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Country line dancin’ club kicks tradition

Published: Sunday, March 28, 2010

Updated: Sunday, March 28, 2010 22:03

Half a dozen cowboy boots flex with the beat of Mikel Knight's "Whiskey Drinkin' S.O.B." as UCF's Country Kickers get ready to dance.

"Traveling sailor shuffles followed by a triple step, jazz box and half turn," the group's president, Steven Lerner, explains as he leads the routine. "Then you're going to pop, lock and drop."

This is not your grandma's line dancing.

The Country Kickers have been overturning misconceptions of country dance for two years.

"When people think line dancing, a lot of the time they think old hick town 1960s square dancing, and it's not really like that," said Lerner, a freshman majoring in public administration.

Since its founding in the spring of 2008 by three UCF alum and current student body Vice President Andrick Lewis, Country Kickers has grown from a devoted four into a expanding group of 40.

"Our goal is to get around 500 people by the end of next year," Lerner said. "It's happening slowly, but it's getting there."

Country Kickers use not only country music in their routines, but also hip-hop and rock, including popular songs such as Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" and Ke$ha's "Blah, Blah, Blah."

"We dance to all the new music on the radio and incorporate different styles of hip-hop dancing into line dancing," Lerner said. "We have a lot of fun."

Senior Marcus Williams, an elementary education major and the vice president of Country Kickers, was recruited in 2008 to show the club some hip-hop moves.

He had line danced for the first time just a few weeks earlier at Cowboys Orlando, a country-western bar downtown that club members regularly attend on Thursday nights in addition to their weekly Tuesday-night meetings.

"Before that year, I was not a huge fan of country music and wasn't exactly sure what line dancing was," Williams said.

Since then, Williams, along with many other members, has developed an unexpected love for country dance.

For Williams, the club became not just a creative outlet, but it is also a source for friendship.

"I am happy to have gotten involved in this organization, because it has meant different things to me with each year," Williams said. "This year, it has been an awesome foundation of reliable friends."

The Country Kickers attempt to unify students of all backgrounds under one common interest.

"We have kids come from all different nationalities, groups, majors and connections on campus," Lerner said.

Country Kickers is one of the few UCF clubs that doesn't charge dues.

"It's purely to socialize, network, meet people and try something different," Lerner said.

"People come to enjoy and learn and have fun. We're welcome to anyone who wants to perform and give back to the community."

The group frequently performs without charge at elementary and middle schools, charity events and benefit fundraisers.

It also uses the events to teach line dancing to interested audiences and to recruit new participants.

Its next official performance will be at Stone Lakes Elementary School's Multicultural Fair on April 16.

Many new members were inspired to join after seeing the officers' enthusiasm.

"They dragged me to Cowboys," said freshman Mario Khoury, a new member. "It looked like a lot of fun, and it was really hard, so I came [to the meeting] to try to learn some of the dances."

Sophomore Bianca Diaz, one of the advertising/public relations officers, has been a member since the fall. She encourages even those with two left feet to give it a try.

"That's the reason I picked up line dancing," Diaz said. "I'm not coordinated at all."

Lerner also joined the group just this past summer with his roommate, Robert Alexander, the other advertising/public relations officer.

Although he's only been line dancing a few years, Lerner's active involvement with Country Kickers has become a passion.

"I used to line dance back home," said Lerner, who is from Plantation. "I've loved country music since I was little, and I went to line dancing clubs in Fort Lauderdale every now and then. Then my roommate and I found out there was a club on campus and, lo and behold, now we're taking it over."

And they're just getting started. Country Kickers plans to kick-start the fall semester recruiting more members.

"I would like to see many students step out of their comfort zone like I did two years ago and enjoy something new," Williams said.

In the meantime, the members will continue to shine up their boots and enjoy dancing with friends, all while getting a workout.

"It's a cardio to the extreme," Diaz said.

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