Photo courtesy of Michael Montoya

Valencia County Senior Olympics Steppin’ Line dance group performs at the Valencia County Fair Senior Day in August.

The Valencia County Senior Olympics Steppin’ Line Dance Team are encouraging seniors to get up and get their feet moving — whether they have a partner to dance with or not.

“I actually have done a lot of other dancing, but line-dancing you can get up and dance by yourself,” said Barbara Cain, one of the founding members of the group. “You don’t need a partner. It’s really hard, especially when you’re a senior to find a partner to dance with. There’s not that many men out there, to be blunt about it.”

In early 2020, Cain said a group of women, who had all participated in Senior Olympics, needed an activity to keep moving during the pandemic-fueled shutdowns, so they began line dancing.

“And Senior Olympics, that’s what we’re about, that’s our purpose to everybody moving, motivated, physically and spiritually healthy,” said founding member Yvonne Montoya. “So, it was a good thing.”

It started out rough with regular practices occurring at Anytime Fitness in Los Lunas, complete with masks and social distancing, but now, two years later, the group performs across the county at assisted living and senior centers.

Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photo Barbara Cain, one of the founders of Valencia County Senior Olympics Steppin’ Line dance group, dances with others following a performance at the Valencia County Fair Senior Day.

“We were very fortunate; we got a great sponsor that let us use their room to start with — Anytime Fitness,” Cain said. “If you remember, we were limited to how many people you could even have in a space at the time. Gradually, it grew enough that we were able to have eight of us.”

While the group currently consists solely of women, Cain said they have been attempting to recruit men to join since its inception; however, it has been unsuccessful and they have been met with resistance from those they have asked to join.

“We keep thinking about it, but every man we ask, they are too shy. ‘We can’t get up in front of everybody,’ they say,” Cain said with a small laugh.

Montoya said Steppin’ Line is now being invited to perform with a senior center in Albuquerque’s South Valley, asking them to show off their moves. The group still wants more performances to continue to promote the Valencia County Senior Olympics.

Both Cain and Montoya also serve as event coordinators for Senior Olympics, and are planning a kick off to the season in October.

“We want everybody to come on out, come see what VCSO is doing and get-involved,” Montoya said. “We have cards we can give, we have brochures. We just want everybody to join, have fun.”

New Mexico Senior Olympics was founded in 1979 with the county chapter establishing shortly after. All participants have to be at least 50 years old.

While line-dancing is not one of the official events that Valencia County Senior Olympics offers, the group hosted a dance competition last May and plans to make it an annual occurrence.

“This last one, we were very fortunate. We didn’t compete in it, but we had several other line groups that came in and danced,” Cain said, with Montoya adding they hope to attract and encourage more line-dancing groups in the years to come.

Montoya said her favorite part of being part of Steppin’ Line is “being out on stage and just dancing up a storm. I just love it,” with Cain adding that dressing up for performances can also be very fun.

Both of them said the reason they enjoy doing it is getting others up and dancing, and to spread the word about the Senior Olympics. While anyone older the age of 50 can participate in VCSO, Steppin’ Line requires those interested to take a line-dancing class with a friend of Cain and Montoya’s in Bosque Farms.

“You can’t just jump into this group and dance if you’ve not danced line dancing before,” Cain said. “We refer them to him and when they’ve been doing it a while, and pretty much we are open and welcoming.”

Still, Montoya stresses the commitment dancers need to have in order to be apart of their group.

“It is a big commitment. Anybody that has come on board, they need to know that they are committed,” Montoya said. “They’re going to be practicing two times a week, maybe more as time progresses for longer periods of time. You need to be committed.”

“This core group has been with us about two years now and they are committed,” Cain said. “We’ve had a couple people that come in and don’t understand what Yvonne just explained and so they had to leave.”

Those interested in learning more about Valencia County Senior Olympics, Steppin’ Line or the VCSO dance event in May can call Yvonne Montoya at 505-459-0352 or Barbara Cain at 505-385-8907.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.