PARKERSBURG - Ballroom dancing remains a popular activity for people of all ages.
The Mid-Ohio Valley offers a variety of opportunities for those interested in pursuing the hobby.
Two locally active clubs are the Tempo Dance Club and the River Cities Dance Club.
From left, Charlene and Tom Stilgenbauer, Kathy and Niles Walters and instructor Bill Held practice ballroom dancing in one of Held’s classes. (Photo Provided)
Established in 1978, the Tempo Dance Club has provided a venue for ballroom dancing in the Mid-Ohio Valley at various locations, including the Parkersburg Elks, local Moose clubs, St. Ambrose Church in Little Hocking and Shriners Center in Parkersburg.
The club currently dances at the Wayside United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, one of the largest sprung wood floors, at 3001 Grand Central Ave. in Vienna.
Tempo club dues are $200 per year and the dress is semi-formal for dances- jacket and tie for men and a cocktail dress for women. On dance nights, the program runs from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Upcoming Tempo club dances are scheduled for Nov. 10, Dec. 1, Feb. 9, March 9 and April 13.
The River Cities Ballroom Dance Club meets at the Marietta Country Club, 705 Pike St., in Marietta. The club has brought bands and orchestras from as far away as Nebraska and as close as Parkersburg and Cambridge for the event.
Club membership is $200 per year for couples and $100 for single members. During dances, dress is formal, with men wearing tuxedos and women wearing cocktail, long dresses or dressy evening separates. On dance nights, the program runs from 8-11:30 p.m. Upcoming River Cities club dances are scheduled for Oct. 20, Dec. 7, Feb. 2, March 2 and June 8.
Other venues around the Mid-Ohio Valley offer ballroom dancing programs periodically throughout the year.
For those who are interested in learning to ballroom dance, programs are offering classes beginning in September.
Tempo club president Peter Ianniciello and his wife, Susan Stout, offers ballroom dance lessons at P.A.C.E. at 505 24th St. in Parkersburg, next to the Memorial Bridge, through classes and private lessons.
The next ballroom classes will begin Sept. 9 and run Sundays for two six-week periods through Dec. 2. The first six weeks involve waltz, foxtrot and rumba, while the second teaches swing, chacha and mambo. The beginner calls is 5-6:30 p.m. while the intermediate level class runs from 6:35-8:05 p.m. on the same nights. The cost is $118 plus tax per couple for each six-week session.
Local instructor Bill Held will be offering a couple of classes, in Marietta and Parkersburg.
The Betsey Mills Club will host ballroom dancing lessons at 5:45 p.m. Fridays in the gymnasium at Fourth and Putnam streets beginning Sept. 14. The cost is $100 per couple and space is limited. For more information, contact (740) 373-3302.
Held will offer a new beginner ballroom dance class starting Sept. 17 at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, at 11th and Market streets, in Parkersburg.
Classes begin at 5:45 p.m. The 10-week class is $100 per couple, to be paid in advance or on the first night. Held will teach ballroom dance basics including frame, posture, body position, leading and following and beginning steps in waltz, foxtrot, swing and cha-cha will be covered. A partner is required.
For more information or to register, call Sue St. Jean at 304-428-3897 or Sue Montera at (740) 376-0775.
Sue Montera, a local instructor and Held's wife, said one of the first barriers is often people's belief that they can't do ballroom dancing because of its complexity and their lack of skills.
"They think they can't dance, they tell me they have two left feet. I always say 'But you have two feet, so you can dance, you've got two feet,'" she said.
Ballroom dancing is available to people of all ages. Held and Montero have class members ranging in age from 15 to 90 years of age. Held estimated about 300 couples in the Mid-Ohio Valley participate in ballroom dancing actively. He does see a decrease in involvement as people get older so he is always trying to get new people and younger people involved in the activity.
In the past several years, local instructors have seen an increase in interest due to shows like "Dancing With the Stars," but Held stressed there is a difference between that style of heavily choreographed, heavily rehearsed competition dance and the social dancing done at the local clubs, where the goal is to have fun and enjoy the experience.
People need to give themselves time to learn, said local dancer Sue St. Jean, who is active in both local clubs with her husband Bob St. Jean. She said many people will come into a beginning class and want to immediately start learning the more flashy and intricate dances, like the tango.
What they need to learn at the beginning is basic steps, body movement, posture and similar things which grow into the different dance styles, St. Jean said. They also have to learn how to do those things in tandem with their partner, without interfering with each others' movements, along with sharing the dance floor with other couples doing the same things.
There are a lot of benefits, physical and mental, to learning and participating in ballroom dancing. As with any type of positive physical activity, there are documented benefits that people can experience through ballroom dancing, from the physical actions to the memorization of steps and movements, St. Jean said.
Held said there are social benefits, getting people out with other couples involved in a shared interest.
"It's very much a social activity," he said.
"As a teacher, at a lot of classes I have to stop the people from talking to each other so they can take the class," he said with a laugh. "They get to know each other and make friends."
For beginners, a year's lessons will generally run for three sessions of 10 weeks each, meeting for an hour a week during a 10-week period in the fall, winter and spring. Held said his goal is to make the lessons fun, to get people involved and keep them involved.
"That doesn't mean you're not going to work hard and you're not going to sweat, because you are, but you're going to have fun doing it and you're going to feel like you've made progress," Held said.