How strongly does Paulette McBride feel about her decision to join Seniors Kickin’ Country – a popular line-dancing program in Yarmouth County – nearly 25 years ago?
“It’s about one of the best things I ever did in my life,” she said.
Before joining the group, McBride recalls not being very good at talking to people and not having much self-confidence. This changed after she had been with the line-dancing group for a while.
“I don’t know how long it took – a year, I don’t know – but I realized I could talk to people now,” she said. “That was great, and the other thing was the confidence. I got my confidence from that.”
McBride remembers joining Seniors Kickin’ Country for its second season and she’s been with it ever since.
What initially sparked her interest was when she caught sight one day of some line dancers performing in the Yarmouth area.
“I just stood there, fascinated, and I thought ‘wouldn’t I love to be able to do that,’” she said.
McBride is one of an estimated 560 people who have danced with Seniors Kickin’ Country over the course of its 25-year history. That figure comes from Dora Amirault, the group’s founder and instructor, who says the growth of the program in its early days was remarkable.
From 15 dancers one week, she said, “the next week there were 30, then there were 60, and it just snowballed.”
At the peak of the program’s popularity, the remembers having a class with about 90 people, her biggest class ever.
Their main venue over the years has been Beacon United Church. Amirault also did classes in Wedgeport.
It has been a busy 25 years. Aside from their regular weekly sessions, members of Seniors Kickin’ Country have performed both locally and away (including elsewhere in Nova Scotia and outside the province). They have been on television, they did a video and a book and they have taken part in a variety of activities, whether it was a get-together of some sort here at home or a road trip.
“It was almost kind of like running a little recreation department,” Amirault said, laughing, “when you had to organize all this stuff every year.”
While the program gets participants moving and gives them some exercise, which is great, Amirault says, she always has spoken too about the social aspect of the program, how it’s a chance for people to get out and spend a bit of time with others.
Longtime group member Myrtle d’Eon agrees, saying the program, for her, has been a great experience all-around, from the music and the dancing to the fellowship.
“When I go to Yarmouth, I meet these people,” she said. “I mean, I’ve been dancing with them for a long, long time so they know me well. I enjoy that. I’m a people person anyway, but I really enjoy being with them.”
Bernice Comeau, another longtime member of Seniors Kickin’ Country, offers a similar view.
“It’s good exercise,” she said. “It’s also a social event. You get to hang out with people and talk to people.”
Like her fellow group members, Comeau has met plenty of folks over the years.
“You make a lot of friends because you have different people come at different times,” she said. “Some people don’t stay and some come back and a lot have passed away.”
With the program’s 25th season wrapping up at the end of this month, Amirault is planning a year-end party for her dancers on the afternoon of June 5.
After a summer off, she plans to be back for a new season.
You can be sure her dancers are happy about that. As Comeau put it when asked about Amirault’s efforts and her dedication to the program, “She does a really good job. My lord, yes ... doing it that long.”
Amirault says she's grateful to everyone who contributed in some way to Seniors Kickin' Country over the past 25 years, including the people who helped organize the group's activities and those who gave them a place to perform.