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Wildwood hosts country dance lessons for all ages and abilities

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | JANUARY 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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Folks donning cowboy hats and boots rarely look out of place at Iowa City’s Wildwood Smokehouse and Saloon, whether they’re watching a country band on Saturday night, eating barbecue foods, or clinging to Spanky, the venue’s mechanical bull.

But perhaps the most down-home of all the activities at Wildwood, 4919 Walleye Drive S.E., is its weekly country-dance lessons, where every Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. — including this evening — visitors can learn a new style of line dance, mixer, couples dance, waltz, or other styles. The lessons are free.

“Iowa is a farm state, and I think due to that, country has always been popular in Iowa,” said Steve Sedlacek, the primary dance instructor at Wildwood. “Having a country establishment and dancing kind of goes hand in hand.”

Since the program’s inception in 2009, more than 80 different country dances have been taught, from line dances such as Achy Breaky and the Cowboy Boogie to couples dances such as the Cotton-Eyed Joe Mixer and different cha-cha dances and waltzes.

“We try to cater to even more than just the country crowd,” Sedlacek said, saying organizers recruit ballroom and Latin dancers as well as visitors of all experience levels. “I try to get everyone to have fun; that’s our first rule, you might say.”

The dances are based on both new and classic country tunes.

“Many country songs have their own two-step and their own little dances,” Wildwood general manager Kevin Grimm said. “We take those and sort of elaborate on that.”

Although Thursday nights include one single and one partner dance lesson, patrons can show off their individual skills at Line Dance Mania, a newer Wildwood event held the last Wednesday of every month.

“It’s just a couple of hours of go-crazy line dancing,” Grimm said. “We have a huge dance floor that people can enjoy.”

Erica Devine, another Wildwood instructor who, like her fiancé, Sedlacek, has been country dancing nearly two decades, said there is a dance for every age level, group size, or music fan.

“I think all of our people really enjoy that they don’t necessarily have to come out with someone else,” she said. “It’s a great place for families or college students to come out with a first date and try something new. It’s very laid-back and easy.”

From teaching lessons to seeing country bands there on the weekends, Devine said she has started to think of the Wildwood community as a “second family” — the restaurant will even cater her and Sedlacek’s wedding.

“Wildwood is definitely our home away from home,” she said. “They encourage us not only to teach the old dances but to go out on a limb and try some new ones.”

Remembering the fun of his first line-dancing lesson, Sedlacek said he hopes patrons will find comfort in the country atmosphere of Wildwood as well.

“I’ve always said I can teach anybody how to dance as long as they’re willing,” Sedlacek said. “We want to give anybody coming to Wildwood that great feeling that this is a home they can come to have fun and meet some great people.”

The establishment’s slogan sums it up: “it’s ALWAYS a party at Wildwood.”

What: Country Dance Lessons
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. every Thursday
Where: Wildwood Smokehouse and Saloon, 4919 Walleye Drive S.E.
Admission: Free


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