided to give it a try. She fell in love with it and when the instructor retired, she asked Cloutier to take over. Since then, she has brought a low-impact activity that can be done by seniors looking for a way to exercise, socialize and have fun.  

“We improvise with some of the dances,” she says. “For those who have vertigo or bad knees or hips, we might do a quarter-turn instead of a half. We just tweak it a little and it works just fine.”

After dancing for 25 minutes, they take a 10-minute break, says Mary Tyler of the Danville neighborhood in Auburn, who is about to turn 91. “We talk and tell stories, but we don’t gossip.”

“Just don’t ask about the duct tape,” pipes in Claudette Larochelle of Lewiston, drawing hoots and more “non-gossip” tales and teases.

After the last waltz is played, many head to lunch together. “You don’t feel so guilty going out to eat after doing this,” says Rita Collins of Lewiston, the newest member of the group.


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