By KATIE SEMINARA
Vindicator Staff Writer
YOUNGSTOWN — Line dancers at the Jewish Community Center are used to dancing for exercise, but now they also dance for change and for unity.
This past week Shelia Cornell threw her class for a loop by adding a new dance and song to their repertoire: “The Obama Line Dance.”
“Everybody loves to dance,” said Cornell, of Girard, who has been teaching line dance at the JCC for two years.
“It’s a good way to get people united,” she said of her class’s doing the Obama dance.
Getting people united was just the target Greg Johnson of Warren was shooting for when he wrote “The Obama Line Dance” in mid-December.
“One of the first lines of the song says, ‘If we dance together, we can advance together,’” Johnson said. “It’s a unity thing.”
The ultimate goal is to have everyone doing the dance on inauguration day, he said.
About 1,000 people have been taught the moves in the Mahoning Valley, and the dance has been filmed numerous times.
The dance is on YouTube along with other variations from other parts of the country. Another popular line dance created to show enthusiasm and support for President-elect Barack Obama is the “Obama Hustle,” which is danced to the song “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder.
“Mine is right out there with them,” said Johnson of his dance, noting that it’s catching on in the area, as well as on the Web.
“Anytime we play it, people just go crazy,” he said.
Ronnie Rupert of Campbell has seen the excitement while teaching the dance to others.
Rupert, who teaches line dancing at the McGuffey Centre, helped Cornell instruct the class at the JCC last week and started off by saying, “This is a pretty popular dance.”
With his direction, the group of about 15 people were quickly doing the steps and eagerly waited to test their moves with the music.
Soon enough, the dancers were grooving to the beat and following the song instructions, “Clap your hands, it’s time for change.”
Rupert shouted out directions so the students wouldn’t get lost and encouraged them to “jazz it up.”
“It makes people feel glad,” Rupert said.
Doing the dance and listening to the lyrics reminds people of what the country has accomplished with the outcome of the last election, he said.
“If you have any dance skills you can do it, but if not you can be taught,” said Rupert, who hopes area residents will come out and learn the dance at the Congratulations Inauguration Celebration.
The event starts at 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24 at the B&O Banquet Hall, 530 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown.
“There will be plenty of Obama line dancing going on,” Rupert said.
Cornell said she’s keeping the dance, which was well received by her students, in her mix during classes at the JCC,
“It’s a wonderful way for us to celebrate [Obama’s] arrival,” said Judy Whitman of Niles, who learned the dance at the JCC.
Whitman and fellow students all agreed that the dance is not only easy to learn but good exercise.
“I think people should learn the dance for inauguration day,” said Gwen Brown of Youngstown.
Simple things such as inspirational dances and music help people stay positive, especially considering the hard times the country is facing, she said.
“We’re dancing the Obama dance for change,” Brown said.