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Dancing queen

Woman has the time of her life

Staff photo / Ashley Fox Poland’s “dancing queen” June Baker, 56, performs along U.S. Route 224 in the blazing July heat as a way to connect with motorists who often smile and wave, sometimes dancing in their cars.

POLAND — Three years after a video of her went viral, June Baker is still performing her roadside dances along U.S. Route 224.

Dancing is one thing she has to offer the world during times of uncertainty, she said.

“Music and dancing is something that crosses all divides and brings people together,” Baker said.

Between the pandemic and racial conversation happening around the world, Baker, 56, said that dancing for a small part of the day along U.S. Route 224 near the cemetery in Poland helps bring a smile to some of the passers-by, which she said keeps her going.

Oftentimes, people will slow down, wave and toot their car horn and even dance in their seat when traffic comes to a stop at a traffic light.

“I feel so lucky to be alive and it makes me so happy to experience those connections,” she said.

In September 2017, cellphone video of Baker went viral on Facebook, leaving people to wonder who was the woman behind the roadside dance moves.

“She makes us remember to be true to who we are and to have fun while doing it!” one person posted.

One of her five children said then that the police thought it was weird if her mom wasn’t out there dancing.

Baker told a Columbus TV station at the time, “I see that primarily as my job. Making people glad you’re alive and recognizing that you’re perfect just the way you are in this moment.”

She said that dancing is something that allows her to blow off steam and work up a sweat.

It can be freezing in the dead of winter or the hottest week yet — like last week — and Baker will be outside on her stretch of road, waving and smiling at motorists passing through the area.

She lives in Poland with her husband, Brent, and at one time their five children. She and Brent came to Youngstown about 25 years ago after he, then a minister, was appointed to a church locally before changing professions and attending law school.

Baker grew up in the Mansfield area. She said her school did not have dances and she had little experience with it, yet she eventually became an aerobics instructor in her college years. Overcoming self-esteem issues from her youth, Baker incorporates her dancing, which she calls “flailing” to music, as part of a workout.

Her love of the synchronized movements was also a way she overcame making the career choice of resigning from a teaching position with the Boardman school district several years back.

Now a language arts teacher at Summit Academy in Youngstown, Baker said she uses dancing for a couple of reasons.

“It gives kids the courage and inspiration to try new things,” Baker said, as students watch her dance even at school.

The activity also helps her stay connected with her students as they teach her new moves.

Baker’s song of choice at the moment is “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5, but she also listens to Katy Perry and takes it back in time and jams out to songs by Kool and the Gang.

The best advice Baker can instill, she said, is what motivates her to keep sharing what she loves doing.

“As a teacher especially and a mom of five kids, I feel our best gift to the world is ourselves. Finding those unique sparks or pleasures or treasures that make you happy triggers a chain reaction.”

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