When Covid brought everyone inside, Jim Collins was thinking about how to bring dancing back outside. This long-time dance instructor created a free eight week line dance program in the Wentworth Alumni Field parking lot for September and October 2020. It took off quickly and within the first couple of weeks, over 40 people were attending. Looking ahead and knowing that the outdoor window of time was limited with the impending change of seasons in New England, Jim began looking for an indoor space.
Since he lives near the Fox Run Mall, Jim looked there for open spaces. When he discovered a vacant space large enough to hold socially-distanced dances and lessons, he struck a short-term deal with Mall management. The first lessons in the mall began in the beginning of November, 2020 and ran through December. When ballroom friends were looking for a place to dance, Jim put together a plan to host socially-distanced dances at which each couple had their own table and private section of dance floor.
Building off this initial enthusiasm, Jim and Mall leadership agreed to extend the short-term rental until the end of February. Popularity grew quickly, and soon Jim went from hosting one ballroom dance per month to four a month. Line dancing quickly grew in popularity, too. Many of the dancers who participated in the free classes in the parking lot moved indoors and have been together as a group since last fall. Demand has grown to the point where the dance hall now supports three regular line dance classes.
Eventually, Mall management approached Jim and let him know that in order to keep using the space he’d need to sign a longer-term lease. In fact, other outside groups were actively seeking information about the space. In an effort to keep the current classes going and to enable more access to dancers in the Seacoast and beyond, Jim signed a long-term lease. The result? We now have some type of dancing or fitness instruction seven days a week, all easily accessible to local seacoast dancers, and close to I95 for those coming from further away.
Many thanks to all the dedicated dancers and volunteers who continue to make this a better venue each and every day! “I am forever grateful,” says Jim.