One last dance: Longtime teacher hangs up her boogie shoes

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Brookhaven’s Dancing Stars Round Dance Club rolled out the red carpet for dance teacher Winnie Lowery Saturday evening. After 14 years of teaching and 40 years of dancing, the 90-year-old is retiring from the class.

Round Dance Club meets in the Jimmy Furlow Senior Citizen Center and Saturday the room was decorated like Hollywood. The walls were lined with dance students and family. A man dressed as Santa Claus in a Hawaiian shirt surprised Lowery with crawfish earrings and gave crawfish decorated ties to her dance partner Carey Moak.

“It’s like Christmas in July,” Lowery said. “I want to thank everyone for coming. It was a real surprise. Thank you to the dancers who are here tonight and those who used to be here and came over the years.”

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The last few years have been difficult for the dance class, she said. COVID hurt the class attendance and messed up their meeting schedule. Saturday they were able to gather as one group for Lowery’s last dance.

Her partner is recovering from knee surgery so they were not able to get out on the floor and danced but she watched from her chair as students performed waltzes, jives and rumbas. A few of the students sang songs as they celebrated her time with the class. She smiled as she watched.

“I want people to be happy,” Lowery said. “It was my main objective. I get my pleasure out of watching them grow.”

Pete Belknap will replace her as the teacher. He has traveled 85 miles one way to attend her dance classes for the last nine years. He said he knew how to dance the levels she taught and she would at times let him dance higher levels with his partner.

“I’m going to miss her. She is an exceptional lady,” Belknap said. “She is a good teacher and wants you to learn the correct way. She may get after you if you don’t but I think it is a good quality. It is how it should be. Not everyone has to be perfect and she understands that too. This is all about fun, it is why we do it.”

Lowery said she went through three different teachers in her time with the class before taking over as the teacher. Now, she is retiring with plans to pursue new adventures. Moak and Belknap were presented a plaque thanking them for their efforts.

“I want to say thank you to Carey. He has been with me here all of my years. I appreciate you,” she said.

The night ended with “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” by Brooks and Dunn and a dinner for everyone. It might have been Lowery’s last dance with the club but they will continue to meet. Belknap said they are still looking for men to join the class. Anyone is welcome to join.

“There is no age limit. They just have to be dedicated to coming every week,” Belknap said. “It is like anything you learn. How much you want to learn is about how much you will put into it.”