For the past ten years, dance enthusiasts from across the region have gathered in Arva every week to take part in the unique art that is line dancing. For many, the genre was a flash in the pan boosted by the popularity of stars such as Garth Brooks in the 1990s but line dancing struck a chord in Arva and a decade later, people from near and far travel to the Breffni Arms every week to line out for their dance classes.
Friendships have been formed, calves have been toned and a lot of money has been raised for charity. And along the way, they’ve had a hell of a lot of laughs.
Last Thursday, the Leader found out at first hand just what all the fuss is about as dancing enthusiasts from right across the Longford and south Cavan region congregated inside the town’s Breffni Arms Hotel for a night of celebration and high class entertainment.
From the moment you walk inside the hotel’s front door, the unmistakeable sound of clunking feet and American style country music could be heard.
Perhaps more interestingly was the large number of dancers who came decked out in colourful outfits, boots and even cowboy hats for the occasion.
One of those was line dancing fanatic Joyce Morton. Stepping outside the crowded ballroom and pausing for a moment to catch her breath, the Killeshandra woman attempted to sum up the reasons behind the activity’s steadily emerging success.
“I am probably coming here on and off for four years,” she said, as a posse of other like minded line dancing devotees gathered around her. I like to come here for 8:30pm (for the beginners class) even though I am probably at the advanced stage. It’s good fun and the girls are great.”
Standing alongside her and listening on, Ballinagh’s Julie O’Reilly backed up those warmly held sentiments.
“It’s a great social get together and if you have a liking for country music you will love line dancing,” she enthused.
But there is also another side to line dancing. Known as the Breffni Kickers, the group has, over the years, become renowned for its fundraising activities as well as its more noticeable social get-togethers.
Since its emergence almost a decade ago, the group has amassed large sums for various charities including worthwhile caused headed by the likes of Cancer Homecare.
Bridie O’Reilly, who along with Colette Sheanon, Mary Fitzpatrick and her namesake Julie O’Reilly, have led much of that charge.
And as she admits, the journey has been a memorable one.
“We do it because we love it. These girls are regulars. There have been a lot of friendships from the line dancing. People that have come on their own have made long lasting friendships and that’s the beauty of it.”
Intrigued by the obvious sense of appeal that was clearly evident amongst the near 30 strong gathering, the question inevitably arose over whether there was a hidden knack behind the popular dance.
“Not at all,” smiled an eager sounding Bridie. “There are no mistakes in line dancing, there are just variations.”
The use of such diplomatic rhetoric was not lost on many of her fellow colleagues. Aberrations or otherwise however, the propensity of women to men was nonetheless clearly apparant.
“We do have a couple of cowboys alright,” quipped Dympna Gillick, a veteran of line dancing for the past 20 years. “They spend most of their time polishing their boots before they come.”
Her defence of a past-time she has steadily mastered over that time is intriguing, fetching almost.
“It’s one place where you will meet new friends,” she said openly. “It’s meeting this gang here every night and you also learn new dances all the time. One thing is for sure, it’s better than going around with the apron on in the kitchen.”
And with that the Cavan native skipped back inside to continue perfecting what she first started almost two decades ago.
Line dancing in Arva at least, it would seem, is very much alive and well.