The Pulse: Boot Scootin’ Boogie with Local Line Dance Teacher Jacquie Gwyn
75 year old Jacquie Gwyn teaches line dancing to locals at a western bar.
For a millennial, Jacquie Gwyn is not the easiest lady to get a hold of.
I begin a typical workday looking for story ideas online. I was pleased to come across a picture of a flyer advertising line dancing classes for beginners. The only information that the flyer provided was Jacquie’s phone number, that the classes are held on Friday mornings at the Hayloft Inn and cost $5 . Also, that lunch and fellowship followed after class. If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of fellowship.
I looked through Google and Facebook for a website or an email address to contact Ms. Gwyn on to no avail. I had to use the phone number off the flyer to get a hold of Jacquie and I found something nostalgic and comforting about knowing that there are acts of community still happening without the use of Facebook and email.
Jacquie picked up and I asked if it was her to which she responded, “Yes this is her. I’m in the middle of line dancing. Can you call back around, mmm 3?”
I called Jacquie back and she invited me to come to the Friday line dancing class she teaches at The Hayloft Inn. The class runs from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and many of the ladies stay after class to eat lunch and socialize with each other.
Before arriving to the class, I had anticipated that the Hayloft Inn was a bed and breakfast or a hotel. I was pleasantly surprised to find it’s actually a country western place that is hands down one of the coolest bars I’ve ever seen.
Marnie Williams is the daughter of the Hayloft Inn’s owner, Marion Peplinski. The bar has been around for 35 years and Marion was the first bartender employed. Marion bought the bar the year after it opened and has had it ever since.
The bar is a real western bar with all kinds of authentic antiques covering the walls.
“This is 35 years of my mom and dad going to auctions and yard sales. You name it and they’ve probably collected it. Some of the mounts are family mounts. My mom and dad’s deer, or coyote, or moose or elk, things like that. Local people have donated their’s.”
Although Marion still owns the bar, Marnie and her brothers rotate running the bar throughout the year so their mother and father can enjoy retirement. Both Marnie and her husband Nick teach during the school year and run the Hayloft Inn during the summer.
“I have my husband and a couple brothers. Between the four of us we make it work.”
I can confidently say that the Hayloft Inn needs to be in an episode of American Pickers, so you can imagine my excitement to take an old school line dancing class in such a perfect setting for it. And Jacquie did not disappoint.
Jacquie makes me stand up front next to her and she goes through the moves slowly a few time before we all do it to music. She’s a great teacher with impeccable rhythm and she gives out modifications when some of the moves are a bit more complex.
The class is incredibly enjoyable and it feels nice to do something that requires your full attention. So many times we juggle multiple thoughts in our head throughout the day, it’s nice to stop for a moment and just focus on staying in sync with your fellow line dancers.
Although Traverse City is home to Jacquie, Northern Michigan is not where she grew up.
“I was born in Pennsylvania just northeast of Pittsburgh. A little ‘burb called Apollo.”
Jacquie moved a few more times before moving to Berkely, Michigan, and then Flint.
“We moved to Flint the day after I graduated, so I left all my friends. I went to work for the telephone company, got married, got divorced.”
Jacquie met her second husband sometime after, which is how she ended up here in Traverse City.
“I married a swell guy who was going into adult education. He moved up here to Traverse City and brought me up here. I had no clue how beautiful it was. I love this town.”
Jacquie got into line dancing when she was down in Florida. She met a friend in her condo community and the two of them went to a local line dancing class together.
“I had this friend who said, ‘Come to the Catholic church in the vestibule, they have line dancing for exercise.’ I thought, in the vestibule? On carpet?’”
Jacquie fell in love with line dancing and went on a retreat with the teacher and other classmates to Calloway on Mexico Beach. The ladies took classes for six weeks in a large barn and worked tirelessly to learn what it takes to be a line dance teacher. When Jacquie returned to Traverse City, she checked to see if there were line dancing classes at the senior center and, to her delight, there were.
Jacquie picked up teaching line dancing when a line dancing teacher she was close with retired.
“She taught a class at Interlochen and I, when she retired, I picked it up. I’ve taught in Kingsley, Interlochen, Acme. I taught in Mexico Beach for a while. I do twice a week at Destin when I go down.”
Jacquie’s teaching is clear, precise and fun. The dances through the lesson get increasingly harder and I’m feeling challenged and a little out of breath at the end.
“There’s a lot of health benefits to line dancing,” Jacquie said. “And for us older ladies it’s good for short-term memory loss and bone density.”
Jacquie’s love for line dancing bubbles over to her students. Jacquie brought in old photos of the group of line dancers and her, and many faces in the old photos are still at the class every Friday at The Hayloft Inn, and Jacquie loves seeing her students succeed. One of her favorite parts of teaching line dancing is the feeling of success when a student accomplishes a move.
“You just see it in their excitement,” Jacquie said.
She also enjoys the fellowship the girls participate in. The girls will have lunch after classes, and hangout with each other outside of classes too.
The best part of dancing for Jacquie is the light and liberating feeling it gives you, and at 75 years old she is still as light and poised on her feet as a ballerina.