Best foot forward

A class at the Woman's Club taught teens dances from days gone by

A class at the Woman's Club taught teens dances from days gone by

December 15, 2008|By EMILY SEILER / Pulse Correspondent

Some adults think that the dance moves used by today's teens are inappropriate. And many of the teens who do those dances don't even know there might be other moves out there.

These "other" dance moves originate from the polka, the swing or even the waltz, which were popular dances in the days before rock 'n' roll.

The Woman's Club on 31 S. Prospect St. holds many workshops for the children of the mothers who join this club. One class is to learn what are called social dances.

On Sundays from September through December, dance instructor Mary Crowell Smith introduces social dancing to teens grades sixth through ninth. This year's session ended Dec. 14. The next session will start in September 2009.


These classes are open to everyone in the community, girls and boys, if your mother joins the Woman's Club. To join the Woman's Club, the cost is $60 per year. Workshops cost $30 per student.

Smith has been teaching at the Woman's Club for 30 years and said she wishes to continue for as long as possible. Smith teaches the Arthur Murray style of dance. Arthur Murray was a dance instructor who opened studios in the late 1930s to teach the popular dances of the time. Arthur Murray Studios became a symbol for social dancing in the past and continue until today.

At the beginning of a class in November, students were reluctant to dance and participate, but soon they were all enjoying the class and really got into the dance moves.

"I teach loads of styles of dance, including the foxtrot, waltz, swing, disco swing, cha-cha, rumba, tango, mambo, merengue, and the polka," Smith said. "I like all these styles equally, but no favorite dance style sticks out."

"I enjoy coming here to learn how to dance and I like everything about the program," said Jacob Menard, 12, a sixth-grader at St. Mary Catholic School, in Hag-erstown.

Madison Kutzera, 12, a seventh-grader at St. Mary, said she likes to be with other teens. "It is a nice way to get together to socialize with my friends and learn different styles of dance."

But she doesn't really like the etiquette of dancing. "I just don't like that the guys pick the girls, I wish the girls could pick the guys," she said.

Breese Dickson, 12, seventh-grader at St. Mary, was new to the class when Pulse visited. "I am new this week but I liked coming because I got to see and chat with my friends that go to public schools while I got to learn some of the different 1940s dance styles."

Erik Penio, 14, eighth-grader at St. Mary, said he'd like to dress more casually. "I like the program, but I just don't like the dressing up part, especially wearing a tie," he said. "Other then that I don't mind the program."

Smith said she would like to have her students share what they've learned.

"To be able to teach the different styles of dance to teens of the community, then have them share them with their friends, that would be a honor to me," she said. "Most of the things that pass for dancing at schools and other places are incredible, and the adults in the community have said that it would be nice to add more of the former styles of dance back into the schools and the community."

Emily Seiler is a freshman at North Hagerstown High School. She loves to dance.


For more information about programs at the Woman's Club, 31 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown, Md., at 301-739-0870.

For more information about ballroom dance classes, contact Mary Crowell Smith at 301-739-7277.

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