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How it all began...

I started a line dancing club by accident. I’d been looking for an activity to keep me more active during winter and somehow it all just snowballed from there.

There are certainly people who are better dancers than me, and many who know more about line dancing, but Rhythm n' Lines is more than a line dancing class - it’s a community and it’s that sense of belonging for our dancers that I hope I bring to the club.

I've always maintained that Rhythm n Lines is not an exercise class, it's a club where everyone knows one another, supports one another and where people can come - even if it's by themselves - and feel a part of something. I get such a kick out of seeing people wearing our merchandise. When I see a Rhythm n' Lines cap or t-shirt I think, "How did all of this grow from a crazy idea and a Canva session?"

In 2014 I was diagnosed with Prosopagnosia or Facial Blindness, not the most advantageous condition for running a line dancing club! Facial Blindness can be congenital or the result of an accident. I was born with it but it took 40 years to diagnose! Previous to that everyone, including myself, thought I had terrible eyesight and was a bit of a flake. I've hopped into the wrong cars, not recognised my children in the street and I’ve always had difficulty following TV shows and recognising people out of context.

Before my diagnosis I was working in a new role where recognising people was crucial for building relationships, and I made some embarrassing mistakes. I had just lost my mother to brain cancer and my first thought was that I too had a brain tumour, which is probably why my GP and neurologist tested so thoroughly.

The worst thing about this condition is that people invariably think you're a snob and are habitually ignoring them. It's easy for me to miss people, especially if they've had a change of hairstyle or I'm tired and not concentrating. I've learnt more about the condition over the years and recognise now that if I don't see people regularly they just drop out of my memory. I have to work hard to keep everyone in my head, and can become quite mentally fatigued at times.

Not being able to recognise faces has made facilitating and maintaining relationships within the club more of a challenge, particularly when you layer mask wearing on top! I'm constantly making mental notes in my head of characteristics that will help me to remember people - actually everyone wearing the same t-shirts mightn't have been the best plan!

I'm really grateful to the people that took a punt on our club when it was just a crazy idea. Darryl Monteith allowed us to dance at Smash Palace Bar Gisborne, which was a brilliant start for us. It's still one of our favourite places to dance because of the great atmosphere. A core group of line dancers have been involved in the club from the start, without whom we couldn’t run the club.

Any kind of dancing is good for your well-being physically, but also for your mental health. It gives you energy and keeps your brain active, but the greatest benefit for me has been the people I have met and now consider to be friends. I'm thankful everyday that by some kind of cosmic mix of marketing, chance and facilitation we have an amazing group of people who regularly come together to dance. I often think of the Julie Murphy quote "The best of friends have nothing and everything in common all at once." Linedancing brings us together and provides that common ground.

There are other great line dancing groups in Gisborne and I think a lot about what our point of difference is. Firstly I try to keep it Country and Western. Both the general feel and the music. This is not because of the culture and dubious history of rodeo, there's just a coolness and resilience I admire about those vintage cowgirls and cowboys. I also enjoy the irony that for a country and western themed line dancing club, we couldn't be further out east if we tried! The club has a broad appeal. Some people are there for the dancing, some for the music, the company and some for the boots!

As we approach our first birthday, officially April 11th, I've been reflecting on our first year together. I think the club has given many people a positive focus in a challenging year. We've been able to keep dancing and growing despite lock downs, restrictions, and the difficulty of navigating the fraught realities of restrictions and vaccine mandates. It's been tough at times, but throughout it all the club has kept growing - from two Sunday sessions a month, to three weekly classes, fortnightly Matawai classes, and two Sunday sessions a month in Gisborne. We've danced at private parties, hens parties, school holiday programmes and a couple of successful fundraisers.

People want to come together and dance, and we're doing our best to find ways to celebrate and encourage that.

I'm so glad this club is turning one and I can't wait to see it grow out of its infancy - actually its adolescent phase might be pretty entertaining too!


Story by Janine Hamilton-Kells

Images by John Flatt






We always welcome new dancers. Come along and check us out or reach out and let's have a chat about the best class for you. 


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