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Demond Carter, founder of the Purple Charlotte Steppers, leads the dance class. His organization has been in the community since 2005. Karie Simmons/MMHW photo

MATTHEWS – There’s no magic pill that reduces stress, increases energy, expands mental capacity and improves flexibility, strength, balance and endurance, but there is dance.

Just ask Calann Little, of Matthews, who recently did the cha-cha and the grapevine in a soul line dance class hosted by the Purple Charlotte Steppers Club at Crews Recreation Center.

“We being seniors, it helps us challenge ourselves,” Little said. “Every time we go to the doctor, they say we need to move more and walk more, so this is a fun way to do that. It wakes up every muscle in your body.”

Plus, the music is upbeat and infectious.

“It gives you that rhythm, so you really want to move,” she said.

Purple Charlotte Steppers Club is a social organization that has been hosting professional dance classes, sponsoring local and national events and initiating programming in the community since 2005.

They recently started offering soul line dance classes on Mondays at Crews Recreation Center and “Ballroom Made Easy” classes on Wednesdays at Matthews Community Center. Both are free and open to the public thanks to a partnership between the Purple Charlotte Steppers, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, the Town of Matthews and the Arts and Science Council of Mecklenburg County.

Demond Carter, founder of the Purple Charlotte Steppers, said the soul line dance class had a small turnout at the first session on Jan. 6, when Gail Goldberg, of south Charlotte, was the only attendee.

Goldberg was teaching a tai chi class at Crews Recreation Center earlier that day and saw Carter setting up. She decided to stick around, not knowing she would be getting a private lesson.

“It was so much fun, so I told everyone about it,” Goldberg said. “The dancing is easy, but it uses a lot of energy. The music is great. Anytime they play any song, you can move to it, you can cha-cha.”

Word has spread since then, thanks in part to Goldberg. More people showed up to the soul line dance class on Feb. 10 and Carter said many of them were familiar faces.

Carter has been teaching the classes himself with the occasional help of other Purple Charlotte Steppers instructors. He said people seem to be enjoying moving their bodies while stimulating their minds by keeping rhythm and remembering steps.

He said it’s important that everyone is moving and having a good time. He also wants the routines to be challenging.

“I think sometimes we look at our older population and we put limitations on them that don’t exist,” he said. “We have a woman who comes every week who is in her nineties and I don’t change the routine for her. We can certainly adapt a move if someone needs that, but we don’t change the song.”

Ruby Alston, of Matthews, loves to dance and was having a hard time finding anywhere to dance before Purple Charlotte Steppers began offering free classes.

“I just had a barrel of fun and I feel good about what I did – even though I stumbled around a lot – it’s good exercise,” she said.

She likes how Carter breaks down the moves and reviews the steps to make sure everyone is on the same page. Even if it’s your first class, Alston said you won’t feel like you’re behind.

That safe, welcoming environment is what keeps people coming back. Alston said it’s less threatening than the gym and dancing is a good activity for people who don’t enjoy other types of exercising or aerobics.

“Everyone loves music,” she said. “It touches their soul and they want to move.”

Want to go?

Soul line dance classes are Mondays from noon to 1 p.m. at Crews Recreation Center, 1201 Crews Road. “Ballroom Made Easy” classes are Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. at Matthews Community Center, 100 E. McDowell St. Both are free, open to the public and run through the end of June. Visit www.purplecharlotte.com for details.

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