Two-Steppin' To Rye Beat

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When learning the two-step at the Rye Bar and Grill, if you happen to be the youngest in the room but seem to be the only one grasping to remember the series of steps patiently being spelled out by the two-step teacher before you, it might cross your mind that something about country western dancing keeps you young.

Bob and Helen Hughes teach the two-step every Thursday. They also teach the shuffle dance and the waltz and probably whatever else one could think of -- as long as it's country western.

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Helen and Bob Hughes lead the way during a two-step dance lesson at the Rye Bar and Grill. The two teach the country and western dance to anyone who wants to try it each Thursday along with other related dances.

"We sort of give people what they want. If they want two-step, we give them two-step," Helen said.

And if a dancer were curious about another dance? Try this. Walk next to your partner, your arm across your stomach holding your partner's hand, tap your heel with your partner's in front and back, bump your hip to his (or hers), and gentlemen, don't forget to tap your cowboy hat. The pairs of dancers travel in a circle around the dance floor, intimate, yet separate.

"That's the shuffle dance," Bob says.

"We call it the Rye bar bump bump," Helen explains. Bob calls Helen to the dance floor, and she says, "he needs a bump; I'm the bump."

For the Hugheses, both 78, a sense of humor has undoubtedly kept them young during their 57 years -- as of July 21 -- of marriage.

Originally from the Valley, the couple retired, spent nine years traveling in a recreational vehicle, and spent more than a decade living in Las Vegas. They moved to Payson in 2001.

"We danced all over the country so we have a pretty good feel," Bob said. Types of dancing are as varied as accents. Arizona, for instance, has its own two-step, with a sideways or backward step added, derived to fit its small dance floors. The one non-forward step saves space, and the dance is better suited to slower music.

In the progressive two-step, which Bob prefers, dancers continually progress around the dance floor. It's also more conducive to dancing fast.

The country western waltz is also different from the ballroom dancer's waltz. "Ballroom dancers go back and forth and all over the floor. The country waltz, you go around and around," Bob explained. "You never go backwards against the line of dance; that's a cardinal sin."

He mentions the Boot Scootin' Boogie. That's a fun dance! "Yeah, but which one?" Bob asks. "There's six of them."

On Saturdays, the pros emerge onto the dance floor at the Rye Bar.

Denny and Ruth Fulton aim to dance on Saturdays. "Maybe when we stop counting," Ruth said. "We haven't graduated to that yet."

The Fultons started dancing in November. The hobby supplements their other interest: each owns a Harley.

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Donny and Ruth Fulton get a little tangled up as Bob Hughes (right) coaches them on their dancing technique.

Country western dancing. It attracts all kinds.

"You just meet the nicest people wherever you go," Helen said.

Gerald and Judi Moore met each other while two-stepping. The couple is originally from California, and said more people two-step there than in Arizona. In the 1990s, "every place you went, you could find a dance floor," Judi said.

"She was a damn good partner," said Gerald.

Country western dancers, many of them older, worry about its future.

"We're trying to keep it going so it doesn't die out," Helen said.

Country music itself is changing, some say, with louder riffs and a less noticeable beat to go by. Perhaps the Rye bar bump bump is being replaced with the bump and grind of the nightclub dance floor.

"(Younger generations) think it's corny," Helen said. "Come try it," she adds. "It's not as corny as they think."

Practitioners note that learning the basic two-step is the canvas from which other dances are painted. "If you learn how to do the two-step, the rest of it comes naturally," said Ed Phillips.

"He does the Arizona two-step," said Helen. "The other night I did the Arizona two-step and he didn't think I could."

The dances can fit the mood. "It depends if I want to get across the floor fast," Phillips said. And, of course, how fast that music plays.

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