High-Steppin' at Copperhead Line Dancing
Country Dancin' and More
Toe Strut Hip Bumps x 4
Only a few notes of the intro to Meghan Trainor’s “Better When I’m Dancin’” have to kick in. Dancers surge from the sidelines and eagerly line up. Copperhead Line Dancing Instructor Conrad Farnham raises his arm, gives the count – “And 5-6-7-8!” – and on the beat everyone starts with struts and bumps – which lead to Monterey turns – which lead to rocking chairs and pivots and hip rolls. The dance floor is an instant kaleidoscope of boots, jeans and above all happy faces.
The class goes on for two hours. But no matter how fast the music gets or how challenging the steps become, no one wants the evening to end. They’re high-steppin’ in tune with Farnham’s No. 1 Rule: Have fun!
Triple Right ¾ Turn, Slide Touch
Most welcome are folks with no dance experience and only a long-standing wish to try it out. They’ll find only friendly people who, as Tonya Harrington put it, “help each other get better. We’ll call out steps in the middle of a dance so that newcomers get up to speed.” Harrington, from Sunapee, finds that “you don’t have a care in the world when you’re here.”
Candy Durkee, of Hartford, VT, echoed her sentiments. “If the dance is new to you, just get up and try it. Follow us wall by wall and we’ll all pretty much get it.” She has danced in clubs from Burlington, VT, to Jacksonville, FL, for 30 years. She also gives demonstrations and leads workshops at fairs, parades, nursing homes and schools. “Follow the bands,” she suggests. “Go to concerts, learn the music, and the dances will get easier and easier.”
Grapevine Right Scuff, Grapevine Left ½ with Scuff
On the literal front line of all this is Farnham himself. He’s been giving classes for five years, first at the now-closed Red I in Kelleyville, and since 2015 at Time-Out Americana Grill in Claremont. “I don’t just teach other people’s dances,” he said. “I’ve choreographed about 60 myself, which are what I teach in the fall.” Most are at beginner level because he doesn’t want anyone intimidated by complex combinations, though he teaches advanced numbers at the end of some evenings.
In winter and spring, “I mix in dances by other choreographers, plus do some Throwback Thursdays to review my older work. On any night I add requests to the open-dance playlist so people can enjoy their favorites.”
Farnham’s dances have a life beyond the classes. He’s led “undead” dancers down Pleasant Street during the past two Hallowesta parades to music like “Thriller,” “Ghostbusters” and “Monster Mash.”
Further afield, he makes instructional and demo videos for each dance and posts them to the copperknob.co.uk website where fans around the world vote on new dances. Several of his have gotten the 350 needed to break into the Top 100, and one, Born to Be Great to Kenny Chesney’s “Some Town Somewhere,” made it into the Top 10 in just one week. The site also has his PDF step sheets for download.
Paddle Turns Finishing With ¾ Turn, Swing Arm Over Head Like a Lasso
There are about two dozen regulars every week. Jessica Durgin of Claremont first brought her son Jeremiah, now 8, on a one-off my-night-out. “He was an instant hit,” she said. “Everybody begged me to bring him back. And I love the bond between him and Conrad, who’s a great teacher, really down to earth.” A fast learner, Jeremiah has already co-choreographed with Farnham a Cotton Eye Joe EZ dance to the Rednex version of the fiddle- and drum-driven classic.
“I never expected to have a whole other family,” said Jessica Durgin. This one has a bonus, however: “No one is ever judged. There’s never a bad word.”
Naomi Golden, of Charlestown, couldn’t agree more. Friends she’s made “are my third family, after my birth and church ones.” She builds on years of ballet and jazz studies as well as being on the dance team at Life Fellowship Foursquare Church. “I dance for hours alone at home,” she said, but “it’s better here where everyone is kind and accepting.”
Stomp x 2, Clap x 2, Pivot Turn ½, Pivot Turn ¼
Recent hits and standard country favorites, like the sly wit of Reba McEntire’s “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet” and the propulsive back-road car chase in Brad Paisley’s “Mr. Policeman,” never fail to keep the class kicking, grapevining and stomping all night.
There are a few breaks to catch a breath. But soon enough, Farnham is beckoning the dancers back. “OK, now, ‘Country Thang’ by Nikki Briar. Ready?” And off they go, slappin’ leather and boot-scootin’ the night away.
Step Forward Right, ¼ Pivot Left, Repeat, Jazz Box With a Hop