by Peta Hen
Did you know line dancing is great for your short-term memory? We spoke with line dancer Laura Rittenhouse about connecting the community through line dancing.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in Seattle in the US. I moved to Melbourne in my late 20s and spent the next couple of decades living and working in Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia. Now, I live on three acres in Otago – the best place in the world to live.
Tell us a little about your work. My career was in IT, mainly middle management for international corporations. I retired in my mid-40s and immediately started writing novels. I’ve had three of my books published along with a handful of short stories. Now I simply have hobbies, nothing I’d call work.
What sparked your passion for line dancing? The fun of it sparked my passion! I took up line dancing when I moved to Hobart in 2017 as a way to meet people, get a bit of exercise and try something new. I didn’t expect it to become a passion but I love it. In 2018, I started doing choreography and teaching – Boots and All Line Dancing was born.
Tell us about Boots and All. I founded Boots and All Line Dancing as a way of giving back. My aim has always been to keep costs down and turn away no one; to keep dances easy but interesting so anyone can join and no one gets bored; and to keep reaching out to engage more people. Besides my regular weekly classes (Thursday mornings in Glenorchy, $3 per class and I’m looking at starting a city class soon), I teach line dancing at public events like markets and festivals with any of my students keen to come along. We never charge for these events and always encourage members of the public to jump in and dance. They’re a blast and we’re frequently asked back. We collect donations for Dogs’ Home Tasmania at these events because they’re a great organisation, the dogs need a second chance, and a lot of us have rescue dogs.
What are the benefits of line dancing? It’s good exercise and helps with balance, stamina, and general health. Line dancing is also incredible for short-term memory. You learn a few steps and repeat them through a song. By the time the music stops, you’ve memorised the steps. Then the next dance is taught: new steps, new music and off you go again. Learning those four or five step sequences and repeating them for the duration of a song has been shown to help with memory and stave off dementia. And I don’t want to leave out the social aspect: you can walk into a room and not know a soul, an hour later and you walk out having connected and laughed with 20 new friends.
You’re a volunteer at Bucaan Community House in Chigwell. What do you do there? Bucaan Community House (BCH) has a huge variety of programs and activities for people in the community. Boots and All Line Dancing is one of their programs. I run that, teach the classes, and help engage and lift up the community through line dancing at public events. Recently I joined the board of BCH and will continue to try to look for ways I can help out.
Who do you admire? I realise this is controversial but, Elon Musk. I don’t agree with him on everything, but he’s making a real impact.
Favourite podcast or TV show? I like Gruen and Media Watch, and I’ll watch a rerun of Frasier any day of the week.
Secret vice? It’s not particularly secret, but I have a wicked sweet tooth. I don’t eat small portions of lollies sometimes, I eat huge portions every day.
What are you reading now? I’m not much of a reader any more. It’s odd, but since writing my novels, I have a hard time just enjoying a book. I can’t take off my author/editor hat. But the book beside my bed at the moment is Guilt by Matt Nable.
Do you have any pets? A rescue dog, Rusty, a rescue cat, Adler, six handme- down chickens and five honeybee colonies that aren’t exactly pets but close.
What was your first job? I picked beans during the summer when I was 13. I used that money to buy a horse.
What are your daily news/social media habits? I scroll through X and Facebook, watch ABC News in the morning, and Channel 7 or WIN News for local news at night. I use Facebook for Boots and All Line Dancing class information as well as YouTube where I post teaching videos on my channel.
Your favourite place for…
Breakfast: Waterline, Brooke St Pier.
Lunch: Richmond Arms Hotel (dog friendly!).
Dinner: Harbour Lights Cafe.
Dream holiday destination? To visit my father wherever we agree to meet, generally Arizona where he lives or we split the difference and meet in Hawaii.
Favourite Hobart secret? It’s no secret to locals, but the weather is fantastic. When I lived on the mainland I was one of those who thought it was always cold and wet. Of course, I’m now a local who is happy for the mainlanders to have that opinion so “they” don’t move down and crowd “us” out 🙂