Couples stay in step

Men must rule the dance floor when it comes to ballroom dancing

Men must rule the dance floor when it comes to ballroom dancing

October 14, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Couples don't need sequins, tuxedo pants or glitter to rule the ballroom dance floor.

They just need a few lessons that don't involve eight-counts, turns or quick steps.

Thanks to reality shows such as ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," ballroom dancing is no longer seen as an anachronism. Ballroom dancing has had a loyal following in the Tri-State, where there are several places to take lessons and a number of dances held throughout the year that cater to the ballroom.

But you don't need star power or that certain something to be adept, local instructors and hobbyist dancers say.

It's all about learning the nonverbal subtleties of partner dancing. There's also some gender politics involved - and those don't always call for a democratic approach.

Take leading, as an example, say Jean and Carroll Goodnight, the husband-and-wife team teaching ballroom classes at Emma K. Doub Elementary School on a recent Wednesday evening.


In traditional ballroom dancing, it's the guy who must take the lead, determine which move to do next and which way his partner will whirl. Ladies, you must follow.

"No matter who's the boss everywhere else, the man's the boss on the dance floor," Carroll Goodnight says.

This is a lesson that doesn't come easy.

"Leading is the hardest thing for a man to learn," Jean Goodnight says.

Though he's stepped on a few toes in the process, Kelner Shield, 37, of Williamsport, says he's learning how to lead. Kelner and his wife, Karen, 42 - who says one of her challenges is learning how to follow - have been attending the Goodnights' lessons at Emma K. Doub.

They are five weeks into a 12-week class. It's the first time either of them had ever tried ballroom.

"Sometimes, in order for me to lead, I have to be sure in my steps," Kelner Shield says. "It translates in our lives, as well. Because if I'm going to lead in a direction, I have to be sure of my steps."

But the power doesn't sway completely in the favor of men.

"You can request things, ladies, if they keep doing the same things over and over," Jean Goodnight says during the lesson.

Jenny Sullivan, 49, of Hagerstown, and Ken Welch, 45, of Hagerstown, also attended the class.

The couple, engaged last year, met at a dance at Pen Mar Park in Cascade and hope to include ballroom dancing at their wedding Dec. 8.

The couple say they enjoy doing the rumba, a modern ballroom adaptation of a rhythmic Cuban dance with Spanish and African elements. Welch describes it as "sensual."

"I think that the dancing is good for the relationship," Welch says. "You have to be in tune with each other."

Learn to cut a rug

For more information about ballroom dancing lessons, contact Jean and Carroll Goodnight by calling 301-655-1988.

You can also try the following classes at The Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg, Pa.:

· "Come Dancing," 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays Oct. 19, Nov. 16 and Dec. 14; $12.50 per person or $25 per couple.

· "Learn a Dance in a Day," 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays Oct. 20 (tango No. 2), and Nov. 17 (waltz No. 2); $50 per person; dress code: No jeans and tennis shoes.

· "Ballroom Dance Lessons," Mondays, Oct. 22 through Dec. 3; Fox trot and tango from 6:30 to 8 p.m.; country two-step and country waltz from 8 to 9:30 p.m.

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