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.