Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Step this Way to Ballroom Dancing!

  Previously published in the March 2017 Sturbridge Times Magazine. Text below photo.

           Why just settle for watching the start of the new season of Dancing with the Stars on March 20? With the number of area venues that offer beginner ballroom lessons and nights out, there's no better time for you to get up from your couch, face the music, and do some dancing.  
         “Without beginners, you don’t have dancing,” says Steele Shane, Director of Dance Programs at the Longfellow Tennis and Health Club in Wayland. “It couldn’t sustain itself.” Steele delights in guiding inexperienced dancers through a West Coast Swing lesson from 8 to 9 PM, the first hour of Longfellow’s monthly WCS dance held the second Saturday of every month. This month’s dance is March 11.
            Talking with Steele, I remembered my first ballroom lesson, some fourteen years ago. Silly me, I was approaching my mid-fifties and never had a dance lesson. Yet, there I was learning to waltz with a partner who understood rhythm much better than I. He emphasized the initial step of each cluster with ease, as he triple-stepped down the school cafeteria floor: ONE – two – three, ONE - two – three. I followed his lead, stepping to the rear, attempting to do what Ginger did with Fred, every move backward and in heels. This was no time for fancy. I needed to stay on my feet. And stay on them I did. Still do.
            Newcomers who have fun with this same kind of learning experience at Longfellow’s monthly WCS dances often sign up for private, semiprivate, and group lessons afterward. Steele and his staff teach Waltz, West Coast Swing, Salsa, Cha Cha, and Two-step among other dance styles. As with the monthly dance, you do not need to attend class with a partner.
            Deborah Schur, who has danced her way from beginner to intermediate levels over the last decade or so, enjoys meeting up with friends at Longfellow’s dance nights and taking lessons from a variety of instructors. Though she calls herself “a person who just likes to dance,” her initiation came at a time when her confidence waned, after a second bout with breast cancer. “The dance floor became my safe spot,” says Deborah. A spot where she has danced with a variety of partners, young and old, including a thirteen-year-old boy from Canada who is now a Worlds champion.
            Jared Vigneault, owner of Poise Style & Motion in Worcester says a private single or couple class can be less frustrating than a group class for the inexperienced ballroom dancer. PS&M offers one free private lesson with any one of its ten instructors. From the look of their bios on the studio’s website, TV’s DWTS team has nothing over their range of expertise in traditional ballroom dances (Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep, Rhumba, Cha-Cha, Swing) and nontraditional ones (Hustle, Salsa). All levels from beginners to advanced dancers can attend the studio’s weekly Dance Parties on the first three Friday’s of the month. On the fourth Friday, the Party moves to S.A.G. Park, a larger venue in Shrewsbury.
            Every Saturday night the ABL DanceSport Center in West Boylston transforms its 10,000 square-foot facility to Club Ballroom, attracting singles and couples ages 18 to 80. The weekly event starts with beginner lessons from 7 to 8 PM.
            When it comes to teaching inexperienced dancers, “it’s all about customer service,” says Steele. The dance instructor’s job is to figure out solutions to the problems beginner customers encounter as they learn to trip the light fantastic.  Trip – as in the poetic expression for “dancing with quick light steps” that is. For more information about adult classes and dances call these venues or visit their websites.
Longfellow Club, 524 Boston Post Rd., Wayland, MA 01778, (508) 358-7355,

Poise Style & Motion, 97 Webster St, Worcester, MA 01603, (508) 752-4910,

ABL DanceSport Center, 184 West Boylston St. West Boylston, MA 01583, (508)925-4537,


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