By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Northborough – As a line dance instructor and choreographer, Mary Dragon of Northborough draws upon decades of experience with various styles including ballet, jazz, tap – and even some disco.
Born in a military family in Fort Jackson, S.C., she studied dance internationally beginning at age 6. Her father, Lt. Col. Irving T. Shanley, was stationed in Germany, where she attended her first dance class.
“My parents said I was born dancing,” she shared. “When I started walking, I always had dance movements in my steps.”
While overseas, the family toured Italy and visited relatives. Next, they moved to Virginia and her dance lessons continued.
When her father retired in 1969, after serving in the Army for nearly 27 years, the family relocated to Framingham to be closer to relatives. There, she danced and choreographed with several studios.
In 1988, a mutual friend introduced her to Northborough native Jeff Dragon. They married in 1991.
“He has deep roots in this town – born, raised and works here,” she said. “In 1992, we bought his parents’ house that he grew up in. That’s where we’re living now.”
Her parents also moved to Northborough around the same time.
In 1995, she ventured to the Bay Path Barn in Boylston with a hankering for some country music. That’s when she discovered her love for line dancing.
“Over the next couple months, I quit all the other dancing styles,” she relayed. “I just focused on line dancing.”
Soon afterward, the Bay Path Barn formed a dance team known as the Country Kickers. Dragon auditioned and was one of 12 chosen. Currently the team’s choreographer and manager, she performs with them at community festivals, including each of the six years of the annual Arts in Common in Westborough. Dragon appreciates recruiting volunteers to join them on stage.
“Most everyone likes to dance, whether in the privacy of your own home or on a dance floor,” she said. “A motto that I like is, ‘Dance as if no one is watching.’ Next thing you know, people are smiling and hopefully joining in with you.”
Dragon has been instructing line dance weekly at the Northborough Senior Center since 2001. Within the following few years she also began weekly classes at the Hudson and Westborough senior centers.
“Although I enjoy teaching all ages, it brings me great satisfaction to dance with the older generation,” she said.
Other locations where she instructs are the Hudson-Concord Elks Lodge 959, and Assabet After Dark, the continuing education program at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlborough.
Dragon cherishes fond memories of Northborough’s commemoration for Memorial Day in 2004. Following the parade, the ceremony included the American Legion Vincent F. Picard Post 234 honoring her father, a D-Day veteran, as the Legionnaire of the Year.
“My dad was very humbled by it all,” she recalled. “I’ll never forget when he drove by in a convertible, waving to all of us in the family. It brings back really great memories. He passed away two years ago.”
Dragon created and collected more family memories at Proctor Elementary School, where her husband attended. When their son Matt was a fifth-grader there in 2006, she got involved with Board Game Buddies, a monthly program pairing students with seniors. She accompanied her parents, who participated as her son’s grandparents. She still attends the program, a year after Matt graduated from Algonquin Regional High School.
“I like any involvement with the senior population,” she said. “It makes them happy and they certainly deserve that.”
She welcomes other enthusiastic line dancers to join the Country Kickers. For contact information, visit countrykickers.com.