Saturday, April 29, 2006

Studio in the Spotlight-'Enjoy Dance' in Greer, South Carolina

CLARE TRAPASSO, For County Line NewsPublished March 29, 2006

Entering the Starlight Ballroom, in downtown Greer, during a Saturday night ballroom dance is like stepping back in time. Elegantly dressed women and their male partners gracefully waltz around columns strung with twinkling lights in time to music of a bygone era.

In between numbers, couples of all ages sip bottled water and snack on popcorn at tables adorned with pink table clothes and fake roses, before getting up to cha cha or meringue on the wooden dance floor.
"It just takes you back. It's like old movies with the elegance, romance, and pizzazz," said Rhonda Lanier, a teacher at Pelham Road Elementary.

Rhonda, and her husband Wayne Lanier, have been Ballroom and Latin dance enthusiasts for five years. They became interested in dancing after watching guests at a Florida wedding ballroom dance at the reception. Shortly afterwards, the Laniers signed up to take dance classes at the Starlight Ballroom with Robert "Bob" Chandler, the owner of Enjoy Dance.

Chandler created Enjoy Dance, which offers ballroom and Latin dance instruction, 10 years ago. This March, Enjoy Dance won top small studio at the Heritage Classic Dancesport Championship held in Asheville. The championship, a five-day event held on Feb. 28- March 4, is the second largest ballroom dance competition in North America. Chandler, who danced with students Karen Wright and 86-year-old Jane Perkins, who danced in 93 competitions, also placed third in the top teacher category.

"I love the fact that ballroom dancing is a sport. It can be competitive and doing it is a total mind-body experience. It's not something you can do on a competitive level without a lot of thought and practice," said Wright who was first in the Top Overall Student category at the Championship.

Chandler and his wife, Helen, teach a wide array of dance classes, including the waltz, swing, cha cha, rumba, samba, mambo, tango, foxtrot, meringue, bolero, salsa, and shag dancing. Ballroom and Latin dancing has become popular, partly due to the success of ABC's reality television show Dancing with the Stars. The show teaches celebrities how to ballroom and Latin dance and then has them perform for judges and audiences at home. "Dance facilities are seeing a 30 percent plus increase in their business due to the hit series Dancing with the Stars," said Chandler.

Currently Enjoy Dance has over one hundred students. The most popular class is beginner ballroom. Chandler also teaches at The Asheville Racquet Club and on Sundays at the Cliffs of Glassy.
"I love my job. It is hugely rewarding, because I have the opportunity to share the gift of dance with people who never thought they could do it," said Chandler, who also believes that dance is an excellent way to exercise.

"Ballroom dancing is a lot of fun, it is good exercise, and it's challenging. It gives us something to do besides going out to eat and getting fat together," said Greer resident Dr. Karen Hunter, who has been dancing with her husband Dennis Watson at the Starlight Ballroom for three years.

Ballroom dances are held three Saturdays a month at the Starlight Ballroom. The Walkers host two of them on the last two Saturdays of every month. The events are alcohol and smoke free and there is a $10 admission charge. In addition, USA Dance holds dances there the first Saturday of every month. Admission is $10 for members and $12 for non-members.

Dancing enthusiasts can also enjoy shag dancing in downtown Greer every second Friday night at The Davenport, located on the corner of Trade and Randall streets. "Shag is kind of like an old-time jitterbug, except a little more laid back. It's done to beach music," said Lindsay Stevens, co-owner of The Davenport.
There is a $10 cover fee, which includes a 30- to 60-minute shag lesson at 7 p.m. The dance begins at 8 p.m. and usually includes a live band.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Final Tip for Beginners

Most importantly of all, HAVE FUN! It's not a race or a competition, everyone arrives at the same place eventually, dancing with their partner and having a wonderful time. When you're dancing, you'll find yourself transported from the mundane routine of day-to-day life. For a while, you won't think about the boss, the bills or the undone chores at home. For a while, it's just you, your partner and the music as the two of you move as one, twirling, spinning and gliding around the dance floor. That's the magic of ballroom dancing.

You may experience moments of frustration with yourself or your partner, but don't let that overshadow all the benefits of becoming a ballroom dancer. If you find you're not enjoying what you're doing, or if the steps are a little intimidating, consider a different dance. Perhaps the foxtrot or waltz is not your cup of tea, try the cha-cha, tango or the swing. You'll discover that once you become proficient in one dance, each subsequent one becomes a little bit easier.

Given time, you'll find your favorite and you can focus on that. My guess is that you'll wind up like most ballroom dancers, loving them all and not wanting to stop until you've learned them all!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Tip Number Nine for Beginners

Enjoy all the non-dancing benefits of ballroom dancing. Through your dancing, you will discover a boost in self-confidence, an increase in balance and an improvement in posture. Through your dancing, you will raise your heart rate, thus improving your cardiovascular health. Through your dancing, you will meet new people, make new friends, improve your social skills, and possibly establish new business contacts.

The dance floor is a great equalizer. In a beginning class, everyone is a beginner, whether they're a doctor or lawyer, a construction worker, waitress or school teacher. For that hour each week, the stresses of daily life simply melt away as you immerse yourself in learning the steps, listening to the music and connecting with your partner. It's great therapy and a lot cheaper than a psychiatrist!

Stay tuned for the final tip in this series for beginners. And please, feel free to post your comments on this or any other topic or question related to ballroom dancing. If you'd like to have new posts sent directly to your email, enter your address in the subscription box on the left side of the page.

Have a great weekend....invite someone to go ballroom dancing!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tip Number Eight for Beginners

Commit to practice. You will never become proficient in ballroom dancing, (or anything else, for that matter) without practice. If you're having a problem with a particular step or pattern, it's perfectly acceptable to hang around a few minutes after class and go over it a time or two with your partner. There's almost always more experienced dancers milling around and most are more than willing to help a beginner. (Ballroom dancers, as a whole, are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.)

Take a few minutes to practice the steps at home once or twice a day, you'll be amazed how much better you retain them throughout the week and it will make the next class just that much easier. This is another benefit of arriving early for class, it affords you the time to practice those steps once more before the instructor begins.

Most studios also offer a 'practice party' or 'studio dance' weekly or monthly. These are excellent for practicing what you've learned as well as seeing the more accomplished dancers, which is what you're striving to become! I can't emphasize enough the importance of the studio dances and the role they play in honing your dancing skills. These dances also benefit you by familiarizing you with the music appropriate for each particular style of ballroom dancing. We'll be discussing music in an upcoming post, so check back here often!

Make plans to attend these studio dances whenever possible, even when you're new and just starting out. Maybe even ESPECIALLY when you're new and just starting out! The seasoned dancers are always happy to help a newcomer and the dances provide a perfect complement to your classes. If you haven't been to a studio dance yet, this weekend would be a great time to start! If you've been attending regularly, have a wonderful time! And please post your thoughts, opinions and experiences right here!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tip Number Seven for Beginners

Arrive a few minutes before the time the class actually begins. There is typically a sign-in sheet and many studios give out name tags to help you learn your fellow dancers. If you have dance shoes, you'll need those extra minutes to change from your street shoes. Arriving early also gives you the opportunity to mingle a bit with others who are there for the same class. Nothing disrupts a class more than someone rushing in late while the instructor is demonstrating a new step.

Often you'll see couples arrive early and retreat to a far corner or a back room and practice the steps they've learned. It's also a good time to ask for help if you're having trouble with a particular step or pattern. Those minutes before class also provide a good time for you to get to know some of the other students in your class. Sometimes there's a class just finishing up and I always enjoyed seeing the dances that others were learning.

After class is another good time to practice what you've just learned, as long as another class is not gathering on the floor. If it's the end of the night though, be considerate of the instructors and the studio owners and don't delay their closing. They work hard all day and when 'quitting time' comes, they're ready to call it a night.

You'll find the longer you take ballroom dance lessons, the more you'll look forward to spending time at the studio. You'll make new friends, meet new business contacts, and more importantly, constantly improve your dancing skills. Next week, try to make it a point to spend some extra time taking advantage of all the studio has to offer. The more time you invest in your dancing, the more you'll get out of it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tip Number Six for Beginners

Now that you've decided on your dance attire for your lesson, it's time to dress your feet. Your choice of shoes can make the difference between enjoying ballroom dancing and not being able to even master the steps. Nothing takes the joy out of dancing quicker than shoes that won't co-operate or feet that are hurting.

Please don't make the mistake of wearing rubber-soled shoes. They don't offer the proper traction for sliding, spinning or turning. A loafer-type is good, or any shoe with a smooth sole. For women, a shoe with a heel makes for attractive movements, but certainly isn't a necessity when you're first getting started. Later on, you may want to consider purchasing a pair of dance shoes.

Ballroom dance shoes are specifically designed to be worn on the dance floor and nowhere else, especially outside. The soles are suede, allowing them to slide easily, which makes turns and spins almost effortless. A trip outside can cause irreparable damage to the sole.

Some studios offer dance shoes for sale, or there are many ballroom dance shoe websites online from which you can order. I also don't recommend wearing open-toed shoes, such as sandals or flip-flops. Remember you're in a beginning class, and there is always the possibility of someone accidentally stepping on those toes!

For a more in-depth discussion about ballroom dance shoes in see the March 19th post entitled "Let's Talk Shoes".

Monday, April 10, 2006

Tip Number Five for Beginners

What should you wear to class? The attire worn to ballroom dance classes is as varied as the people who attend them. Some people wear jeans or slacks, women can opt to dance in skirts or dresses. In warmer climates, like we have here in Louisiana, some students arrive in shorts. Personally, I prefer to dance in a full skirt or dress. Feeling the fabric of the skirt swirling around my body as I turn and spin enhances the whole dance experience for me. I believe that skirts or dresses, accessorized with heels, are the most aesthetically appealing attire that women can wear when ballroom dancing. What's your opinion?

Perhaps the most important consideration is to wear clothes that are comfortable, perhaps a little on the loose side, to allow you the freedom to move without constriction. You should wear clothes that are clean, casual and comfortable for your lessons.

Another thing to consider when choosing your apparel is temperature. Do you tend to be hot-natured or cold-natured? Many studios keep their thermostats a little on the cool side, so if you chill easily, you may be tempted to wear a sweater or long-sleeved shirt. In most cases, I would advise against this. Believe it or not, your body temperature will increase as you dance, to the point that some people actually perspire. A short-sleeved, lightweight shirt will probably serve you well. If you feel the need, wear a sweater over your blouse or shirt. Then you can take it off as you begin to warm up.

Casual, comfortable attire is perfect for classes or private lessons. Attending a studio dance or competition usually dictates more dressy apparel. We'll look at that a little later on. Until then, practice, practice, practice!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tip Number Four for Beginners

Don't let yourself get discouraged! You'll probably come away from those first few classes feeling a bit overwhelmed and letting negative thoughts invade your head, telling you that you'll never get it right. Simply not true! Even though learning a new dance can seem intimidating, and you might feel you'll never remember which step goes where, trust me when I tell you, it will all come together, given time....and practice.

Fortunately, you probably can't remember back when you were two and first learning to walk. How many times do you suppose you fell on your tushie before you actually made it all the way across the room?What if you had told yourself to just give up, this is too hard, I'll never learn this? I guess we'd all still be crawling!

No, don't give up. When you get home, try to repeat at least some of the steps you learned during that first class. But even if you can't remember anything by the time you get to your car, the next class almost always starts with a review of the last class. If you'll stick to it for the duration of the 6 or 8 week session, you'll come out on the other end with a working knowledge of some basic moves under your belt (or maybe I should say under your feet). That's a promise.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Pause Between Tips

Before I continue with the series of tips for beginning ballroom dancers, I wanted to take just a moment and point out a couple of new features I've added to the blog.

It's now possible for you to subscribe via email so you'll know when the latest post has been added, and for those interested in RSS feeds, the first two are now available. I will be continually adding new features and informational links so I hope you'll take advantage of these new convenient benefits.

Emails are only sent when there is a new post, so your inbox won't be unnecessarily cluttered.

Stay tuned for the next entry in the Tips for Beginners series....and until then, keep dancing!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tip Number Three for Beginners

Sign up first for a beginner group class. I recommend this for several reasons. Group classes are usually quite reasonably priced so there is no huge initial outlay of cash. Everyone in the group is just like you, a beginner, so there's less chance of feeling silly if you miss a step or two. (And you will, but so will everyone else. You'll quickly learn to just laugh it off and keep going.)

Whether or not you have a partner will not matter in a group class. Most instructors will rotate the partners in a class, partially to take care of uneven numbers of men and women, but also to improve the man's ability to lead a variety of partners and the woman's ability to recognize and follow different leading styles.

If you're just painfully shy and don't want to dance with anyone other than your partner, don't worry. If you mention it to your instructor, most will be sensitive to that and will allow you to stay as a couple without joining in on the rotation. You'll be limiting your skills somewhat, but if you're not comfortable dancing with others, especially at the beginning, it's absolutely acceptable.

There's a lot of joking and laughing during group classes as everyone learns new skills and makes mistakes doing so. The instructors of beginner classes are usually well versed in putting new students as ease, as a result, beginner ballroom classes are always a lot of fun, and you'll be surprised how quickly you begin looking forward to the next class.

Classes generally meet once a week, usually for an hour, for a period of 4, 6 or 8 weeks, so you're not even investing a huge time commitment to start with. At the end of the session, you can choose to continue with that class, learning the same dance in more detail, or choose another style of dance to begin learning.

Once you have a group class or two under your belt, or if you find you're having problems with some of the steps in the group class, you should consider taking some private lessons. While they're typically a bit pricier, the benefits of individualized attention can far outweigh the cost. One-on-one instruction can help you master a step or pattern you've had trouble with in a relatively short amount of time.

The increased confidence you'll feel the next time you step out onto the dance floor will confirm that private lessons are the best way to truly learn ballroom dancing, and the benefits of investing in your dancing education are outstanding!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tip Number Two for Beginners

Choose a studio carefully. All dance studios are not the same. It has been my experience that the best value for the money is with a locally owned, independent studio, rather than one of the nationwide chains. This is not always the case, but I've found it to be true more times than not. I would also strongly suggest that you find a studio that caters specifically to ballroom dancing, not one whose primary interest is ballet, tap or jazz, with only a couple of ballroom classes added as an afterthought.

Don't give in to strong-arm sales tactics. Some people can be quite aggressive in their sales pitch and before you know what hit you, you've signed up for thousands of dollars worth of lessons. (And yes, the price CAN run into the thousands.) Know what your budget will allow before your first trip to the studio and stick to it.

It's a good idea to visit a studio at least once before you ever even sign up for a lesson. Most will allow you to come and observe before you become a student. You'll want to note if it's a busy, active studio with lots of students participating in classes.

And while you learn the most from private lessons, Tip Number Three will tell you why I recommend NOT starting with them. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Number One Tip for the Beginner Ballroom Dancer

Just do it! Too many would-be dancers have convinced themselves, or let others tell them, that they 'just can't dance', so they never even attempt to learn. Have the words "I've got two left feet" ever come from your lips? If they have, I've got great news for you! If you can walk, you can learn to dance. That's a fact.

Now, that doesn't mean that you'll be proficient after your first lesson. But it does mean that anyone who has mastered the art of walking is capable of mastering the art of ballroom dancing.

Ballroom dancing is composed of only a few basic steps. Forward steps, just exactly like the ones you use to walk. Back steps, and who hasn't taken a step backward at some point? How hard is that? Side steps, the kind you use when moving down a crowded row to find your seat at the theater. Lastly are steps taken in place, like marching without moving forward.

It's the combining of these steps in different ways and to the rhythm of a particular music style that creates the pattern of a dance. The steps are learned one at a time, just like when you were two and learning to walk! Don't let anyone discourage you, you CAN learn to dance!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

By Rosamond Hutt, Community Newswire
SHOWBIZ Record London, 17 Mar 2006 - 10:21

The stars of Strictly Come Dancing have today revealed they are hoping to quickstep their way into the record books while raising thousands of pounds for charity. Anton Du Beke, Erin Boag, Ian Waite and Camilla Dallerup have kicked off an ambitious new bid to get the most number of people ballroom dancing at the same time.

The stars of the hit BBC show are looking for 1,500 amateur dancing enthusiasts to take part in the record-breaking event on May 6. Guinness World Record chiefs revealed the current record for the most couples ballroom dancing at the same time is just 270.

The record-breaking attempt is in aid of the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign, which is the Institute of Cancer Research's campaign to raise awareness and funding for male cancers. Participating dancers will be encouraged to raise money through sponsorship, with all proceeds going to the charity.

The Strictly Come Dancing stars launched the bid today at an event at Abbey Road in north-west London.
Camilla Dallerup said: "There has been an explosion in interest in ballroom dancing since the series first aired and this is going to be a really exciting night."

Guinness World Records editor, Craig Glenday, said: "It's great that a Guinness World Record is being broken for such a good cause, and what better way to set a new record than by dancing the night away." The bid will take place at the Battersea Park Events Arena in south-west London. The event is organised by Virgin Money and details can be found at the website

Saturday, April 01, 2006

What's your favorite dance?

Is it possible to have a favorite dance? For me, that's like asking me to choose my favorite child. I love them all, for different reasons, but couldn't possibly love one more or less than the other. When I've been asked what my favorite dance is, I normally reply "Whichever one I'm dancing at the moment".

All the ballroom dances have their own special appeal for me. I love the music and the sassy steps of the cha-cha and the mambo. I adore the way I feel when gliding around the floor to a flowing waltz, or struttin' my stuff to the classic foxtrot. There are few things more sensual to watch or perform than the bolero or the tango. For plain ol' fun, you can't beat the swing. And that just touches on the more 'popular' dances.

So my question for you is this: Which dance do you consider to be your favorite and why? Perhaps your answer might inspire someone to try a dance they've never experienced before. Post your comments and share your love for ballroom dancing with others!