Lil Nolin, of Jacksonville, knew friends that seemed to enjoy ballroom dancing and decided to try it. She joined ballroom dancing lessons at the activity center of Tyler Area Senior Citizen’s Center in Whitehouse.
Ms. Nolin found that ballroom dancing is a social activity, fun and exercise for her body and her mind.
Pointing to her head and then her feet, she said, “You’ve got to get it up here before you can get it down here.”
TASCA recently began sponsoring a new ballroom dancing class for $4 for members and $5 for nonmembers from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesdays led by Jim Gehring.
Gehring has been teaching dance in Tyler since 1993. But he began his career as a dance instructor more than 40 years ago and received his training with Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Dallas.
Besides the new class, Gehring is continuing another ballroom dance class, also conducted at TASCA and open to the public from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays that has been underway five years under the auspices of Ballroom Dance of Tyler.
That weekly class is $40 per month for singles and $60 for couples. A monthly party follows it when members practice what they have learned, ballroom dancing to recorded songs such as “I Can’t Get You Out of My Dream” and “Mustang Sally.”
Mostly senior citizens take the ballroom dancing lessons along with some middle-aged or younger dancers.
Ballroom dancing is performed with a partner, maintaining proper posture and balance for poise while the dance often flows elegantly with the music.
Ballroom dancing has become more popular since the debut a few years ago of the ABC television show “Dancing with the Stars.” The show has revitalized and thrown the spotlight on ballroom dancing, attracting more young people, Gehring observed.
Each month, Gehring’s classes focus on a different type of ballroom dancing.
He teaches a variety of major styles of traditional ballroom dancing, including the fox trot, waltz, tango, rumba, cha-cha and swing as well as other styles such as the salsa that has gained in popularity the last 20 years.
Perri Whisenhunt, of Chapel Hill, who has attended classes at TASCA about five years, said, “Ballroom dancing feels nice when you do it. It’s something you don’t ever get through with … you’re just always trying to improve and to learn new steps and polish different techniques. What’s proper in one dance is not proper in another. I like the challenge.”
Ron Gazaway, of San Antonio, grew up doing country dancing and did not ballroom dance until he and a former childhood friend, Mary Ann Bryant, of Edom, became reacquainted.
By then, both had lost their spouse and she insisted that he want to learn to ballroom dance before she would go out with him. He even had both knees replaced so he could ballroom dance with her. Now they attend ballroom dancing class together.
Gazaway said, “The only thing that’s different about ballroom dancing is your frame and counting steps. It’s different in the way you hold your partner. It’s enjoyable. You have the opportunity to socialize with different people plus it’s good exercise.”
Ms. Bryant said she likes the camaraderie and being with “like-minded people.”
Citing more benefits of ballroom dancing, Gehring said, “It’s good for you mentally and physically. It's a great way to stay involved and to have something to do, especially for seniors to keep themselves in shape while having fun.“
He added, “It is also one of the best ways to meet new people, particularly for anyone who has been through divorce or lost a partner. It’s wonderful for singles and a great way for a couple to keep renewed interest in the relationship.”
Some people only take one lesson or a month’s worth of lessons while many continue lessons indefinitely to get better and better at ballroom dancing, Gehring said. The best dancers still take lessons and are constantly learning, he added.
When people learn how, Gehring predicted they will be surprised at all the places they can ballroom dance.
“There’s lots of opportunity to use it,” he said. “It’s something you will use your whole life.”
Groups of people in Tyler have formed dance clubs that sponsor formal dances at local country clubs and elsewhere. There is ballroom dancing sometimes at Fresh by Brookshire’s. Ballroom dancers can dance when they go out for dinner, go on cruises or other travel and even inside the 11th Frame at Green Acres Bowl in Tyler.