Computer science students find community in country line dancing

A group of UNL students has made it a tradition to attend Pla Mor ballroom's Country Sundays each weekend.

Raikes students Allison Inman, Ann Pogrebitskiy and Matt Meacham pose for a photo at Lincoln’s Pla Mor ballroom Feb. 3, 2019. The students have made it a tradition to attend Pla Mor’s Country Sunday every week.

On any given weekday, students in the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management can be found in classes ranging from software engineering to algorithms.

Sunday nights, however, are reserved for dancing. On a Sunday, you can find a number of Raikes students at Pla Mor Ballroom for Country Night — cowboy boots and all.

Dancing is far outside the realm of these students’ usual activities, but that’s exactly why junior computer science major Allison Inman enjoys it.

“It’s a great way to step outside your comfort zone very safely,” she said. “It’s something you’ve never done before, but it’ll be okay — and it’ll be fun.”

According to its website, Pla Mor has been a Lincoln establishment since 1929 and has hosted country music and dancing every Sunday since 1991. Dancers, the site said, manage to fill the 4,000-square-foot ballroom every time.

Inman makes an attempt to get over to Pla Mor each weekend, along with others in her friend group, such as junior Ann Pogrebitskiy.

An actuarial science and finance double major, Pogrebitskiy said she’s always enjoyed dancing and even thinks it overlaps with her other interests.

“Surprisingly it is very mathematical,” she said. “You count to four and to eight, and it’s almost formulaic.”

Catherine Krueger, a junior software engineering major, has been dancing at Pla Mor since high school and introduced most of her friends to the event. She agreed that there is a reward in dancing, even if the participant doesn’t happen to be the most athletic.

“It’s satisfying,” she said. “You’re doing the right thing on the right beat at the right time.”

That said, the students were subject to a learning curve until they managed to get the beat down.

“When I first started I was just tripping all over myself because I’d never done anything like that,” junior computer science major Reid Jones said. “I just counted to the beat and, over time, I learned the patterns of the songs.”

Jones said some of the routines are familiar dances — like the waltz or the electric slide — just set to country music. Additionally, Inman said there are some songs that have their own designated dances like “Footloose” and “Copperhead Road.”

The students said a benefit of being a first-timer at Pla Mor is that it’s a great environment to learn in, free of judgement.

“People are super helpful,” Inman said. “No one’s laughing at you; they just want you to pick up on it because it’s fun once you’re doing it all together.”

As they’ve become more familiar with the dances themselves, the students said they try to help out newcomers too by gesturing or giving a friendly “to the right now” shout.

The people in the front of the dance floor usually lead the dance, implicitly picking a new one for each song, while other participants catch on and join in.

“I will never understand how they all seem to instinctively go, ‘Okay, this is what we’re doing now,’” Krueger said. “It’s a cool hive-mind thing.”

Pla Mor’s community mentality has built up over generations of attendees — from Krueger’s parents to Krueger herself.

Country Sundays have been a tradition for many University of Nebraska-Lincoln students like Krueger, Inman, Jones and Pogrebitskiy, who all said this is an activity they’d like to continue throughout their lives.

“Thirty, 40 or 50 years down the road when I have kids or grandkids I can say, ‘When I was in college, I would country line dance every weekend,’” Pogrebitskiy said. “It’s just such a unique thing Lincoln has.”

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