By Kristi Love, Special to the AFRO

(Updated 02/17/2017) Hundreds of D.C. residents gathered at a local recreation center to once again celebrate their Valentine’s Day with a dance.

The annual line dancing event, sponsored by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation on Feb. 10 at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Northeast D.C., served as a way to help residents stay active.

D.C. residents participate in line dancing classes at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center. (Courtesy photo)

D.C. residents participate in line dancing classes at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center. (Courtesy photo)

According to Paula Allen, recreational specialist for D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the event began as a line dancing class intended to provide an activity and engagement for senior residents in the community. However, the senior line dance class quickly blossomed and more classes were offered for all city residents to attend. The program has been running in the District for four years.

“I love what I do,” Allen said. “My favorite part about this event is honoring and remembering three women who have passed away but were the original participants of my class. We always dance to the Summer Night Cha Cha, which was their favorite line dance.”

According to Allen, along with keeping active, the classes have helped residents lose weight, deal with cancer, and provide sense of belonging and family, and even helped stop one resident from committing suicide. Seniors aren’t able to participate in high-intensity classes like Zumba and boot camp, so classes like line dancing—a low intensity 2-hour class, no partner needed—help with cardiovascular health and memory, she said.

The Turkey Thicket Line Dance Addicts group leads the event, which is held twice a year; a Pre- Valentine Day social in February, and the White Out Social in August.

“I love music and I love to dance,” said Jamie Buss, a Ward 8 resident. She said she has danced all of her life and she wanted to be involved in her neighborhood and feel like part of the community. Buss, 53, is new to D.C., and said living in a diverse community was her goal when she moved from Minnesota about a year and a half ago.

“Turkey Thicket is my neighborhood rec center and I wanted to stay connected,” she said.