Fort Wayne Dance For All

Watch as participants in the 2014 Fort Wayne Dance For All spin, twirl, kick their boots and tap their heels on the final day of the three-day event a the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Ind.

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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Dance instructors Jason Miklic, center right, and his wife, Sophy Kdep, from Cincinnati demonstrate the country two-step.

Sisters-in-law choreograph winner at Dance for All

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Denny Nelson, left, and Wanda Hopkins practice a spin during a instruction session for the country two-step on Sunday during the final day of the Fort Wayne Dance For All at the Grand Wayne Center.

Two area women choreographed a line dance this weekend that will soon get country-music lovers shuffling and stepping in a new music video.

Melody Barker of Warsaw and her sister-in-law Annette Ray of Bourbon made up a dance to the North Country Flyers’ song “Blue Water Country” over the weekend at the annual Fort Wayne Dance for All event.

Now the band hopes to teach the dance to fans everywhere through a music video that will be filmed at bars across the country later this year, according to the band’s drummer and road manager Scott Bates.

The North Country Flyers, a country/classic rock band from Michigan about a year-and-half-old, has opened for Toby Keith. The four-man group came to the Dance for All for the first time this year at Grand Wayne Center, and they hosted a competition for dancers on Sunday to help them choreograph “Blue Water Country.”

Out of five teams that put together dances, Barker and Ray won the contest, and now the band plans to teach their moves to line dance instructors.

The spunky sisters-in-law duo bounced with excitement Sunday afternoon in matching cowboy hats and bright pink Michigan T-shirts worn as a tribute to the band.

The women laughed as they explained how they practiced the winning choreography only about five times before they competed. But they based their choreography on moves they practiced for a different dance competition earlier in the weekend that they didn’t win. They said it took about two months to plan, and they made a lot of last-minute changes.

“She was changing the moves on me this morning,” Ray said, pointing at Barker after the 11 a.m. contest Sunday.

In the end, the women came up with a line dance Barker called “sassy and hip,” especially for single girls on a fun night out.

“It has easy enough steps that beginners can pick it up,” Ray said.

And these women should know because they’re beginners themselves. Barker has been dancing about six months, and Ray just started about two months ago, specifically for this weekend’s event.

This year was their first time at the Dance for All. They heard about it three years ago when Barker picked up a pamphlet and eventually got in touch with the event organizer Jamie Marshall.

Marshall said the weekend-long event was more about learning and less about competition, although she is a retired champion country dancer. She and her husband, Barney, now host the Dance for All in Fort Wayne, although they live in Nashville, Tenn.

Marshall said the event is in Fort Wayne because it started here 19 years ago at the Scottish Rite Center. Now it’s held at Grand Wayne Center where various rooms were booked from dawn to dusk during the weekend with dance classes of all types – zumba, line dance, country western and ballroom. The dancers ranged from experienced regulars to walk-in beginners, Marshall said.

She estimates between 700 and 800 people came during the weekend from throughout the U.S. and Canada. The main choreography competition had 63 participants.

“But it’s not about dancing,” Marshall said with tears on her cheeks Sunday afternoon as she bade farewell to friends.

“It’s almost like a family reunion.”