By: Cedric McClester

It’s a cool September evening in Harlem. The workweek for most people has come to an end. People are making preparations to kick off their weekend.  For the 125 or so people gathered at the James L. Varrick Center on West 136th Street, their weekend is in full swing.  It’s a Soul Line Dance Friday at the Varrick Center, courtesy of Anita Mullin, the event’s promoter.  So what is this growing soul line dance phenomenon, you might ask?

According to the Welcome To Philadelphia website, “ Soul Line Dancing, unlike its older country line dancing cousin, is freestyle, ad-lib dance movements performed to a fixed structure of dance routines, danced to a variety of music, r&b, hip-hop, contemporary jazz, contemporary gospel, or discotheque beats.”  The site goes on to say,” …It’s even more awesome when you see a sea of people out on the dance floor, dancing and grooving to more than 100 soul line dances, choreographed by numerous people across the nation.  In short …it’s fun, it’s exciting and most important, it’s a great way to work out, keeping your body, mind and spirit attuned.”

These sentiments are echoed by Anita Mullin, who is a New York based soul line dance instructor, enthusiast  and promoter.  The hundred plus people who are in attendance at her, bring your own brown bag soul line dance extravaganza  are proof of soul line dancing’s growing popularity in the New York area.  Philadelphia, claims bragging rights as the soul line dance capital, but New York would appear to be catching up fast.  Ms. Mullin’s event has attracted other soul line dance instructors, like X-Man, other enthusiasts, as well as new comers from Newark, NJ, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Co-op City in the Bronx and the other four boroughs of New York City

Consistent with the claims made above, soul line dancing was recommended to Mullin as part of her recuperation and rehabilitation therapy, following a serious illness.  She credits soul line dance instructor, May Pattimore with getting her started.  As time passed by instructor Danny Washington taught her more complicated dance steps and soul line dances, which ultimately led her to becoming an instructor.  Ms. Mullin began teaching at the A. Phillip Randolph Center and moved on from there to the Joseph P. Kennedy Center, where she teaches senior classes.  She observes, “You can’t stay depressed when you’re line dancing.”  According to Mullin, soul line dancing is good for the mind, body and soul.

Ms. Mullin’s soul line dance class has received broad media exposure, which might explain why her classes are always full to capacity and her Soirees are so successful.  The modest $12 entrance fee might also be part of the reason.  The audience is equally divided among young and old.  Ms. Mullin’s profile began to heighten when a Japanese television station asked if they could record one of her classes.  This was followed by a segment on WABC’s Eyewitness News, which popular assignments reporter Kimberly Richardson captured.  She has also been on, On The Plaza at WNBC-TV.  Back at the Varrick Center, things are heating up. The dance floor is full. The record spinner, who is known as Professor, has put on Wobble, a dance record that inspired the Wobble dance, which is rapidly taking over where the Electric Slide left off.  For Ms. Mullin it was another successful Friday evening, for those on the dance floor, it was an evening away from their cares and woes, an evening of pure joy.