South Side nuns find their rhythm — and a sense of community — at Beverly Line Dancing Class

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BEVERLY – Black dresses are left at home – Sister Diane Boutet likes to wear her White Sox shirt to line dancing class. Her lifelong friend, Sister Jean Matijosaitis, criss-crosses her cross necklace.

No one at the line dancing class knew Boutet and Matijosaitis were nuns when they started just before Christmas, the sisters said. But the retired Dominican sisters, now in their 80s, became local sensations after WBEZ’s Natalie Moore reported on their dance routines. They return Tuesdays each week to the Ridge Park Fieldhouse basketball court for lessons.

“We have to stay alive, so we can keep the mission alive,” Matijosaitis said.

The class begins at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the field house, 1817 W. 96th St. It focuses on line dancing with a funk and soul twist, offering lessons for women 40 and older for their health and wellness. be. Neighbors are invited to join in, walk and slide – but they were surprised that the local nuns were also ready to dance.

“God is watching over this dance class. God watches over everything,” Boutet said. “Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, there are these saints,’ but we’re people too. We like to dance.

But Boutet and Matijosaitis insist they are sisters with four left feet.

In class this week, Matijosaitis raised her hands as if in prayer and turned to her teacher, “Dancin’ Mary” Castle-Enyard.

“I said, ‘Dancin’ Mary, please don’t give me F’s,” Matijosaitis said. “Now I think I’m up to an F-plus.”

Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Sister Jean Matijosaitis (centre, back) stretches during line dancing class.

Castle-Enyard calls her line dancing class her “ministry.” On Tuesday, as she rocked a hands-free microphone and wore a sparkly shirt that read “Dance 4 Fitness” on it, she instructed her class to “move left to right with a cha-cha step.”

“It’s a new one called ‘Got My Whiskey,'” Castle-Enyard told the class, turning around and gesturing to raise a glass. “If you have whiskey, hold it.”

The nuns did not.

But Castle-Enyard said the sisters have been embraced by the “line dancing family” since their first steps.

“They keep me on point, that God is good and God continues to bless me to help people dance and become healthier people,” Castle-Enyard said. “They are so down to earth; they talk to everyone. You are a person above all. I am Mary before I was ‘Dancin’ Mary.’

Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
The line dance class is helping dozens of older women stay active. It meets Tuesdays in Beverly.

Matijosaitis, 81, lives with Boutet, 85, in Beverly and takes daily one-mile walks around Ridge Park Fieldhouse.

Matijosaitis was taking chair yoga classes at Ridge Park when the Castle-Enyard class came next. Castle-Enyard told him to “stay and dance with us”.

The nuns were hooked.

“It’s movement and rhythm, surrounded by soulful music,” Matijosaitis said. “You feel welcome here. We interact through dance. God is with everyone.

Castle-Enyard said the line dance – a choreographed sequence of steps performed in unison – is much more than country music and “Cotton-Eyed Joe”. Last week, the nuns and their classmates danced to Incognito’s “Deep Waters,” Iggy Azalea’s “Trouble” and “Everybody Dance Now.”

“Line dancing is all about the music, anything you can put your feet up to,” Castle-Enyard said. “It’s a way to keep moving and grooving – your running, your rhythm.”

Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Sister Jean Matijosaitis insists she has two left feet, but she has kept pace with her fellow line dancers.

The sisters remained active in retirement, arranging scholarships for Chicago children to attend Catholic high schools and advocating for women to be ordained deacons at St. Barnabas in Beverly.

And during dance class, they can take more than 5,000 steps in just one hour, Castle-Enyard said. The sisters’ favorite move is the vine.

At the end of class last week, Matijosaitis and Boutet took to the skies.

It’s been two years since the sisters met their motherhouse in Sinsinawa, Wis., Boutet said. But with the pandemic easing, the Beverly dancing duo are excited to visit and party like a nun.

“I never felt comfortable going to dance there before, because I didn’t know what I was doing,” Boutet said. “Now I will feel confident.”

Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
“Dancin’ Mary” Castle-Enyard and Sister Diane Boutet complete line dancing class on Tuesday.
Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Feet kick in during a line dancing class at the Ridge Park Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
“Dancin’ Mary” Castle-Enyard leads her team of line dancers to the tune of “Everybody Dance Now.”

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