Dancers step into Spring

Published 6:00 am Monday, April 13, 2009

Want to learn East Coast Swing, Rumba or Cha Cha?

These and other steps are offered in ballroom dance classes at Heardmont Park Senior Center through August 26, but only to those age 55 and older. On April 1, a cloud of dancers gathered around the registration table. Certified Ballroom Dance Instructor Wendy Johnson buckled up dancing shoes, while I fired questions.

“What keeps you inspired?”

She glanced over at husband Curt Johnson, who switched on swing music.

“We’ve shared a passion for dancing 35 years; keeps us connected as a couple,” Wendy said.

Then he told their most challenging teaching experience.

“Years ago we had a class entirely of people made blind by diabetes or accidents. Communication was a big issue. That experience made me a better teacher,” Curt said. “After two six–week sessions they were dancing so well, sighted partners barely noticed they’re blind… at first. Then a lady came up to me and said, ‘That man’s blind.’ ‘They’re all blind,’ I told her. Then I had another challenging dancing student, one with a wooden leg.”

He smiled. If you have concerns for learning steps consider how difficult it would be, not seeing your feet or if one was missing. The problem of getting a foot stepped on fades fast, in either case.

First instructors explained dance etiquette, tips and techniques. As the dancers congregated on the floor and the music picked up, it became clear some already knew how. One such person was Neil Reilly, a bachelor who recently moved to Shelby County from Arlington, Va., after a career in government offices in Washington, D.C. He’s here to be close to family and enjoys our quiet clime, but misses many social opportunities dancing offered in Virginia.

Reilly landed in the right place. Women outnumbered men two to one on the dance floor.

“That’s no problem,” Wendy said. “We have resources, can bring in male dance partners.”

Wendy and Curt Johnson, who teach social ballroom dance in many local cities, note today’s teens are even eager to learn ballroom dance. Knowing how to dance is very useful for social occasions, such as weddings. And it’s one way to stay physically fit while having fun. For more information on dancing classes, go to or call 419-5104.