After finding out she needed a pacemaker and defibrillator due to her heart disease, Brenda Artis-Smith channeled her dismay into a positive outlet for Killeen and herself.
With a background in ballet and music stemming from her childhood, a dance class was the perfect solution.
A little over a year ago, the Smooth Cool Line Dancers began meeting each Monday and Thursday for two hours. “It’s all free,” said the 62-year-old Artis-Smith, who founded the class. “I wanted to give back to the community.”
Other like-minded individuals, who wanted to improve their health without expensive drugs or medical procedures, found their way to the class.
“I met Lisa, who has Lupus, and she doesn’t take any medicine; she just
exercises and juices,” Artis-Smith said. “People get inspired by her.”
Alyssa “Lisa” Robinson helps out in the class and brings in her own nutrition tips and advice.
“It’s so important for the community, whether you have an illness or not, to be healthy,” Robinson said. “You only have one body.”
Working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Robinson deals with high-stress situations daily, and the dancing calms her down and helps her to “feel good mentally.”
Now with more than 30 regular participants, the dancers are seeing improvements in all areas of their lives. More than 12 people have lost weight.
“We have cancer patients, people in the military trying to relieve stress, and people without health problems, too,” Artis-Smith said. “Anything that helps them take their mind off their sickness and realize, you still have a life, helps.”
Dee Dee Carter has been here since “day one” and the classes have improved her knee issues, gout and arthritis. Many people have found the dancing is as beneficial as physical therapy, “because you can relax your mind while you’re doing it,” Artis-Smith said.
Retired military officer Lynda Nash began dancing in January, and she’s already seen major health changes.
“I have TIH, which causes mini strokes, and epilepsy. Remembering the steps is improving my memory,” Nash said. “Brenda and Lisa are so positive. I look forward to coming to class, meeting people and developing friendships. Now my 9-year-old son wants to join.”
Participants cite the diversity as a major draw to the program. “It’s a social thing, too … meeting so many people of different ethnic backgrounds helps you be well-rounded,” said Lawanda Foster, who’s been dancing with the group for the past year. “The cardio helps me maintain my weight.”
“We have people as young as teenagers up to 72 years old,” Artis-Smith said. “So many come in and say, Brenda, I can’t dance. There is no such thing as I can’t dance.”
In November, the Killeen Community Center will be closing for several months.
Artis-Smith is looking for a new space where she can continue her free classes.
“We want to keep it going,” she said.
Most importantly, the group wants to include more military members.
“I want to give back to the soldiers most of all because they did something for us. They’ll try it, and they’ll love it,” Artis-Smith said.