Dance Country hopes to bring line dancing, Jazzercise to wide audience in Gales Ferry

Co-owner Lisa Mazzaro, center, leads a line dancing class Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at her new Dance Country business located in Gales Ferry. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Co-owner Lisa Mazzaro, center, leads a line dancing class Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at her new Dance Country business located in Gales Ferry. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Ledyard — If you can get comfortable with the "vine," the "jazz box" and, also important, the "rocking chair," you can get comfortable with line dancing.

That's part of the first lesson on the basic steps of line dancing that owners Lisa Mazzaro and Linna Rouquayrol gave to students Wednesday night at Dance Country, the pair's new dance studio in Gales Ferry.

"People learn at different levels but the key is repetition," Mazzaro said to the class of about a dozen students, who quickly picked up the dance steps to numbers by country musicians Darius Rucker and Keith Urban.

Line dancing is a choreographed dance made up of a repeated and often rotated series of steps, which is most often associated with country western music, although dances are choreographed to many different musical compositions.

Mazzaro, who has run the Jazzercise program — which consists of aerobic exercises set to music — in Gales Ferry for more than a decade, said she has high hopes for the new location. It opened on Saturday.

The studio features a 1,500-square-foot floating wooden dance floor, which has "good stomp-ability" for the rigors of line dancing, Rouquayrol added.

Prior to becoming a dance instructor, Mazzaro earned a doctorate degree in animal nutrition from the University of Connecticut, which she used to achieve her childhood dream of becoming a marine biologist.

She worked at the Mystic Aquarium for 21 years, half of those spent researching the health and wellness of the aquarium's animals, before deciding she needed a change. She took charge of Ledyard's Jazzercise program.

Mazzaro said she got into line dancing at a party for her 50th birthday, where she took a line dancing lesson, and "got hooked."

She and Rouquayrol became regulars at the Mishnock Barn in West Greenwich, R.I., a popular country line dancing destination, and eventually Mazzaro began taking lessons to become an instructor.

Jazzercise, as well as Mazzaro's other business — "All About You Massage," a therapeutic massage business —  were some of the first tenants to move into the Gales Ferry Landing, a former elementary school, which the town christened as a small business incubator in 2013. Hosted in the former gymnasium of the Landing, Jazzercise now has more than 60 regular clients. 

Soon after, she added line dancing through another business, Country Line and Partner Dance. However, after the incubator lease ran out and the town indicated that it would soon be offering the Gales Ferry Landing property for sale, Mazzaro began looking for a new location for her businesses in the spring, settling on the space adjacent to Ocean State Job Lot at 1666 Route 12, Gales Ferry.

The two owners launched a Kickstarter campaign, which eventually raised over $5,000 for the wooden floor. The rest of the renovation was carried out with the help of volunteers from the Jazzercise program, which Mazzaro said was "invaluable."

Besides the country line dance and Jazzercise lessons, the two owners have plans to host dance socials to bring members of the dedicated line dancing community in the area closer together. Dancers potentially could bring food and drinks from local businesses and eat at a series of benches in the back before returning to the dance floor.

Because it is not a bar, the owners are hoping to attract a crowd that will "feel comfortable bringing their kids with them." They also hope to rent out the space for private parties, which they weren't able to do before in the Gales Ferry Landing space.

"We're hoping (the space) is something the community and all the local communities will be interested in," Mazzaro said. "There's no other place like this around."

n.lynch@theday.com

People participate in a line dancing class Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at the new Dance Country, co-owned by Lisa Mazzaro and Linna Rouquayrol, in Gales Ferry. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
People participate in a line dancing class Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at the new Dance Country, co-owned by Lisa Mazzaro and Linna Rouquayrol, in Gales Ferry. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
People participate in a line dancing class Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at the new Dance Country, co-owned by Lisa Mazzaro and Linna Rouquayrol, in Gales Ferry. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
People participate in a line dancing class Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at the new Dance Country, co-owned by Lisa Mazzaro and Linna Rouquayrol, in Gales Ferry. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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