Dancing dynamo

Pat Donahue

Photo by Vic Cantu

When considering the lifestyle of a typical 88-year-old woman, most don’t immediately think of someone who goes out dancing four times a week and teaches dance one night as well. But, Oroville’s Pat Donahue is no typical octogenarian. She’s been teaching stints at Chico’s Studio One, her church and Feather Falls Casino since the 1990s. Tuesday (March 5) marked her fifth anniversary teaching every Tuesday at the Tackle Box—without missing a week. “I don’t know how I dance so much,” Donahue says. “I guess I just love life.” Take free line dance lessons from Donahue and check out her handmade jewelry at the Tackle Box, 379 E. Park Ave., Tuesdays at 6:30 pm. She’s also on Facebook and can be reached by email at pdresearch@sbcglobal.net.

How do you stay inspired to dance?

Your mindset determines who you are and what you do. My saying is, “What your mind can conceive, your body can achieve.” Also, many decades ago, I worked with troubled teens and adopted a 17-year-old, David, whose family abandoned him. At 19, he had an aneurysm that paralyzed him, and I cared for him until he died at 53. I promised David I would keep on keeping on.

Are your classes for beginners, too?

Yes, I always have students who’ve never line danced before. The ages are from 6 to 93. People say, “I can’t dance, I’ve got two left feet.” I say, “Come to class, I’ll give you two right feet!”

What tips do you have for people who want to learn to dance?

If you can walk, you can dance. I tell young guys, “If you want to have dates, learn to dance, because women love to dance.” If you can’t feel the rhythm, I’ll take your hands and help you feel it. One woman, about 70, was using a walker and moving to the music. I held her hands and we danced. Her daughter came up after and said, “I’ve never seen my mother so happy!”

What are your lessons like?

The dances are 32 steps, with four sets of eight counts each. I encourage them to learn the dance names, and even have hand signals for them. Like for Gin & Tonic, I’ll raise an invisible glass and drink it.

How do you stay so healthy?

I’m not on any meds, and only see the doctor about every 12 years. My diet is terrible, but if you think healthy, you are healthy.

You also regularly go out and dance for fun, right?

Yes, I drive myself and a friend four nights a week to different casinos that have good bands. When Gold Country Casino reopens senior dance day, soon, I’ll be dancing five nights a week! I once asked my church pastor if it was a sin to have this much fun, and he said, “No, you’re blessed.” Every night I dance I get hugs from people who say, “You’re an inspiration,” and, “I want to be like you when I get older.”