Pictured from left to right: Donna Horn, Justin Agus, Barb Buys, Chris McNabb, dana middleton, Ruby Luke
Rain Country Dance Association is truly a member-driven organization! Learn more about some of our members, and their roles as volunteers, below. If you're a member interested in learning about current volunteer opportunities, click here. To become a member, click here.
DONNA (SHE), BOARD PRESIDENT
Donna started dancing at the Timberline in 1990. She describes, that like many people, in the beginning she went dancing 6 days a week! Line dancing got her addicted because she didn’t have to worry about stepping on others’ feet, but soon enough she took West Coast Swing lessons with a girlfriend she met dancing. You’ll still find her dancing with us nearly every Tuesday and Friday she is in town.
In 2004 she got an email from Jim Drew and embarked on the several year’s process of establishing the non-profit that is now RCDA. She describes being motivated to create and nourish the dance community they missed when Timberline closed. She has served on the board for all but one of the 15 years since incorporation in 2007! She also describes developing friendship in her governance work and deepening connections in meetings away from the loud dance floor. Her biggest lesson from RCDA: If you want something to exist, you have to keep working at it.
When she is not dancing, Donna can be found volunteering with the Girl Scouts. Active before she was old enough to be a Brownie, Donna consults with local Council Boards around the country. She has trained the adults in outdoor skills like backpacking and canoeing and recently helped an international organization of Girl Guides develop their leadership model. When asked for her advice to newcomers, Donna says: “There is no magic. It’s just persistence.”
A collective massive THANK YOU to Donna for her persistence and contributions so that all of us can enjoy this vibrant dance community.
Justin has been a regular most Tuesdays & Fridays since June 2021. As an electrical engineer, he says the patterns in line dance make sense, he learns them and strings them together, and it comes relatively easily. And it shows! If you need someone to follow, Justin is incredibly reliable with the choreography of almost everything we dance. He describes enjoying watching the dancers around him express themselves in their own way.
He finds that partner dancing has other things to offer, including social connection and the freedom Rain Country offers, where he is not constrained by heteronormative roles. Speaking of normativity, Justin values the simple exposure Rain Country has provided to our varied community, increasing his awareness of issues facing gender nonconforming folks. When he isn’t dancing, Justin loves to play volleyball, tennis, board games, & describes himself as a foodie.
We asked him for his advice to newcomers. He said, “be patient, you will build your skills and make connections with people. In the meantime, don’t be hard on yourself and don’t be shy! Ask us to dance – we are friendly and want to help you learn.” We couldn’t agree more!
There’s always a moment when a line dance starts and dancers exchange furtive glances, wondering whether they know it. This is the moment you’ll see Barb wave them onto the floor, “you know this one!” By the end, they do know it, and they’ll be back next week. This is Barb’s magical touch: welcoming people in and giving them the courage to dance.
Barb has been teaching, in one form or another, since she was in high school. Both on the dance floor and the tennis court she has seen how powerfully movement can increase comfort in a person’s own body. In her own life, she revisits this joy of movement through dance - her favorites are two-step, West Coast, and nightclub - as well as skiing, waterskiing, pickle ball, and tennis.
The thing that stands out most when talking with Barb about Rain Country is her deep love for connecting with people and being part of the community. As she put it, “the Seattle Freeze does not exist in Rain Country,” and that is in no small part due to Barb herself. Barb feels our community when teaching new dancers. She feels it when moving together in a line dance, the group making synchronous turns to the music like a flock of birds. She feels it with her wife whom she met dancing. And she felt it at the first dance after the pandemic closures, hands in the air, dancing to Rocket to the Sun, buzzing with the energy of being alive, surrounded by music and community. This is where she gets the energy to keep coming back, and to keep RCDA moving forward.
One of our newer members, Chris found us over the summer of 2022 Fresh in town, he was at the Cuff when he came across a discarded RCDA flyer. Chris loves country music and country culture, the desire for belonging and the call to be our best in the lyrics. He did line dancing with a queer group in Philly, and was eager to check us out. In life, Chris is a decision-maker and enjoys surrendering to the direction and brilliance of an experienced lead. The line dances can be frustrating but are a good challenge as he chips away at them each week. He is grateful for the easier ones to boost his confidence.
When asked what he has learned at Rain Country, he says that community is messy but it’s worth it. He notes that there is a nuanced and particular diversity in the queer community and, but for Rain Country, we would not be at the same bar. Of course there is conflict, but also people are so kind. He describes our events as a sanctuary; a place to connect to people he cares about, get outside of himself, and touch a part of himself not touched at work. He finds that being able to count on our group gathering twice a week makes Rain Country a strong antidote for isolation & loneliness.
When he isn’t dancing, Chris works supporting Seattle’s immigrant communities, rides horseback, and bring his dog, Lucky, to the dog park.
dana was an instant regular at Rain Country starting in 2018 and joins all our events when they are in town. They love both line & partner dancing and describe themselves as a solid switch, but are currently enjoying their “follow era”. They recall their first impression of Rain Country was of an environment so warm and welcoming they thought, “what even is this?” They are drawn to the uniqueness of our intergenerational queer space, and it feels special to have a mixed space, not segregated by gender.
At the same time, a current challenge facing RCDA is to understand our trans & non-binary members, use the right language and be respectful. dana finds that being in community with each other while people are actively learning and practicing new things requires patience on all sides. dana hopes Rain Country can create a space that engages our trans participants in creation as well as enjoyment. Thank you, dana, for being part of that as a volunteer! They report that volunteering provides them with a sense of purpose and of being of service that, as a Virgo, they crave.
When dana isn’t dancing they obsess over the geography game Worldle, teach creative writing to undergrads, organize and meet with incarcerated queer and trans people, box, and help friends build houses.
dana’s advice to new dancers? “Stay on the floor”. Remember, this community supports learning so “the stakes aren’t that high”.
Chances are, if you attended an LGBTQ+ Country Western dance in Seattle in the last 30+ years, you had the pleasure of dancing with the iconic Ruby Luke. Before there was Rain Country, you could find Ruby at the Timberline and the Cuff. She is an elder of our community and a founding member of the Rain Country Dance Association (RCDA), and has served on the board since its inception. Every year someone is awarded the Ruby Slipper Award for outstanding community service and this award is named after her.
A native Seattle-ite, Ruby was born and raised in the University District. She was one of six children of Chinese immigrants. Her family ran a laundromat and a grocery store where she worked in addition to being a berry picker through her youth. Ruby remembers being a child and thinking that what she was taught in school about what it means to “be a girl” was limiting. She resisted the gender roles of her time and describes being proud of the physical strength she developed and sought opportunities for self-expression. Her brother, Wing, was the first Asian American to hold elected office in the state.
Ruby Luke’s dance career began when she was teenager in the 1950s. She was of a member of the Chi-ettes, a drill team featuring Seattle’s Chinese community, performed folk dances from around the world with troupes at the Seattle Center; and danced with the Puddletown Squares, Seattle’s own square dance troupe, at 25 conventions!
As a creative young person Ruby aspired to become a fashion designer. While Ruby used her artistic skills as an illustrator for Boeing, she poured her passion for fashion design and creation into making all of her own dance outfits, bringing a new creation to life for each convention she attended. Her reputation garnered a national following; folks at conventions everywhere would ask who she was, admiring her original style and craftsmanship in both dance and fashion.
For Ruby, Rain Country Dance Association is a chosen family. Ruby leads or follows–she loves a dance with complex feet and hand movements, and loves a Waltz.
(updated September 2023)