‘It’s not as hard as it looks’: Stompin’ Boots weekly line dances and classes rapidly growing in popularity

Owner and instructor Shellie Stone leads the Stompin’ Boots line dancing on Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton.

Owner and instructor Shellie Stone leads the Stompin’ Boots line dancing on Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Roy Walker dances at a Stompin’ Boots line dance on Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton.

Roy Walker dances at a Stompin’ Boots line dance on Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Tricia Kiefer dances at the Stompin’ Boots line dance, held Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton.

Tricia Kiefer dances at the Stompin’ Boots line dance, held Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Stompin’ Boots line dancing happens Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton.

Stompin’ Boots line dancing happens Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

FJ Sladeski dances during the Stompin’ Boots line dancing night on a Wednesday at New City Brewery in Easthampton.

FJ Sladeski dances during the Stompin’ Boots line dancing night on a Wednesday at New City Brewery in Easthampton. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Stompin’ Boots holds line dances and classes Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton.

Stompin’ Boots holds line dances and classes Wednesday nights at New City Brewery in Easthampton. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

By ALEXA LEWIS

Staff Writer

Published: 07-05-2024 9:50 AM

When Shellie Stone went to Nashville two years ago, she was intoxicated with the city’s quintessential culture of  music and dancing, and immediately took to the dance floor. 

Stone, who had been line dancing for fun since attending her first class spontaneously in 2014, unwittingly attracted attention with her quick feet and energetic flair. It wasn’t long before a couple of young girls approached and asked her to teach them to dance. Happy to oblige, Stone ran them through some basic steps until they fell into a rhythm. What she didn’t expect was for so many other people to jump in. 

“Next thing I knew, the entire dance floor was full of people doing my dance,” she said. 

In that moment, she knew she had something special on her hands, and decided to bring the Nashville line dancing experience back home to New England. 

She started small, dancing regularly at her home in Connecticut with a handful of friends and teaching lessons at an adult recreational center, but she recognized that line dancing could bring people together on a much larger scale. In October of 2022, Stone’s very own dance group, Stompin’ Boots, was officially born. 

From her small lessons at her house and the rec center where she continues to teach, Stone eventually made the jump to her first venue. But to her surprise, Stompin’ Boots began to attract larger and larger numbers, and swiftly outgrew that first space. 

Stone found a home for Stompin’ Boots at The Old Well Tavern in Simsbury, Connecticut, which now serves as the main venue for her classes. But her boot-stompin’ dances can’t be confined to just one space — Stone takes her lessons to an array of events and venues in northern Connecticut and western Massachusetts, including private parties.

In 2023, she was offered to share her dancing prowess at The Big E in West Springfield, where she spent eight days under the Dolly’s Honky Tonk Tent performing and giving lessons. Just last month, Stompin’ Boots established regular Wednesday night lessons at New City Brewery in Easthampton. 

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Music in the sky: Summit House Sunset Concert Series returns to its 173-year-old home
Easthampton’s 11 Ferry St. project promises affordable five-story, 96-unit complex
Knitters’ paradise: Webs, ‘America’s Yarn Store’ and a mainstay for Valley crafters for generations, turns 50
Ashfield Lake House reopening under new ownership, management
Herrell’s Ice Cream to open pop-up shop in North Amherst this summer
Yankee Candle consolidation prompts loss of 100 jobs

In addition to expanding her reach, Stone has also grown her team.

“It started with just me, but now I have my BRATs, which stands for back row assistant teachers,” she said. “They’re such an important part of this … While we’re dancing, when we turn and face a new wall there’s a BRAT there to follow.”

The BRATs wear brightly colored Stompin’ Boots shirts, and expertly guide classes through the steps when the dance requires them to turn away from where Stone stands on the stage, smiling in her tassels and bright red cowgirl boots. They also aid Stone in managing the door at events, running social media accounts, and more. 

“We make ourselves available across the room so people have feet to follow on all of the walls,” said Daniel Souza, one of the BRATs. “It’s fantastic. We have an amazing group of people, and we not only work together for line dancing, but we’re good friends as well.”

Souza had some line dancing experience before joining Stone at Stompin’ Boots. Excited for the chance to dance more locally, Souza gave one of Stone’s classes a try and ended up staying with her ever since. 

Under the disco ball and multicolored lights on Stompin’ Boots’ second Wednesday night at New City Brewery, Lindsay Bubar, another of Stone’s BRATs, stomped her way effortlessly across the dance floor in her ornately embroidered boots. 

“It’s one of those things where you always wanted to do it, but couldn’t find anywhere to do it around here,” Bubar said. “I signed up for the first beginner class, and the rest is literally history … Shellie is an amazing teacher, and she’s just so warm and welcoming.”

The welcoming atmosphere that Stone and her BRATs create resonates with their students, who call themselves “Stompers,” and who smile and laugh as they learn new dances, repeating “it’s not as hard as it looks,” like a mantra to anyone hesitantly standing on the sidelines.

Following the feet of Stone and her BRATs, the Stompers move in unison to iconic country artists like Dolly Parton and Kenny Chesney, growing more and more comfortable with every stomp, kick and clap. By the time a beginner class is over, the Stompers are lighting up the dance floor like pros, and a passerby could easily mistake a New England brewery for a Nashville honky tonk. 

Each lesson attracts anywhere between 20 and 50 Stompers, who bridge vast differences in age, background, and experience through their shared interest in line dancing. Some don their work clothes after a day in the office, while others dress the part in uniquely styled hats and boots, evoking a little bit of southern charm way up north. 

“It’s all of us that make this a success … we’ve all become this huge family,” said Stone. “We all met as strangers just interested in line dancing … Every event we put on is unique and special in its own way, but the best part is always pulling in new people. They start off shy and then they’re having a great time.”

Stone is always welcoming newcomers to put on their own stompin’ boots and give line dancing a try. Stompin’ Boots hosts regular beginner classes and dance sessions from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Wednesdays at New City Brewery in Easthampton, and Thursdays at Shaker Farms Country Club in Westfield, as well as other classes, workshops and events throughout the region. All ages and levels are welcome to join, and entry is $10.

Alongside her Stompers and BRATs, Stone is enthusiastic about sharing the fun of line dancing and the close-knit relationships it creates. As the Stompin’ Boots family continues to grow, she maintains the same love for line dancing she discovered the first time she tried it years ago, and she still dances at least one dance before leaving the house each morning. 

Alexa Lewis can be reached at alewis@gazettenet.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @alexamlewis.