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Moves to health: Perfect Peaches stay fit through line dancing

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the September 2021 edition of Chilton County Wellness. Copies are available at 1109 Seventh St. N in Clanton. 

A group of local seniors have found a way to stay healthy both physically and mentally through line dancing.

The Perfect Peaches line dancers practice each Monday and Wednesday for about an hour and a half at Senior Connection in Clanton.

The group is led by Judy Headley of Clanton.

Having line dancing as a part of Senior Connection’s offerings was initially director Vanessa McKinney’s idea. That was 10 years ago when the program met at Chilton Medical Center.

However, Headley has been dancing for much longer than that.

“I have loved dancing all my life, and you know God gives you the desire of your heart, so he allowed a place in Clanton to open up, which was the skating rink,” Headley said.

Becky Sides and Pat Coe joined Headley doing line dancing at the rink.

“We have been doing it now for probably 30 years,” Headley said.

Now, Perfect Peaches performs for local groups at nursing homes, festivals and other locations when invited.

“Anywhere anyone wants us to dance, we go because we are free,” Headley said.

Dancing for nursing home residents is fun for the group because they know some of the residents.

About six years ago, the group attended a state competition and won.

Rhythm is essential for line dancing, Headley said.

However, once someone learns a set of key steps, they can build off of those to learn other dances.

“Most people, they can pick up on it,” Headley said. “We started out with very basic (steps), and now we are intermediate as we so call ourselves.”

Coe said new sets of steps are frequently being created.

While the dancing has remained the same, the styles of music the group dances to has expanded over the years.

“We started out with … pretty strictly country music, but now it covers … all kinds of music,” Headley said.

Headley has “met a lot of people” through line dancing.

“That is one thing I enjoy,” Headley said. “We are like a family.”

She said the Perfect Peaches really are family because they talk about everything during meetings. Coe also said she has enjoyed the close friendships that have formed.

“We do get along great,” Coe said.

Sides had been a part of several dance groups in the past, and joined Perfect Peaches about eight years ago.

“When we all get together, we can all say what we want to, and it won’t make the other one mad — that is the good thing about it,” Sides said. “We are like sisters. We can disagree, but we still love each other.”

She said each member helps the other to stay on track during practice.

Sides said it meant a lot to her that the group was so close.

Shelia Atchison and Ann Arnold, both of Maplesville, joined the group seven years ago.

“Basically, we started just for the exercise, but then its like they said the friendship is the key thing for all of us,” Atchison said. “I had always liked to dance but had never really had the opportunity until we came here to be a part of this”

“It’s been one of the best things in my lifetime,” Janice Patterson of Clanton said.

The group also enjoys other activities together, such as day trips and Christmas parties.

In addition to having a close-knit group of friends, members of the group also gain many health benefits.

“Dancing is the number one exercise because of the heart, your balance, your breathing, your mental (health), so it covers everything,” Headley said.

Line dancing is particularly good because one can do it at any age. Many of the members of Perfect Peaches are in their 70s, and they have had line dancers in their 80s in the past.

Knee and hip issues may be the only physical limitations to being able to line dance. However, one of the dancers has had a hip replaced and was able to come back to the group.

Remembering the steps to each dance helps keep one’s mind sharp, the group said.

The Perfect Peaches also said line dancing is a good stress reliever.

Being a part of Perfect Peaches has allowed one member to overcome lifelong stage fright.

“I had never had the courage to do something like this,” Patterson of Clanton said. “I would not get on a stage for any reason. I had stage fright, but I was determined in my life time to try to overcome that.”

Other members of the group confirmed that she has.

In addition to hosting the Perfect Peaches, Senior Connection, located at 304 Park Drive in Clanton, offers a number of other exercise opportunities for senior residents of Chilton County. More information is available at facebook.com/ seniorconnection/.