The unexpected adventures on a bootscooting road trip

After a charity bootscooting road trip around Australia in 2022 with fellow co-founder Kate Strong, I can confirm with absolute certainty that you can line dance just about anywhere.

Based on actual experiences on the road last year, you can line dance atop a shipping container at dawn, with security guards in Parliament House, with policemen on the side of the road in Kununurra, or in outback South Australia to the tune of live opera.

Kate Strong and Claire Harris with Heather Ewart from ABC’s Back Roads.

And on November 24 this year, something extra was added to this list, being the gala dinner of the 2023 Australian Women in Agriculture (AWIA) National Conference in Bendigo.

The stereotype would have us believe that line dancing is reserved for those of us who are over 75, with knitting as your number one hobby and Patsy Cline your expert topic on Hard Quiz.

Of course, if you fit this stereotype and enjoy a good boogie on the dance floor, that’s fantastic. But if you don’t fit into it, line dancing can still be for you.

Line dancing at the AWIA conference gala dinner in Bendigo.

When I invited conference attendees onto the dance floor to learn some line dancing, about 60 people wanted to give it a go.

I’m a journalist, and an avid bootscooter, but certainly not a smooth-talking sales(wo)man, so when that many people took to the floor without too much persuasion, I was chuffed.

For 20 minutes, these wonderful ladies learnt to line dance. Job done? Tick.

But more importantly than which way the feet were moving at any particular time, were the facial expressions. The laughs, the smiles, bonding with others in an attempt to collectively determine left from right.

AWIA national president Natalie Sommerville with Rien Silverstein, who was awarded life membership to AWIA at the conference.

And this is where the real power of line dancing arises, in the form of its ability to bring people together. Mastering steps is one thing, but being able to briefly forget about the stress of life – particularly life on the land when circumstances are often challenging to say the least – is in my eyes, far more important.

Thank you to everyone who joined in the bootscooting fun. I hope you are all inspired to join line dancing clubs in your local areas, and if one doesn’t exist? Start one. YouTube is a godsend for “teaching the teacher”.

Line dancing was reserved for the Friday night of the conference, with the following day involving an exceptional line-up of speakers. Australian Women in Agriculture president Natalie Sommerville said she was “elated” by the conference, and the outcomes achieved.

The 2024 AWIA conference will be held in New South Wales.

Scootin in the Cellars, Pindarie Winery, Barossa Valley SA. Photo + main photo: Ellen Arney

Claire Harris and Kate Strong are the co-founders of Hoedowns For Country Towns, a 46,000km road trip around Australia in 2022 which aimed to share the love of line dancing, bring rural communities together after a tough few years, and raise money for rural charities. Claire is now based in SA and Kate in WA, with the pair aiming to establish line dancing businesses in 2024. Follow their journey @hoedownscountrytowns on Facebook and Instagram.

Claire Harris

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