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Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Step Aside - There's a New Generation of Ballroom Dancers


Here's an idea when the weather outside is frightful and the fire is something less than delightful, why not dig through your closet, find those dancing shoes, and make your way to the nearest ballroom dancing center for an evening of great fun (and exercise, too).

With the resurgence of interest in ballroom dancing that is currently taking place, people of all ages are discovering the joy of learning a series of beautiful steps and dancing with a partner. Ballroom dancing is social, it's great exercise, it looks good, it feels good, it lifts your spirits, and it impresses your friends at wedding receptions (OK, that's not a particularly important reason, but you get the idea). Dancing with a partner is fun, some will say even more fun that bouncing and swaying by yourself in a crowded, smoky club. There is always a dance to suit the music being played - the Cha Cha, Rumba, Swing, Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese waltz, and Quickstep - and all are within reach of anyone who is willing and able to learn. Many dances are relatively easy to learn - at least the basic steps. Even beginners can have a great time with just a few lessons and a few opportunities to dance at one of the weekly dance parties offered by area ballrooms, although becoming really proficient at most of them will take six months of practice or so. In the meantime, getting on the dance floor and doing what you already know makes it all worthwhile. Also, watching "the dance masters" dance to the beat of a Latin or Swing number can often be the highlight of an evening.

The romance and exhilaration of the great music that is part of ballroom dancing is one of the big attractions - on any given night, dancers can be found kicking up their heels to various Latin, Big Band, and Waltz sounds, among others. Area ballrooms provide patrons with a wide variety of styles and sounds, generally with DJs and/or high-tech sound systems.

Although by no means a requirement, ballroom dancing is also a great excuse to get dressed up for the evening the ladies can often be found wearing glamorous shoes and chic dresses or skirts that seem to float in the air as they turn. Gentlemen often dress for "elegant" comfort, perhaps including a vest with their favorite shirt, tie, and pants.

The Asheville Ballroom & Dance Centre (see second photo), conveniently located near Biltmore Village in the new Iwanna complex (991 Sweeten Creek Road, Asheville, 828-274-8320, www.ashevilleballroom.com), is a smoke-free and alcohol-free ballroom that caters to the growing number of ballroom dancers in the area. The creation of Iwanna newspaper owner and ballroom dance enthusiast Kathy Corn, the massive 6,000-square-foot ballroom features a floating hardwood floor, which provides a cushion and softer feel for dancers. The relative softness of the floor is something that becomes increasingly important the longer a dancer stays on the dance floor. The beautifully decorated ballroom (Asheville Ballroom entrance with Blues Brothers models seen in third photo.) also features mirrors on two walls, offering dancers the opportunity to catch a glimpse of themselves and other dancers as they gracefully glide across the floor. The ballroom seats 160 people at tables set up at one end of the room, so the crowd can be quite large and still be very comfortable. The Asheville Ballroom & Dance Centre hosts a dance party every week - the first weekend of each month has a party on Saturday night, but all other weekend dances are held on Friday nights.

The Asheville Ballroom & Dance Centre also offers dance lessons for beginners through advanced levels. The next series of lessons starts in February and runs for twelve weeks. Lessons are one hour long, one night per week. The cost for lessons is $30/month (four lessons), or they may be paid for one at a time for $10 per week. And remember no one needs to provide their own dance partner just show up for the lessons. If you have your own partner, great, but there is always someone available as a dance partner.

The Blue Ridge Ballroom (Newbridge Shopping Center, 55 Weaverville Hwy, Asheville, 828-253-9108, www.blueridgeballroom.com) is another good choice for ballroom dancing opportunities. Blue Ridge Ballroom also hosts Friday night dance parties, and admission to the dances is free for anyone who is taking classes. Blue Ridge offers a wide range of classes (and private lessons), including a beginner's class, Foundations to Social Dance, where beginning dancers learn the basic steps of a good number of different dances. Cost for the Foundations class is $60, and includes entry to the first eight weeks of dance parties. Blue Ridge Ballroom offers opportunities to compete at any number of dance competitions, and makes group trips, such as cruises, available to their dancers.

Blue Ridge Community College (828-694-1742 or 828-658-2242, Flat Rock, NC) has been offering adult ballroom dance classes with great success for years. The classes, offered on a wide range of dance proficiency levels, are very popular, with large numbers of people participating each semester. All classes are taught by professional dance instructors Foster and Judie Lampert, who are affiliated with Dance Lovers USA in Asheville. The new beginner class starts on January 8 and runs for twelve weeks through March 26. Classes are from 6:15-7:45 PM on Wednesday nights in the Killian Building, student lounge. The cost is $91.25. Those interested in the class should call to register.

Ballroom dancing has great appeal to all ages. Asheville Ballroom & Dance Centre has dancers who range in age from 18 to 86. Groups of college-age and post-college-age people are taking series of lessons with their friends, and staying afterward for the dance parties.



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