By Katie Heinzer
Dr. Yolanda Clarke is a Mound Bayou native, an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Community Development at Delta State University and a highly experienced line dancing instructor.
So when she graciously extended to us an invitation to her class, we were ecstatic. Who could miss out on the opportunity to line dance in the South, a social staple?
Three of us from the Princeton crew took Dr. Clarke up on her offer. We showed up to Renova’s City Hall on Thursday evening at 6 o’clock, ready to learn some moves with some of the town’s “more seasoned” population. Two of us were clad in jeans and sweaters, and all of us were expecting a fairly laid-back time.
How wrong we were.
We were sweating within minutes, striving to keep up with Dr. Clarke’s upbeat remixes, enthusiastic choreography, and a move she likes to call “the Beyoncé.” Much to our amazement, the mothers and grandmothers around us were astoundingly well-versed in these dances, with Dr. Clarke’s own mother the most proficient of them all. Even Renova’s mayor was giving it all he had, calling out the steps ahead of time (a saving grace to the three of us). With time and enthusiasm, we got the hang of the steps, and danced our hearts out alongside this welcoming community,
Our places of origin and status as visitors made no difference to our fellow dancers, who they welcomed us with hugs, laughter, and plenty of conversation. That’s the beauty of these Mississippi small towns: Even as an outsider looking in, you’re greeted with an incredible, genuine warmth, one that you’d have to actively search for in the Northeast. Even if we weren’t quite prepared for some of Dr. Clarke’s more advanced moves, we left Renova City Hall with a sense of satisfaction (and soreness).