There's a long summer ahead of us, and what better way to fill the stifling evenings than with a new hobby? Line dancing may not be the hippest activity around, but, as we found out when we went along to the first of the new fortnightly sessions being held at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi, it's a lot more fun than it sounds.
Say "line dancing" and most people think of cowboys in checked shirts stomping in unison around a community hall to country music. It's not, shall we say, cool. In fact, say you're going along to a line dancing evening and there will probably be a few raised eyebrows and a wry chuckle.
However, it's time to adjust our perceptions, says Diana Tattarakis, the native New Yorker and long-time line dancer who hosts the sessions. "People have the wrong idea about line dancing," she says. "They think it's strictly cowboy country and western. OK, I'm wearing the boots and the hat, but line dancing has really changed a lot and many line-dancing clubs now dance to disco music, pop music, Arab music and salsa."
The great thing about it, she adds, is that it is inclusive. "You don't need to be a dancer," she says. "You can be any age, any fitness level. You don't need a partner and it's very sociable, so you can meet people."
Tattarakis has lived in Dubai for 29 years and founded The Dubai Liners, the city's only line dancing society, in 1998. She leads the sessions from the front, equipped with a face mic and wearing rhinestone-encrusted cowboy boots. She choreographs most of the dances herself.
OK, so there are a couple of country numbers, but of the Faith Hill variety rather than the Willie Nelson one. Mostly, though, it's songs such as Maroon 5's Moves Like Jagger and Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees.
There is a small amount of instruction before each number, where Tattarakis takes the group through the moves. They are, as she claims, simple. Two steps to the left, clap, two to the right, clap. The odd kick and hip swing remind us of the dance's cowboy roots. I struggle with one foot-swinging move, but mainly it's idiot-proof. I wish I had worn cowboy boots. Stomping in ballet pumps just isn't the same.
Since the venue is a restaurant (Taverna at the Armed Forces Officers Club) complete with diners, I was worried that I would feel self-conscious boot-scootin' around the room while people ate their nachos. Far from it. In fact, I had the distinct feeling that many of them were longing to join in. In the end, a few of them did.
I may have begun the evening wryly chuckling to myself, but they had me when Moves Like Jagger pumped out of the sound system. Tattarakis had mentioned the inevitable smiling ("in all my photographs of the trial session everyone is smiling") and I for one couldn't stop. In fact, I had this inane grin spread across my face the whole night. Even my husband, who is usually allergic to dance floors, admitted he was enjoying himself. I plan on going back in a couple of weeks with a group of friends. And next time I'll be sure to bring my cowboy boots.
The next event will take place on Thursday 9 May, and every second Friday after that, at Taverna Restaurant at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi. The cost is Dh50 per line dancer. Call 02 441 5900 and speak to Rudy at the Taverna restaurant for more information