BEVERLY — The black robes are left at home — Sister Diane Boutet likes to wear her White Sox shirt to line dancing class. Her lifelong friend, Sister Jean Matijosaitis, grooves in her cross necklace.
Nobody at 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, have become local sensations after WBEZ’s Natalie Moore reported on their dance routines. They return Tuesdays every week to the basketball court at Ridge Park Fieldhouse for lessons.
“We got to keep alive, so we can keep the mission alive,” Matijosaitis said.
The class begins 11 a.m. Tuesdays at the field house, 1817 W. 96th St. It focuses on line dancing with a funk and soul twist, providing lessons to women 40 and older for their health and wellbeing. Neighbors are welcome to join, step and slide — but they’ve been surprised local nuns were down to groove, too.
“God watches over this dancing class. God watches over everything,” Boutet said. “Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, there are those sainted people,’ but we’re people, too. We like to dance.”
But Boutet and Matijosaitis insist they’re sisters with four left feet.
At class this week, Matijosaitis put up her hands like she was praying and turned toward her teacher, “Dancin’ Mary” Castle-Enyard.
“I said, ‘Dancin’ Mary, please don’t give me an F,’” Matijosaitis said. “Now I think I’m up to an F-plus.”
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,” she instructed her class to “move left to right with a cha-cha step.”
“This is a new one called, ‘Got My Whiskey,’” Castle-Enyard said to the class, turning and gesturing to raise a glass. “If you got any whiskey, hold it up.”
The nuns did not.
But Castle-Enyard said the sisters have been embraced by the “line dance family” since their first steps.
“They keep me on point, that God is good and God continues to bless me to help people groove and become healthier people,” Castle-Enyard said. “They’re so down to earth; they talk to everyone. You’re a person before anything. I’m Mary before I’m ‘Dancin’ Mary.’”
Matijosaitis, 81, lives with Boutet, 85, in Beverly and takes daily mile walks around Ridge Park Fieldhouse.
Matijosaitis was taking chair yoga at Ridge Park when Castle-Enyard’s class came in after. Castle-Enyard told her to “stay and dance with us.”
The nuns were hooked.
“It’s movement and rhythm, surrounded by soul music,” Matijosaitis said. “You feel welcomed here. We interact through dance. God is with everybody.”
Castle-Enyard said line dancing — a choreographed sequence of steps done in unison — is much more than country music and “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” Last week, the nuns and their classmates danced to “Deep Waters” by Incognito, “Trouble” by Iggy Azalea and party staple “Everybody Dance Now.”
“Line dancing is all about the music, anything you can put your feet to,” Castle-Enyard said. “It’s a way to keep moving and grooving — your race, your pace.”
The sisters have kept active in retirement, organizing scholarships for Chicago kids to attend Catholic high schools and advocating for women to be ordained as deacons at St. Barnabas in Beverly.
And during dance class, they can take more than 5,000 steps in just an hour, Castle-Enyard said. The sisters’ favorite move is the grapevine.
As last week’s class wrapped up, Matijosaitis and Boutet stretched to the skies.
It’s been two years since the sisters met with their motherhouse in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, Boutet said. But with the pandemic easing up, the dancing duo from Beverly are excited to visit and party like a nun.
“I never felt comfortable going up and dancing there before, because I didn’t know what I was doing,” Boutet said. “Now I’ll feel confident.”
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