ABILENE Texas (KTAB / KRBC) – A man from Abilene finds the joy of teaching his dance step at the Rose Park Senior Activity Center.
Terry McNeil, soon to be 73, was not always a dancer. For most of his life he worked in a flour mill in Topeka, Kansas.
After his retirement, McNeil wanted to stay active, so he returned to his first love: baseball.
“They didn’t have an old team here at Abilene, so I had to play with the Titans, 40-year-old guys,” McNeil said.
But after seeing several of his teammates take a hard hit, he decided it was time for a change.
“Three of them got their teeth knocked out because they took him out 400 feet from the park. Just a matter of time and I’ll take one myself. So I gave up and started dancing. I have been doing it ever since. Much safer, ”says McNeil.
Soon after, McNeil developed a signature dance: a classic country movement he calls the “Sweetheart Shine”.
“I went to rock concerts, they want to learn it. They say, “I don’t know what you’re doing, can we follow you into the room? If I hear the right music, I do it, ”McNeil said.
Now he spends his hours teaching the waltz, the two steps and even the shine at the Rose Park Senior Activity Center on Wednesdays and at the YMCA on Thursdays.
“Some people say ‘I have two left feet and I can’t dance’, I tell them ‘Five minutes and I’ll make you dance’, and they can’t believe it,” McNeil remarked.
Lilia Delgado is one of McNeil’s students. She came to Texas from Venezuela, where she says Latin music was flowing through her veins.
“So happy, so good, so kind, so sweet, so I also want to learn to dance this music,” says Delgado.
Likewise, Jun Tong was a ballerina in China before moving to the United States eight years ago. While she loves the structure and beauty of ballet, she can’t resist the call of a Texas bell.
“I have been here in the United States for eight years. I love ballet dancing, but when I came to Texas, I love Texan dance! So I fell in love with Texas again, ”says Tong.
Tong spends 40-50 hours a week teaching Mandarin to his many online students. She says dancing at Rose Park Senior Center is her only time to relax.
“I love that feeling of being able to do whatever you want. Very free, you don’t have to control yourself. That’s why I love Texan dance, ”Tong said.
It’s the joy and freedom that dancing gives these seniors that keeps McNeil coming back every week.
“It feels good. It just makes me feel like I’m not wasting my time and I just see that smile they’re giving me. They come over to hug me and shake my hand or whatever, and it’s totally worth it, ”says McNeil.
His grandfather was also an active dancer until his death at the age of 98. McNeil says he plans to do the Sweetheart Shine until his body won’t let it.
“I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing because it makes people happy and that’s what I love,” McNeil said.
He and the other seniors are getting ready for the Rose Park Senior Talent show, which takes place on August 21. The tests take place on Friday July 23 at the center.