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DANCING IN OLDSMAR // head on DOWN to the ROUND UP

Surrounded by neon beer signs, painted wagon wheels and posters of contemporary country music stars, more than 50 people crowd the Round Up line-dance floor, twirling, scooting and stomping in a series of intricate moves.

It's a fashionable and fairly diverse crowd: young women with exposed midriffs and fancy fringed boots, 40ish men in jeans and big cowboy hats, flannel-shirted youths and a few elderly couples. All eyes are on the instructor who calls out the moves aerobics-class style from a microphone headset.

"Left, right, one, touch! Front two, back two!" the instructor commands as she dances along with the group. "If you have a couple of beers, this gets tough!"

It's also tough to find a parking space some nights near the Round Up, a popular country-western club just outside the Oldsmar city limits in the County Line shopping plaza. Manager Doug White estimates that 1,000 people come in some nights to West Coast swing, two-step couple dance or just nurse drinks and watch.

But the biggest attraction is line dancing _ a group activity in which people dance individually in unison to country music.

Open for about a year, the Round Up features free beginning, intermediate and advanced line dancing lessons on a 3,000-square-foot dance floor.

Dancers also are treated to a wide television screen that shows off the moves of competitive line dancers.

Though the playlist leans heavily on hot country artists like Wade Hayes, Jeff Carson and Boy Howdy, it's not unusual to see patrons boot-scooting to the music of rock group INXS or Miami bass rap act the 69 Boyz.

Louise Metz, 73, of Clearwater says she and her husband, Sam, visit the Round Up three or four times a week. On a recent Thursday night, Mrs. Metz joked that she was the oldest person in the club.

"We have a great time. Everybody's so nice, too," said Sam Metz, 73, clad in black Western gear and a matching cowboy hat. "We started from scratch. I'm very limber by dancing."

Diana Proia, dressed in a sophisticated, cream-color denim skirt, red leather cowboy boots and gold, dangling boot-shaped earrings, said she usually comes to the club twice a week.

"I come here because it's the best dance floor in the area," said Proia, 42, a Clearwater resident and advanced line dancing student. "It's great fun and it's the best exercise. We even come on beginners' night on Friday, just because."

If the dancers at this club are any good _ and they are _ several owe some of that skill to Linda Rawdan, the Round Up's dance teacher.

A 10-year line-dancing veteran who dances competitively, Rawdan dispenses plenty of jokes with her instructions. During a lesson, she tells her students that she's not responsible for the consequences if an unwitting spouse sees them in the newspaper the next day.

"She's the best there is," said White, Round Up's manager. "We recruited her purposely when we opened."

Rawdan said she tries to make her instructions as explicit as possible because of the crowded dance floor.

"The key is to be able to verbalize what you're doing well enough," said Rawdan, perfectly coordinated in a black and white vest, matching short flared skirt and black boots. "Obviously, there's a lot of people that can't see you. I walk everybody through it very thoroughly."

Serious dancers such as Lori Polin of Palm Harbor seek out the Round Up. She and her competition partner, Bobby Caudill, often come in during off hours to practice. The two recently placed first in West Coast swing and third in two-step at the United Country and Western Dance Council competition, she said.

"Most everybody here does competition dancing somewhere else. Since I found (a club) so much closer to home, I come here," said Polin, 36. "It's a great dance floor."

The night is not without its glitches. When the music begins, a few people scoot the wrong way and bump into each other. But once they get going, it all falls together in one big, synchronized performance. The music is surprisingly hip _ even funky. To the uninitiated, it's an exhilarating spectacle.

But Rawdan acknowledged there was a reason behind all this impressive coordination.

"This is advanced night," she said. "Everybody's good."

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