Line dancing is gaining popularity in Darwin with a new generation of dancers

It’s a dance commonly associated with cowboy boots and country towns, but this age-old pastime is beginning to find its way into the hearts of even the most hardened city dwellers.

In Darwin, the Top End Mustangs have been line dancing in the Northern Territory for more than 20 years, and group secretary Carol Penglase said it was growing in popularity.

“There are about three to four clubs here and the dancers mix between the clubs,” she said.

Line dancing is gaining popularity in the Top End. (ABC Capricorn: Michelle Gately)

This month they teamed up with BFFs Claire Harris and Kate Strong, who quit their jobs to line dance across the country and raise money for rural and regional charities.

“We have a different charity for each state we pass through and they’re all focused on rural areas or helping rural people, but they’re all a little different,” Ms Harris said.

The couple traveled through Queensland and parts of South Australia, before driving up the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs to Darwin, stopping at iconic landmarks in the territory along the way.

“It’s so much fun and we meet some amazing people,” Ms Strong said.

Two women sit on a large fallen tree trunk, back to back.  They are smiling at the camera
Kate Strong and Claire Harris are touring several sites in the territory to promote line dancing. (Supplied: Jackson Madders)

“You can go as far as you want”

Line dancing consists of basic moves that can be mixed and matched to create different dance routines.

“You have vines and rocking chairs and your heel kicks and that sort of thing,” Ms. Strong said.

“You have all your basic moves and you can put them all in a different sequence or at a different speed, there’s so much variety in each one.”

Ms Strong said the flexibility of line dancing makes it accessible to dancers of all skill levels.

“It can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be,” she said.

“You don’t need to have any previous dance training or experience, as it’s easy to get involved in and you can go as far as you want.”

A group of people line dance in an outdoor area by a river at sunset.
The Top End Mustangs are just one of four different line dancing clubs in Darwin. (ABC News: Jessica Rendall)

Ms. Strong and Ms. Harris want to break demographic stereotypes associated with line dancing and involve more young people.

Ms Strong said she hoped their road trip would help attract more young people to the dance floor.

“Most of the line dancing groups that exist now are older women who are generally retired,” she said.

“We really want to break that down and spread the love of line dancing for everyone, because everyone can get involved and have the best time with it.”

A group of people line dance in an outdoor area at dusk, with a young woman wearing a T-shirt and denim shorts in the front.
The Darwin line dancers turned out in force to a hoedown co-led by Claire Harris at Stokes Hill Wharf.(ABC News: Jessica Rendall)

Carol Penglase of Top End Mustangs said the benefits of line dancing are endless.

“[It’s good] for your fitness, for your health and well-being, for that social and community aspect,” she said.

For older dancers who might have dementia, she said line dancing could help them exercise their memory.

“We have quite a few dancers who have been dancing for 20 years,” she said.

Two women in blue shirts are sitting on the tailgate of a 4x4, the door is open and the car is full of boxes.
Claire Harris and Kate Strong are traveling Australia giving line dancing lessons to raise money for rural charities. (Provided: Mary Biles)

Ms. Harris and Ms. Strong were drawn to line dancing because of its versatility, surprised at how well the routines fit a wide genre of music.

“There are 128,000 types of line dances,” Ms Strong said.

“And each dance varies so much.”

Top End Mustangs’ Ms Penglase said people might associate line dancing with country music only, but the routines can be performed to pop and even rock and roll.

“We’re not all country, genres are mixed and it attracts different people because they say ‘ooh I like this song’.”

She said the couple’s road trip was a great way to bring line dancing across the country and to young people.

“We are so grateful to Claire and Kate for asking us to be a part of it.”

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