Friday, December 26, 2008

14 Year Olds Take First Place In Regional Competition

From the Groton Times (Groton, CT):

The two 14-year-olds are involved in all your typical teenage stuff, like cheerleading and skateboarding.

But Olivia Pentell and Alex Poutchkov have one activity that their friends probably would never even think of doing—ballroom dancing.

They’ve even taken their lessons at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio to a competitive level and discovered there are few others their age.

“People think it’s slow and boring,” said Poutchkov, of Ledyard. But watching him and Pentell, of Groton, nothing could be further from the truth.

They face each other, straight-backed, right hands clasped together under the scrutiny of instructor Olga Golubko, who counts “1-2-3-4” faster and faster until it seems the students can barely keep up.

They tango and then cha-cha to “Venus,” then rumba to “Take My Breath Away.”

“Elbow! Shoulder! Big step!” Golubko tells them, joking even as she’s fiddling with the music that she has eyes on the back of her head. She constantly tries to push them closer together, but it’s clearly somewhat of a discomfort at that age. They also have to keep big smiles on their faces.

They found themselves here after their mothers met through the teens’ modeling agency called The Beauty Within. Alex’s mother, Oksana Blais, is a dance costume designer and had encouraged her son to dance. In Russia, where the family is from, ballroom dancing is like a competitive sport, Blais said, with children starting at age 5. She tried it but said she was too old by the time she started. Alex’s older brother also took lessons.

“I wish I’d started as young as you,” she told Alex. “For the rest of your life you’ll appreciate it.”

But Alex never had a partner. Olivia stepped in to fill that void. A year later—after taking one 45-minute lesson once a week—the two entered their first regional competition among Fred Astaire studios over three days in November at the Mystic Marriott. Around 200 students, ranging from young kids to older adults, participate in hundreds of heats.

They competed in 16 heats and came in first place every time.

Pentell, who has also taken ballet and hip hop, said she likes that it works out every part of the body.

“It’s very critical, strict, on point. You have to be on time, with the music and together,” she said.

The dance partners like the fastest dances the best. Olivia has trouble with the positioning required for the waltz, in which her head is tilted away from Alex at an angle. It leaves her with a sore neck.

But with dances that require so much cooperation, do they ever get frustrated with their partner? They say no.

Olivia said they just tell each other, “Hey, get that right next time!” She plans to keep up with it for as long as she can.

Even though it’s not something their friends do, the teens said their peers are usually pretty impressed.

“I think it would be cool see a lot younger people doing it,” Pentell said. “If they gave it a chance, they’d like it too.”


Monday, December 22, 2008

Fred Astaire Dancers in 'Superstars of Dance'

From the

Georgia Ambarian and Eric Luna hope they won't be home for Christmas this year.

Their separate professional dancing careers and partnership of more than three years has paid off with them being chosen to represent the United States in a new reality television show from the producers of "So You Think You Can Dance."

"We're excited," Ambarian said before she and Luna left for Los Angeles on Wednesday. "We aren't even sure of all the details yet."

The pair, who dance at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Cinco Bayou, boast three world and three U.S. cabaret championship titles. They also were the featured dancers with pop singer James Blount on an episode of "Dancing with the Stars" last season.

"It's nice that our hard work was noticed," Luna said. "Nigel Lythgoe himself called us to ask us if we'd participate." Lythgoe and Simon Fuller are two of the masterminds behind "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance." Their new show, "Superstars of Dance" will be an international competition hosted by "Lord of the Dance" Michael Flatley.

Eight countries will participate. Each team will have two soloists, one duo and one larger group. Ambarian and Luna will perform as the U.S. duo.Teams from Ireland, India, Argentina, China, Russia, South Africa and Australia are also scheduled to compete.Although Ambarian and Luna are expert ballroom dancers, they'll vie against ballet dancers and acrobats, too. The Americans must compete against whomever the participating countries choose to send, regardless of style.

How long they stay in Los Angeles depends on how well they do in the contest. "That will be hard, especially because of my children," said Luna, who added that he'll do everything possible to keep in touch with his family during the show's taping. He said he wasn't sure how much he will be able to talk because of competition rules.

Although the NBC Web site doesn't mention an air date, Ambarian said she believed the premier will be Jan. 4, with the competition moving to its formal prime-time slot Jan. 5.

"We're just going to go and perform the best way we can," Ambarian said. "You can't think of it as a competition. You have to think of it as your personal best." Ambarian and Luna specialize in cabaret dancing, a theatrical style that involves aerial movements and lifts. Both partners are married and Luna is a father of three.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fred Astaire Dance Studio Donating To Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whether searching for a unique holiday gift or just wanting to look great dancing at that special New Year's event, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Fort Myers have the perfect solution.

Until Christmas Eve, the Fred Astaire Dance Studio will donate all new student proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Any new students interested in learning to dance for the holidays can purchase three lessons for $40, including two private lessons and one group lesson. Dances include salsa, swing, tango, waltz and others.

New students also will receive one of several surprise gifts donated by local area businesses in support of the fund-raiser.

The Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Fort Myers is located at 12123 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For details, call 939-1517 or visit:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire Dance To No Doubt!

My Golden Dancers

The Sprinkling Can of Hope and the Mary Jane Shoes

By Elita Sohmer Clayman

When I was growing up, we did not have spare money for extravagant items. If it was in the clothing line, my brother or I did not wear hand me downs. We got new clothes, but they did not cost lots of money and they certainly were not designer brands.

Mom took me to a children’s shoe store called Dantzics. They had this x-ray type machine where you put your feet in and you looked down and there were the insides of your feet appearing in this slot. They gave you a balloon or a little pencil case if you bought your shoes there that day. Years later, it was revealed that those x-ray shoe places could be harmful. We did not know from harmful in those days. We knew it was fun to buy shoes at Dantzics. Mr. Dantzic was a nice and friendly store owner and he had an adequate selection of up-to-date shoes for kids. Mom picked out a pair of black patent leather called Mary Janes. They had a little strap and were bright and kind of cute. However, I did not like them and I informed Mom I did not want them. Mom said that I would learn to love them, if not enjoy them. All of the way home on the streetcar, I told mom in my little sweet voice that I would never wear them. She said that I would as I looked lovingly at my new and bright pencil case.

You see I loved sharpened pencils that came right from the manufacturer and I had very good handwriting for a child of about eight. I always got excellent next to handwriting on my report card. So the shoes were put in the cupboard to be worn on Saturdays or Sundays or special occasions. The shoes were never worn by me. I had informed Mom of that on the purchase day and Mom did not think I would carry out my words. As a minor threat, yet it was valid in my eight-year-old mind.

Holidays and special events came and I never would put on the black patent Mary Janes. They sat on the shelf gathering dust and I would brush them and they still sat there. They were bright and shiny and ugly in my mind.

Many years later when I was an adult, I purchased my first ballroom dance shoes from a dance shoe store in Virginia via the mail and catalogue system. In the brochures, there was a picture of a Mary Jane style dance shoe all bright and shiny and ready to be purchased. I laughed when I saw them and they looked so comfortable that on impulse I ordered a pair in my shoe size and eagerly awaited their arrival via United Parcel Service.

Now the white box addressed to me arrived from Virginia. I opened it up and there in my senior hands were the Mary Janes quite similar to the shoes from many years ago. They were bright and shiny and black and of course in a much larger size than those of the little eight- year-old kid who had a mind of her own way back then.

I tried them on. They were very comfortable with their suede dance soles and I thought to myself, 'Momma, you should see me now. It may have taken sixty years for your daughter to learn to like the Mary Janes, but they sure were comfortable and even not as ugly as I remembered them.' I wore them often and mainly for practice or to take dance lessons with. I would look down at my feet and think of how when Mom wanted me to wear those shoes I would cry and say, 'I hate them,' 'They are ugly,' 'You should not have bought them, etc.' When I, as an adult, looked down at them at this point in time, I thought that they made my bunion and hammertoe feet look much slimmer than they now were. I even thought they were kind of attractive in an odd way.

One day I was appearing in a showcase at the dance studio and my bunions and hammertoes were hurting. I decided to wear my Mary Janes doing the dance with my coach. I came out to applause and somehow the shoes moved with grace and determination as I danced and flowed across the dance floor with him. They became like my magic slippers (There was a dance movie years ago called Red Slippers). I felt as if I was a ballerina in my red slippers (though these were black) and that I could accomplish anything in these dance shoes at that moment. I did very well in the showcase exhibition and I certainly did credit those shoes with my performance. The Mary Janes had come through for me all these decades later.

Mr. Dantzic and Mom would have been proud of me if they were alive to see me dancing in those shoes. Mom would have said something like this, 'My darling, I told you that you would like these shoes eventually. ' Mr. Dantzic would have said that they fit me well because the x-ray machine showed my feet looking fine in them.

To Mom and the shoe store owner, I say: Yes, you were right. I did not ever make my son or daughter wear anything they did not like because of my black shoes, though they may remember it differently. I hope I recall that correctly because the black shoes certainly were a recollection of mine and now I can laugh about it and think of it with humor. Mom, you were right, I did like them and it only took all these years.

When we wear our shoes for dancing, we float out on the smooth floor, feeling as if we are famous stars walking on the red carpet before a congratulatory show given by Hollywood. Shoes may seem a minor fact to someone who does not dance. They think of them as good, old, plain shoes. We dancers know better than that.

There is an expression that states ‘it’s what inside that counts,’ meaning that inner beauty is as important as or more so than outer beauty. Expressions or slogans are not always necessarily accurate. The way we feel about our self is as significant for the sanctity of the mind as eating properly or getting exercise daily. When we are satisfied with our own personal being, then we are more content.

Ballroom dancing is a great enhancer of a happy attitude about our body and mind. When we go out to dance or take a lesson, we are accomplishing a task that becomes no burden after a few minutes inside the studio or dance facility. We are away from our home which is our castle. There was a slogan used many years ago spoken by a politician in his quest for a political job here in Maryland. He used that wording that your ‘home is your castle’ and therefore he meant that home and house are where we go to be peaceful and content. The slogan was not liked by the community and he lost the race; however, I remember the true meaning of what he meant and he was right on it.

The studio is another place where we seek solitude. Charles Cotton said, “Solitude is the soul’s best friend.” I have found that the studio means more than that.

When you are there you become a second person, removed from everyday tasks and happiness or sorrow of daily existence. The studio is another place for you to grow and thrive. Like a flower , we need water to survive and the flower of dancing needs reinforcement of liquid in the form of encouragement and desire to excel at this dance opportunity. Oliver Wendell Holmes said a 'home is where we love.'

Elbert Hubbard said the home is the abode of the heart. The studio becomes another abode of the heart because there we are - one of a bunch of flowers to be watered and nourished and encouraged to become someone new. That is our professional dance teacher’s job to use the watering can of hope, work and accomplishment by sprinkling us with the mist of joy and anticipation in learning to dance at any age.

When Mom said I would learn to love my black Mary Jane shoes, she said that out of necessity because we were not financially able to afford another pair of shoes. She bought them with confidence thinking she would sway the child into learning to like them. She did not know her child would be stubborn and never put them on until her late adulthood.

To the little girl who never knew then that the Mary Janes would play a part in her later life: the castle is your everyday home and the blessed studio where we escape for a few hours several times a week. The meanings of the word castle are many. Castles are where dreams are aspirations and yes, we do aspire and wish for great fulfillment in our dancing days. These days dancing become months and many times years and they have got to be the most beautiful days of our lives. We are full of spirit and goal reaching and can be proud to say we are BALLROOM DANCERS and we have transcended our expectations when we decided to try this exercise, sport, fun and ambitious moment in our existence.

People some time ask me what “I do.” Other than being a wife, mother, grandmother and daughter to my late parents, I proudly proclaim that I dance. Dance, they ask, what kind? I reply “the best there is and it is called ballroom.” Ballroom means excitement, exhilaration, excellence and most of all perfection. Perfection to the point of being the epitome of the embodiment of attainment. My neighbor once asked me what the word “Dancing” on my vanity license plate meant. I replied, “that it means I do something so special, it cannot be explained in one word.”

The one word goes back to the Mary Janes which always looked a bit like a dance shoe even in those olden days when I was age eight. It means I have realized that dancing is like being a princess or prince living in a castle and since home is where love and the heart are, then dancing is full of love. It is the soul’s best friend and the flowers are constantly being sprinkled with hope and fulfilled desires.

Always keep on dancing

Dancing With The Dedham Stars 2008

By Tim Brooks

In September 2008, I took over the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Norwood. The previous owner explained to me that the studio had committed to training four local ‘celebrities’ over a series of weeks which would culminate in a performance at Moseley’s on the Charles in Dedham on November 14th.

I was nervous about meeting my student, wondering “Would we have chemistry?”, “What will her preferred dance style be?”, “Had she danced before?” and more importantly “Will she understand my accent?” In my first meeting with Nancy Baker, I saw this quiet, shy lady. Her first words to me were “Well, I can forget about wearing high heels” and so began our fun journey together to prepare our number.

It soon became apparent to me that the other ‘stars’ were doing a great job. Jimmy Munchbach, John Murray and Denise Connell all had music in mind and a ‘theme’ for their Showdance. The instructors at our Fred Astaire Dance Studio, Meaghan McHale, Lisa Sewell and Brad Adcock, were all excited about the initial phase of getting to know their partners more and keen to develop their dancing skills.

Over the course of the next few months, I saw the change in all the students. Their initial suspicion about their ability to dance and the sanity of their decision to commit to the competition all receded as they started to enjoy the many benefits of dancing. I heard stories about weight loss, increased confidence, better posture, health benefits and even my favorite: “I got this afternoon off work by telling my boss I am dancing in front of 700 people and I need a dance lesson NOW.”

Ideas for costumes were drafted, scrapped, re-drafted and tried out before we heard classic comments like “I am not wearing this in front of 700 people,” “I need cowboy boots,” and “I have ordered four dresses, I told my husband, don’t worry I can send them back…”

During this time, a bond between the celebrities and instructors formed, hopes, fears and aspirations were shared, and even devious plans to sabotage the opposition were discussed. J Ultimately, a very unique environment was created in which everyone encouraged and assisted everyone to give the best performance they could achieve. All the while, we were being reminded that it’s for the kids.

As word was getting around about the event, more tickets were being sold and time was flying by. We had met the other celebrities Paul McMurtry and Mayanne Briggs and choreographed a group finale to a combination of “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge and “You’re The One I Want” from the Grease soundtrack. It was important that we got the message across to the audience that this was a competition but everyone was good friends and was doing the event to help raise money for the Dedham Educational Partnership (DEP).

I personally have been involved with many fundraisers and dance events but I was in awe of the eye for detail, thoroughness and concern that Dimitria Sullivan, President of the DEP, showed in organizing an event of this magnitude. We kept up a constant dialogue of how the planning was progressing, changes were communicated, and a schedule was drafted to ensure the evening ran without any problems.

So, just three days before the event, we all descended to Moseley’s for our dress rehearsal, which gave us an opportunity to test the floor, take in the surroundings, and make last minute adjustments to our routines to ensure the stars performed to their maximum. Absolute secrecy was a must. The couples were ushered in and out to rehearse in order to keep their themes and outfits a surprise from the other competitors. Reality hit some of the stars when they realized this event, which had been in the back of their mind for the previous three months, was now upon us and I am sure last minute lessons were arranged due to the fear factor.

The night itself soon came around and I was shocked to see so many cars and people converging on Moseley’s when I arrived early and attempted to park. All the stars were thinking the same thing – “This thing is huge” – and there was a special buzz around the room in anticipation about the night’s events. Who would be crowned champion? Would Jimmy keep his clothes on? Would John’s students vote for him? Had Denise bought every copy of the Dedham Times which had a full page advertisement of her superimposed onto a ballerina’s body (sorry Denise to shatter the myth) on the back page wishing her luck?

Assistance was given in doing hair and make-up, last minute rehearsals were done, music located and the final photo shoot done by TSS Photography to capture the moment.
The judging panel consisted of Donna Baressi, Henri E. Gough, Peter A. Zahka and Sheriff Michael Bellotti.

The unmistakable voice of Billy Idol blared out, “Do You Want to Dance?” and upon his request, a collection of females from Dedham performed the amazing routine that had been choreographed and rehearsed at Fred Astaire. The splendid sight of these 18 ladies in total synchronization to the classic ‘Mony Mony’ was a great prelude to the celebrities who were now ready to perform.

Up first was Mayanne Briggs and her instructor Jim Spellman who had wonderful matching outfits and performed Swing to a medley of songs from the movie Dirty Dancing. Their performance was well received by the audience and the judges gave them positive feedback.

Next, to an amalgamation of music, came John Murray and his instructor Lisa Sewell who had a cowboy/girl theme for their performance of ‘Honky Tonk.’ John went above and beyond for the cause and had actually grown a beard for the event. Ladies always complain about all the time and effort that goes into preparing for the event; well, John spent two weeks perfecting his “look.” Due to a clever use of music and exciting choreography, John and Lisa entertained the crowd; John showed his comfort with the choreography and exhibited his showmanship. The judges gave some amusing comments about the content and agreed what a great performance it had been.

Entering the ballroom next was Denise Connell with her instructor Brad Adcock. Brad must have been a little confused as there were many tributes to Denise including life size cut outs of her head which had been placed on sticks by her many supporters. Undeterred by this, they went on to perform to the Michael Buble classic “Save The Last Dance For Me” and did a combination of Rumba and Cha-Cha. This was a really interesting mix of sexy and sensual movements, combined with fast paced rhythm and Denise performed it very well to the delight of her fans. The judges commented on the complexity of the routine and were very appreciative of her performance.

Fourth to perform was Paul McMurtry with his instructor Barbi Calusdian who delighted the crowd with the intro to the Saturday Night Fever anthem coupled with a fantastic choice of outfit by Paul. Some difficult “tricks” were combined with some fun elements in what was very entertaining, and I am sure the whole of Dedham were surprised by Paul’s alternate ego. It was a confident, assured performance. The judges were appreciative of it and a comment was passed on about the theme in a light hearted way. Claims of him stealing the outfit from one of the judge’s wardrobe were unfounded. J

Fifth was Dedham’s Assistant Town Administrator, Nancy Baker. I was her partner. To the Christina Aguilera hit “Candyman,” we performed our Swing style routine that we had spent time perfecting. Nancy and I had opted to go with a Sailor theme; that was how I ended up in a sailor hat and collar and Nancy wore a beautiful Navy dress that fit the era. Early worries about the floor being slippery underfoot were soon forgotten as Nancy executed our routine with style and confidence.

I would just like to mention the amazing atmosphere and support that ALL the spectators showed for all of the performers. This was an incredible help to them, and I just kept hearing excited feedback after people performed of what a great experience it had been to perform in front of so many people.

Anyway back to Nancy, the judges agreed in their appraisal of her performance citing the complexity of the routine and that Nancy can do ANYTHING after this performance. I was delighted with how we did and was eagerly anticipating the results.

Before we could get the results there was one performance left. After having the privilege of seeing Jimmy Munchbach’s routine up close, I knew it would be a strong performance. With his instructor Meaghan McHale they opened their performance with a beautiful English Waltz which was met with shock by the audience who were surprised with Jimmy’s grace and elegance or maybe they were just amused by his choice of outfit which consisted of his Court Officer Uniform modified slightly so it could be removed as his music changed to the upbeat N.E.R.D. number. Gasps from the audience were audible as Jimmy revealed his physique, gyrated his hips, and performed some difficult but very rhythmical moves. The judges were impressed with the costume change and raunchy moves.

Upon my return to the dressing room, the atmosphere had changed; it was much more relaxed. A collective sigh of relief was heard. All the stars were excited and happy with their performance and in agreement on how quickly the performance had gone by.

As the votes were being cast, there was a professional demonstration from the Fred Astaire Dancers. The professional partners of Brad (Mira) and Tim (Mila) had travelled all the way from Connecticut to help with the performances. Seven exciting shows followed demonstrating the Viennese Waltz, Rumba, Tango, Showdance Numbers, Quickstep, Hip Hop and a Jive.
Immediately following this was the All Star Finale, featuring all the celebrities who had small solo numbers choreographed in the middle to please their fan base.

And so to the results:

As in the hit ABC show Dancing With The Stars, the audience also votes so there were two results – Most popular with the Audience and the Judges Marks.

In both cases the winner was Nancy Baker partnered by myself and trained in the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Norwood. I would like to congratulate Nancy on her performance that evening and all the progress she made. In addition, I am sure all the other participants were very close in taking the title as they all performed magnificently and must have given the judges an extremely difficult task to decide a winner.

Finally, I’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone who contributed to the organization and participation in the evening which was a HUGE success. We raised a substantial amount of money for the DEP that will be used to positively influence the education system in the Dedham schools.

2008 Young Adult World American Smooth Champion

By Anastasia Abrashin

Fred Astaire would like to congratulate Morgan Jaunzemis from the Buffalo, NY studio, who recently became the 2008 Young Adult World American Smooth Champion and was runner up in the Young Adult American Rhythm Championships when she competed at the Ohio Star Ball. She is also the current Fred Astaire National Champion in Junior American Rhythm and Smooth as well as the 2008 USDC Junior Champion in American Rhythm and Smooth. But her dancing career didn’t start with ballroom. She has been competing in many areas of dance since she was 6 years old.

Dancing has always been a huge part of Morgan’s life; in fact, she loves it so much that her parents even turned one of the rooms in their house into a dance studio! Her first steps on a dance floor were when she was two, and she has been competing in jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical and modern for 10 years. Morgan came to Fred Astaire Dance Studio a little over a year ago, and as soon as she began, she fell in love with ballroom dancing. Morgan immediately knew that this was what she wanted to concentrate on and she and her parents have decided to make ballroom dancing the only genre of dancing that she is enrolled in.

Currently Morgan is a junior in High School, and keeps herself busy with her studies, and dancing. She is looking is beginning to plan her competition schedule for 2009, and we look forward to seeing continued success from this hard working, and focused young lady. Congratulations again to Morgan.

Stevie Wonder on next season of DWTS?

Rumor has it that legendary entertainer Stevie Wonder might be on the 8th season of "Dancing With The Stars."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

10 Benefits Of Dancing

From Dancescape (, Barbara Craddock writes about 10 benefits of dancing:
  1. Forever young. Dancing is tremendously beneficial in keeping us young. It retards the aging process. It benefits our heart, cardiovascular system and increases our lung capacity. The muscle exertion and breathing rates of dancers performing in one dance competition is equivalent to those of cyclists, swimmers and an Olympic-level 800-meter runner.
  2. Strong bones, lubricated joints. Dance aids in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, which is a major concern for women, especially during post-menopause because of the significant drop in estrogen that occurs at this stage. A decrease in our estrogen levels stops calcium from being absorbed into our bones. Dance also keeps joints lubricated, which helps prevent arthritis.
  3. Calorie blaster. Dance exercises our bodies to allow for increased circulation. It helps us burn calories while improving our stamina. Dance burns from 5 to 10 calories per minute depending on speed and intensity. For example, swing and mambo burn more calories than a slow waltz.
  4. Better blood. New research has discovered that it is necessary to measure both good and bad cholesterol levels when determining our health. Dancing aids in lipid control, which raises our HDL (good cholesterol), and lowers our LDL (bad cholesterol). Dancing is also great for diabetics because it aids in blood sugar control.
  5. Mental mastery. Dance improves our memory by making us recall steps, routines and dance patterns making it a great mental exercise for our brains. The big benefit is that increasing mental exercise keeps your mind young, quick, alert and open.
  6. It's all about balance. Balancing yourself in one position may be easy, but balancing in the numerous types of positions involved in dancing is much more difficult. Dancers have mastered the ability to balance themselves in a number of positions. This strengthens our stabilizer muscles, while protecting our core and keeping us less prone to injury in our daily lives. Dancing also aids in coordination and helps strengthen our reflexes. It is a great way to keep our central nervous system in tip-top shape by improving the connection of our bodies to our mind.
  7. Socially satisfying. Dancing is recreational and entertaining. It creates a social life for us, while affording us the opportunity to make new friends. Friends helps us grow, make us laugh and support us as we learn.
  8. Culturally diverse. Dancing has no cultural barriers. People from all parts of the world, with different ideologies, meet on the dance floor. Cultural interaction improves our health by expanding our mind and sharing our spirit!
  9. Groomed to perfection. Dancing is not only fun and romantic, but it helps promote good grooming because everybody wants to look his or her best while they dance.
  10. A happy self. Dance elevates our mood by raising our endorphin levels. This is what allows us to heal stress and depression — two of our immune system's biggest enemies! It helps us establish our self-confidence and self-discipline. It improves the harmony between our mind and body, giving us a sense of well-being.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tony Dovolani In Belmont, MA Studio

From the Belmon-Citizen Herald:

Belmont, Mass. - Dance partners Tony Dovolani and Elena Grinenko will be guest instructors at the Belmont Fred Astaire Dance Studio from 1:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 10. Besides appearing in ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” together they are the national and world dance champions in the American Rhythm category.

Dovolani, born in Kosovo, is a member of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio company and eight-year Fred Astaire Champion. In the hit movie “Shall We Dance,” Dovolani played an amateur, Latin bad-boy dancer with attitude who competes against Richard Gere’s character.

Before finishing high school, Grinenko had already become a world-semifinalist in Latin dancing, and her native Russia’s champion in the 10-Dance category. Since then, she has appeared in Broadway’s “Latin Fusion” and has been semi-finalist in such prestigious competitions as Blackpool and the World Cup.

Both have appeared in ABC’s blockbuster “Dancing with the Stars” series, in which ten professional dancers train and perform with dance-novice celebrities. Grinenko appeared in the third and fourth seasons, while Dovolani has danced in six of the seven seasons, dancing with such celebrities as Jane Seymour and Susan Lucci. They have also appeared on PBS “America’s Ballroom Challenge.”

“Our students are extremely excited,” said studio director, Earl Batol. “Having a lesson with Tony or Elena is going to be a huge boost to their confidence and enthusiasm, not to mention how much it will improve their dancing skills.”

Monday, December 08, 2008

Shall We Dance?

Perfect for your coffee table, a beautiful book on dance has recently been published by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Lanker, documenting the huge variety of styles (from tap to tango, salsa to swing) and dancers he has encountered.

According to Chronicle Books: "What began as a photo-essay for National Geographic soon expanded into a vast documentary project, which includes interviews with dancers from all corners of the globe. Shall We Dance celebrates dance's diversity of culture and capacity to express every emotion imaginable. Featuring a foreword by legendary writer, and former dancer, Maya Angelou, this volume is a treasure trove of dance from around the world. "

My Golden Dancers

Restringing the Necklace

Ethan, age three years and one and half months, goes to preschool, which used to be called nursery school when his father went there. He had been there for the third time yesterday and on the first day he had a tear or two when Mommy left. The teacher told my daughter-in-law to go in the hallway and they would see what would happen. She did and she saw he was fine and she left and when she picked him up three hours later, he was happy to see her and had a good time.Yesterday his daddy dropped him off and Ethan saw a classmate with tears and his nose was running. So darling sweet Ethan got a Kleenex and wiped the running nose to comfort his friend. The teacher told my son that was the sweetest thing she had ever seen in a young child of that age. She has been teaching pre-schoolers for over twenty years.

Ethan shows already at his young age the compassion and kindness that I taught my children and that his parents are teaching him. Of course, all grandparents think their grandchildren are smart, articulate, beautiful and kind. I know for a fact that my three grandsons are all of that and more and Ethan, who is the youngest grandson, exhibited it yesterday. Ava, his one-year-old sister, will be doing the same when her time comes for school and social contacts.

Grandparenting is different than parenting because we are so much older and we can stand aside and absorb the wonderful light that shines upon us because of who we are now in this later senior life and be proud of the excellent mission we have accomplished. Grandparenting almost in a way can be analogous to ballroom dancing. How in the world can that be? Here is how. Having a new grandchild or first grandchild is new, exciting, fresh and bewildering. So can starting to dance at a later age, as is grandparenting. It is exciting, fresh and quite full of bewilderment. We look at it as a challenge and we realize that as we progress (as the baby gets older) we have this wonderful thing in our hands and we can be ecstatic in learning all about it.

We are proud and one day when we watch the baby without his parents there, we are cognizant of what has just happened.We did it and we had fun and so it is with dancing. We did it, we had fun, and we are proud of our self. So having a grandchild is certainly more important than ballroom dancing, but the two of them are delightful moments, hours, and days in our life. Life is full of learning experiences, some great, others not so special.

We can take good moments and secure those in our minds to ease the bad times when they happen. It will simply outweigh the difficult times and our tears will be tears of joy, not tears of sadness. We have grown from this experience, whether sad or happy. We have flourished, strived, and matured.

We can wipe a tear from a fellow dancer (so to speak) by trying to establish in their minds that they can learn to dance at any age whether advanced or young. Some people, when starting out, feel that it is too late to learn ballroom dancing. A reader of my columns by the name of Steven Behr living in Washington State wrote me of the spreading of dancing he and his partner do. He is a member of the Steilacoom Dance Company, a group of seniors directed by Mary Peterson who is the teacher and choreographer. The dance company goes to hospitals and nursing/retirement homes to celebrate their dancing modes. They perform tap, ballroom, and Polynesian dances at these establishments.

For the last 19 years, Mary and Steven have been going to Hawaii, sharing the love of dance they have at hospitals, nursing homes and senior and community centers. The couple goes there at their own expense; the others in the group do not due to the cost of traveling.

There is a facility they went to called Regency at Pua Kea on the island of Kauai where they taught two lessons; on the third session, they came to an actual dance. Steven DJ'ed the music and he danced with several ladies and Mary danced with some of the men.

He asked a petite lady named Matsuko, who had been sitting for the entire session, to dance with him. She told him she had not danced for 50 years. He got her to dance by coaxing her a bit, and he moved around with her in place. He said she had good balance, and they started with a basic Foxtrot step. Very soon thereafter she told him she was 104 years old. The people stopped dancing and started to clap. Steven thought they were clapping for him but it was for Matsuko. Of course, Steven is modest; they were applauding both of them. She became the queen of the ball. He asked her about her longevity and she said it was "attitude." I guess her attitude was one of good health, good feelings, and being blessed with excellent genes.

Mary and Steven believe that "the glass is half full and that each day brings many opportunities for growth, sharing and fun." They feel that they are role models wherever they go to spread their love of dancing. In Hawaii, they are considered ohna which means family; the Hawaiians share the aloha spirit with them. Steven and Mary are both semi-retired seniors.

Half full and half empty is a lovely expression that we all use. There was a famous pianist that lived in Baltimore, Maryland where I am from who lost the use of his right hand in playing the piano due to an illness. He in turn learned to play with his other hand and gave concerts doing so. Many years later through therapy and operations, he was able to use both hands in the normal manner. He always said that his glass was still half full when he lost the use of that hand. His name is Leon Fleisher.

So to the pianist and the 104 year young lady, they needed no tear to be wiped from their eyes. Their eyes were and are wide open and they can see the depth of the ethereal time on this earth we all have. Our journey here is exquisite and we all can make the most of what we are given and even if some of it is taken away, we can still be drinking the full glass of crystal-clear times and we can help those who may not be fortunate as we are to accomplish new things and special moments. That is why I write these columns to inspire people to go dance and to be full of light in their senior and not yet senior lives. People are living longer and healthier lives now and we all must take the time to mind the word aloha which means hello and goodbye as does the Hebrew word shalom which also means the same thing. Hello to ballroom dancing and Goodbye to sadness. We are dancers and we are special

So attitude can be beneficial to our minds and thoughts. A lady here in Baltimore, Maryland named Esperance Sutton said in a newspaper article that "Life gives you a broken necklace, you just restring the beads." What a good line. When things go wrong, it is like the non-functioning of something important and you go ahead and rehabilitate and rejuvenate the bad happening. From there, you start anew and go forward. You have wiped the tear from your face or mind, and you have courage now to function in a most desirable manner. You have restrung the damaged jewelry and wear it now proudly because it is your jewel of life.

Ballroom dancing is like no other sport. When you are connected to the person you are dancing with now, then you and him or her become almost one. You may be strangers not even knowing one another's names but you have one thing in common. You are both out there on the wooden dance floor trying to accomplish something solid for at least three to four minutes. You are doing so to speak a routine of feet and arm and hand movements to music usually coming from a disc jockey and DVDs. You may make some small talk about this and that and then you as the lady proceeds to try and figure out this language of dance, which truly is a language of a different sort. He, as the leader, is thinking what he will do next and prays that you, as the stranger, will be able to decipher his movements with his hands. It is truly a language of unusual components. There is a fundamental list of factors in the dance language which must be interpreted by both parties.

Once a person figures what the partner wants (the leader), then she follows and almost is overwhelmed that she understood his movements. When a couple dances almost always together, it is easier to know what the other is meaning and to be confident in what they are doing and you are completely at ease. As one dances again and again with that same person, the dancing becomes exciting and fun and the couple has a fine time that day. Some teachers do not connect with a particular student because they do not have the ease in teaching. Others are so adept at imparting the knowledge that after only one or two lessons, the student is enthralled with this dancing hobby and keeps coming back for more. There will be no tear to wipe from the eye or from the heart because they are already installed in this form of exercise and delight.

To any one attempting the thought to go out and dance and then hesitates, do not let the cogitation leave you. Shakespeare said "thoughts are dreams till their effects are tried." Surely, we have to try our dreams out and see the effects become reality. Thoughts are like strands that become a necklace we wear around our heart. Our heart leads us unto this journey down or rather up a road of unbelievable lanes. The lane leads to an avenue of beautiful homes. The home is what dancing becomes to us; a home of bountiful beliefs that we can attain happiness by moving our bodies, no matter how old or young into very desirable rooms of euphoria. We need not restring the necklace because it is already looking very pretty.

Thomas Jefferson said “Happiness is occupation and tranquility.” When we are occupied with our dancing, we are surely feeling serene and peaceful. Our glass is completely full and any tears we may have are ones of joy and completion. The necklace lies right near our heart.

Always keep on dancing.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dancing With The Stars in 2009

The 8th season will have a new cast of celebrities taking to the dance floor with their professional partners on March 9, 2009. Each couple will have the opportunity to perform for two weeks prior to the first elimination, with every couple performing on both March 9th and March 16th at 8/7c. "Dancing with the Stars the Results Show" debuts Tuesday, March 17 at 9/8c.

Albany High School Student Wins at Ohio Star Ball

From Albany Times Union

Niskayuna teen has all the right moves

By PAUL NELSON, Staff writer

First published: Thursday, December 4, 2008

SCHENECTADY — Don't dare tell Rebecca ''Becca'' Tishler ballroom dancing isn't a sport.

For eight nonstop minutes, the Niskayuna high schooler sweated it out on a dance floor in Ohio with her partner, performing the waltz, tango, foxtrot and quick step, before winning the juniors in the world's largest ballroom dance competition.

"I was so happy and so surprised," she said recently recalling her victory in the World Pro/Am Championships Junior International Standard Four-Dance event at the Ohio Star Ball Championships in Columbus, Ohio, last month.

Tishler fought off wobbly legs and survived a few bumps into other contestants during her winning routine with Ruslan Meshkov, her teacher at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Latham.

The 16-year-old Tishler ended up tied for first place but won because she received more first place votes from among the seven judges in each of the four ballroom disciplines.

It was a giant step for the teen who has been dancing since the tender age of 5. The Niskayuna High School junior has followed in the footsteps of her older sister, Sarah, and along the way gained experience and a greater appreciation from Christian Wormslev, a foreign exchange student from Denmark and world class ballroom dancer who lived with the Tishlers.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

24 Years of Pain until…I started Dancing

At the age of 8 I was diagnosed with Osteo Arthritis. Normal childhood activities were always painful, but I kept going, dealing with the pain afterwards.

As a young adult in my late teens to early twenties, I used to go to the dance clubs when I wasn’t working as a chef. Disco was the rage and I loved it!!! Then, at the age of 27, my life was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. My left leg, from my toes to my hip swelled to 4 times its size and turned a bluish gray color! The pain was horrific; it felt like my entire leg was being crushed with a 2 ton weight while viciously being stabbed with a razor sharp saber! The external skin temperature was 103 degrees, I was on fire, and the slightest touch was unbearable! I started getting strong muscle spasms around my rib cage, making it difficult to breathe and impossible to straighten up. All I could do was cry, just cry!!!

No medication at the time eased my pain. I lost everything, my job, friends, health insurance and at times my mind. All the joy in my life was gone and I slipped into deep depression. I could not walk or even put my foot on the ground.

I went to many different doctors and pain specialists, tried medications, physical therapy and electronic nerve stimulation, NOTHING worked! One specialist decided to try sympathetic nerve blocks. He was to insert a long spinal tap needle between the vertebrae and into the spinal column. He needed to inject a numbing agent directly in to the sympathetic nerve. This procedure was to be done once a week for 4 weeks. It was an extremely painful experience. During the last of the series I suffered a stroke. My body was in full tremor, my eyes rolled back and I couldn’t speak. The doctor removed the needle as quickly as possible and opened the I.V. line to release sedatives into my body. 15 minutes later I came out of it. The stroke had impaired the motor functions and feeling on the left side of my body. My muscles could no longer hold my hips in alignment; I could not move my leg, foot or toes. It took 2 years of therapy to learn walk, but walk with a limp I did. I could not walk more that 5 feet without swelling and pain, but I did walk. I gained a lot of weight from the 6 pills a day I had to take combined with the inactivity. I tried to joke saying “I am twice the person I once was”, but in truth, I was living a life of depression filled with pain. I could no longer do the things that brought me joy, long walks, or dancing to name a few.

Over the next 18 years all the medication took a toll on my immune system, I was sick all the time. After talking with my doctor, I decided to get off all of it. The pain became more intense, however, over the years I learned to live with it.

One evening, while watching television, I saw someone who inspired me to do something that would change my life for the better. I decided to try ballroom dancing. I began in late April 2008. The first few weeks were painful to say the least. By June, however, for the first time in 24+ years, I am completely pain free. My toes are moving, I’m getting motor function and feeling back and I’m losing weight!!! Everything seems brighter, depression a thing in the past. I’m so happy!! I feel healthier then I have in years! I won’t say dancing is a cure, but it has worked a miracle for me. Hurray I’m dancing again!!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people. To Maksim Chmerkovskiy for unknowingly inspiring me to try; Gabriella Bodocs, Babette and Warren Brown, Lisa Haber, and Pierre Gider for their encouragement, support and extra coaching; and most of all to Vladimir Velev for his patience, humor, kind heart, expertise, support encouragement and for not giving up on me.

Your Very Grateful Student,

Cheryl Bazar

P.S. Fred, wherever you are, thanks for creating these studios!

Dancing With Dogs

Animal Planet has caught dance fever! They are airing a new show called "Dancing With Dogs" beginning Sunday at 9 p.m. Dancing With Dogs follows dog-and-handler teams as they compete in the World Canine Freestyle Organization's dance championships in Rhode Island. According to a New York Daily News article written by Eloise Parker, "'People are danicng all over the world with their dogs,' exclaims Patie Ventre, the Brooklyn-based founder of the WCFO and grande dame of the show."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dancing With The Stars - A Teacher's Perspective on the Season Finale

By Debra Stroiney

I would like to say congratulations to all of the finalists; they all looked great the two nights they performed. Congrats to Brooke Burke and Derek Hough for taking home the mirror ball trophy. Brooke improved as well as remained strong and consistent in her dancing each week. Regardless of what I think about how the judges scored her and others, she did well with the dancing and it should be something she pursues more of in the future. Her natural talent for dance did come through. I am sure there will be another contestant in the next season that they will also think highly of from the start and can do no wrong while others work their butts off and get insulted. It is the drama of the show! I am glad that Derek finally had the pleasure of winning after witnessing his sister and best friend do so in previous seasons.

I was happy with the scoring and format of the show - a group type dance, a free style dance and then picking their best dance of the season. The only problem with picking the best dance is the scoring stayed almost the same as the first time but it gave some the chance to pick up their scores. It’s also interesting that Samba was the dance they had to do since it was one of the hardest and the one that all of the finalists did not dance well previously. I am glad they challenged them in the final. I enjoyed all of the freestyle dances and they all had their strong points in one way or another.

I really had no idea who was going to win. I knew that the scores were close and it was going to come down to the votes. I realized as I was watching one of the three finalists about to be eliminated that I would be happy with any of the 3 as winners. I think all of them deserved it in some way and each brought their own style to the floor.

I am sure many of you missed watching it last night and we are all looking forward to who will be on the next season as to what will happen!

Eric Luna & Georgia Ambarian To Star On New TV Show

Exciting News from Ft. Walton Beach Florida...Instructors of the Ft. Walton Beach Fred Astaire Dance Studio, Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian, have had a successful year continuing their winning streak for three consecutive years. They are the undefeated Fred Astaire Theater Arts Champions as well as the United States undefeated Cabaret Champions and Blackpool Invitational finalists. They will have yet another opportunity to add to their already impressive list of credentials in just a few weeks.

NBC will be featuring a new pilot for television and guess who has been invited without an audition? You guessed it…Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian! Eric received a call from Nigel Lythgoe, the producer of "So You Think You Can Dance," for his new show "Superstars of Dance" that will air January 4th on NBC at 8:00pm. Eight different countries will bring their very best with four dance teams (two soloist, one duet and one formation team) for this television series to compete for the title of Superstars of Dance. Eric and Georgia are the only Ballroom couple invited to represent America and, of course, our company. This is a wonderful end to their fantastic year and a great way to celebrate the New Year and continue the Ft. Walton Beach heritage of champion dancers. All of us here from the Fred Astaire Studio in Ft. Walton Beach - students, staff, family, and friends - want to wish them all the luck in the world and a big congrats on this fantastic opportunity. We couldn’t be more proud of them!

Detroit Historical Society Ball

Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan has donated five free lessons to each couple participating in the Dancing with Detroit's Stars competition at the 10th annual Detroit Historical Society Ball on December 5th at the Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit, Michigan. Money raised will support educational programming, exhibits, and the Adopt-a-Class program for the Historical Society.

According to a recent article written by Julie Yolles in the Crains Detroit Business newsletter, the Fred Astaire Dance Studio also helped choreograph individual routines and a group swing number.

Speculation on Next DWTS Season!

According to DWTS champion Brooke Burke, Paula Abdul might be on the next season of the hit show!

Fred Astaire Instructor Wins At "Dancing With The Horry Country Stars" Events

The 'Dancing With The Horry County Stars' event in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina this past weekend raised over $85,000 for the Business Education Expectations/Early College High School and the Long Bay Symphony. Rozalynn Mae, a professional dance instructor at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Myrtle Beach, along with her partner Bobby Kelly, won the "Best Ballroom Dancers" award.

This Day In History

On December 2nd, 1933, "Dancing Lady," Fred Astaire's first film, was released. Joan Crawford was his dance partner.

"Swing Time" in Aspen!

By Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times

ASPEN — When Aspen's Bob Klineman says that “Swing Time” is the best of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films, you might wonder if it’s just the nostalgic memory of an 81-year-old whose heart remains with the glory days of the Hollywood musical, which dates back as far as Klineman himself.The wiser course, however, is to treat the opinion as the gospel. Klineman, who first moved to Aspen in 1975 and returned full-time three years ago, is a walking encyclopedia of musical facts and dates. But apart from knowing the trivia — that “Swing Time” was the only musical directed by George Stevens, for instance — Klineman has a sharp eye for the work itself. He is also a well-spoken, and boundlessly enthusiastic speaker on the subject of the American musical — both Broadway and Hollywood versions, with a specialty in Astaire — whose accounts are embroidered with such tidbits as why the stage show “The Gay Divorce” was renamed “The Gay Divorcee” on-screen. (“RKO didn’t want the public to think it saw divorce as gay, or fun,” said Klineman.)

Klineman, along with the Wheeler Film Series, presents “Swing Time” at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House on Saturday, with screenings at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. That leaves an hour or so in between show times, during which Klineman will deliver Part 1 of his seminar, The Artistry of Fred Astaire. Part 2 of the seminar is technically scheduled for Jan. 11, when the Wheeler will show another Astaire classic, “The Band Wagon.” But since time will be so tight on Saturday — only an hour for him to address Astaire, whom Klineman puts on a pedestal with William Shakespeare as the two towering artists ever — the seminar might reconvene after this weekend’s evening screening.

“If you’re really interested, stay all night,” said Klineman. “I can go on and on with these stories.”

Klineman’s own story starts in Cleveland, where his best friend’s father was a film distributor. Thanks to that connection, Klineman was treated to Friday-night screenings at the Hippodrome Theater, where he favored the musicals at the University of Pennsylvania, He staged his own musicals, like a take-off of “The Al Jolson Story,” which he performed in Philadelphia frat houses and even up the New Jersey Turnpike in Manhattan. While living in New York through the ’60s, and building a ladies sportswear company, Klineman says he missed not a single major musical that made it to Broadway. After moving to Aspen, he was involved in virtually every theater and dance venture there was, and helped form the Aspen Community and Institute Committee, which staged events during the quieter seasons.

Far more interesting to Klineman is the story of Frederick Austerlitz, the Omaha-raised son of an Austrian immigrant. When the Austerlitz family moved to New York, Frederick and his older sister Adele formed an underage singing-and-dancing duo, under the name Astaire. Despite his jug ears, long face and strikingly high forehead, Fred Astaire made the transition to Hollywood. While helping George Gershwin stage the number “Embraceable You” for the show “Girl Crazy,” Astaire met the 18-year-old chorus dancer, Ginger Rogers, and formed a friendship. In Astaire’s second film, “Flying Down to Rio” — in which he was billed as “Fred Ayres” — he appeared on-screen with the partner who would help him make his name.Astaire and Ginger Rogers were supporting players in 1933’s “Flying Down to Rio.” But their appearance together was such a hit that the studio, RKO, quickly lined up a starring vehicle for them, “The Gay Divorcee,” released the next year. (The film was directed by Mark Sandrich, whose son, Jay, a prominent TV director, is a part-time Aspenite.) Astaire’s first starring role yielded one of the most memorable dance scenes in film, “The Carioca.”“It was so magnificent,” said Klineman, “people got up in the theater and clapped, As far as I know, that had never been done before. So RKO knew they had something.”Astaire and Rogers went on to make eight films together, including such high points as “Shall We Dance” and “Top Hat.”

But in Klineman’s opinion, the pair were never better than in 1936’s “Swing Time,” the story of a man who moves to New York City and helps save the job of a young dance teacher. Of course, Klineman backs up his opinion with numerous, well-detailed reasons.“I think it’s the best score” for an Astaire film, said Klineman, who has previously presented “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Meet Me in St. Louis” and other musicals at the Wheeler. “It’s Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, but it’s not typical Kern. Typical Kern is more toward the operatic side, like ‘Showboat,’ ‘Sally,’ ‘Sunny,’ all through his career. And the only reason this is more popular, more uplifting, more big-band, is Dorothy Fields.” (Requisite Klineman aside: Fields was the daughter of Lew Fields, who, with his partner Joe Weber, formed one of the great acts of Vaudeville. Dorothy, with her brother Herbert, also wrote the book for “Annie, Get Your Gun.”)

Among the songs to come out of “Swing Time” is “The Way You Look Tonight,” which earned the Academy Award for best song.“Swing Time” also earns points for its sense of humor. “All the great Astaire films had comic relief,” said Klineman. “But this is the only one Victor Moore was in. He was one of the great stage comedians of all time. And he was so great as Astaire’s sidekick.”Klineman says the film got some extra spice from behind-the-scenes goings-on. During filming, director Stevens — who would make such notable dramas as “Giant,” “Shane” and “A Place in the Sun,” but never return to musicals — carried on an affair with Rogers. “That, I think, spurred them to do a real piece of art,” said Klineman.

And of course, there is the dancing. Klineman ranks “Never Gonna Dance,” as the great Astaire/Rogers number. “It’s just a little different,” he said. “There’s a balletic form that they don’t often use.” (Inevitable bit of Klineman trivia: Astaire and Rogers performed so many takes of the stairway portion of “Never Gonna Dance,” that Ginger’s foot was bleeding.)A dancing bonus is Astaire appearing, for the only time, in blackface. “It’s because of his adoration — and that really is the word — for Bill Robinson, the first ‘Bojangles.’

“They met on the Vaudeville circuit. Robinson was considerably older than Astaire, but they worked together and Robinson gave Astaire some ideas — like dancing on sand. Astaire gave Robinson some ideas, too. Robinson also taught Astaire a mean game of pool. Mean. It was almost like they had a father-son relationship. And like every dancer in the world, Astaire loved Robinson.”

(Final Klineman back-story: “A lot of people don’t realize, Astaire did his own choreography. Not alone, though; with Hermes Pan, his partner. Who looked a lot like Astaire. Pan’s contribution was underrated. After Astaire finished one film, he and Pan would start preparing for the next film. Over a six-week period, Pan would play the Ginger role, while Ginger was out making another movie. She’d come into rehearsal and there would be marks on the floor for her to follow — Fred and Pan had created her steps.”

“Swing Time” shows Saturday at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Wheeler Opera House, with a seminar, The Artistry of Fred Astaire, presented by Bob Klineman, at 6:20

Monday, December 01, 2008

Triangle Stardusters Ballroom Dance

Sabrina Simon, left, and Omar Clinton, both of Chapel Hill, hit the dance floor of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio.

The Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Durham, North Carolina will be hosting ballroom dance parties every second Saturday. The Triangle Stardusters Ballroom Dance is held the second Saturday of every month, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Fred Astaire Dance Studio, 4702 Garrett Road. Seven dollars for Stardusters members and students, $12 for others. Couples and singles are welcome. Call 919-942-7232 for more information.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Trivia About DWTS Professional Dancers


"...did you know that Aussie-born Kym Johnson performed at Elton John's 50th birthday party, competed in Australia's Celebrity Survivor -- just what it sounds like -- and landed a regular gig on the U.S.'s Dancing with the Stars only after being matched with Jerry Springer during the 2006 season? Did you know that Derek Hough once played the lead in a British road show version of Jesus Christ Superstar, and performed in London's West End in Footloose the Musical?

And did you know that Dancing first-timer Lacey Schwimmer is the 2007 World Swing Dance Champ, and won the U.S. Youth Latin Champ title in '06?

More to the point, did you know that, as a rank amateur and relative unknown, she reached the final four of 2007's So You Think You Can Dance, and is the sister of season-two winner Benji Schwimmer?"

My Golden Dancers

Bringing Brass to Gold

By Elita Sohmer Clayman

On a television show, a young man was bringing a bouquet of flowers to the young lady he was taking to dinner. He looked at her all dressed up and appearing so pretty and said: “Bringing these flowers to you is like bringing brass to gold.” He meant that the flowers were inexpensive like something that is made from brass, and she was as beautiful as gold.

Many times in our lives we start out with brass and it turns into gold. Plenty of things we do emanate from inexpensive accoutrements to become golden to us. So many folks start ballroom dancing by taking one or two group lessons with lots of other people they do not know. Then they perhaps advance to taking lessons with only one partner or by themselves with their teacher as their partner. Finally, all this turns into something golden. Gold being the high standard of jewelry other than platinum is what we want when we buy good jewelry. What we want when we dance is to be golden in our perception of our self and our partner. We want other people to look and say ‘Wow, they dance so well. They must have been dancing for years.’ Dancing is something that always stays with you and like typing, bowling, or driving a car, it never leaves your brain.

I have been to lots of dances where you see a couple who have advanced since the last time you saw them months ago. Some people dance and others are not dancers. The ones who dance are looked upon as being unique and exciting. They are admired, appreciated, and applauded.

John Travolta was revered in many movies because he danced well in them and people thought of him as the young kid in 'Welcome Back Kotter,' an old television show. He was on 'The View' and said he turned down several movie scripts in the past that went onto be big hits. He was sorry he had not taken the opportunity to be in those movies. He said he did not think he could do the show or movie and later realized he would have done well in them and he regretted it. The movie 'Hairspray' was given to him and he turned it down at first and then knew it was for him - lo and behold, it was a mega-hit.

Some of us turn down doing things because we feel we cannot handle it now because we are seniors. I have always felt that the word 'seniors' did not conjure up a very impressive meaning about us. When I was in high school, I could not wait to become a senior. When I was in college, I could not wait to become a senior. As I approached any thing, I wanted to do it in a senior manner, meaning a superior manner. Now the word 'senior' is another word for an elderly person.

We seniors should be called something else. We could be named 'elegant elders,' 'respected retirees,' or 'super sages.' Senior citizens mean we are oldsters and citizens of this earth. We are people who have reached this age, hopefully with some wisdom, and become grandparents. Some are travelers and others excel in a hobby like ballroom dancing. Many are satisfied to sit on their tushies, watch television and munch and become sedentary. Many of us combine grandparenting, traveling, and also practice our ballroom dancing weekly.

That is not what we elegant elders want to be known as. We want to be recognized as respected sages with lots of wisdom earned through living, loving, liking, and doing. We desire to be looked up to and not looked down at because we are older. In Asian and European countries, elders are more honored than in our country. Many seniors here are looked upon as burdens to their families rather than exquisite persons of vision for the memories they tell their children from the days of yore.

When I was a youngster, I never cared about hearing much of my parents’ past or the ‘olden days.’ Now the olden days are my past and my children are very interested in hearing stories from yesteryear. Lord Byron said the past is the prophet of the future. I am the last member of my immediate family which consisted of mom, dad, brother and me. They are gone and I have stories and family tidbits stored in my senior brain. My daughter loves to hear all the information I have about these events. My nephew who lives in California wanted me to write down family history so he could pass it on to his son.

Memories need not be enhanced. Most of them are so interesting when you look back on them, though nothing much worthwhile to you at that time long ago when they happened. Now it appears to be bringing brass to gold. The brass being the past and the gold being now and the future. By retelling these stories of the passage of time, we relive those moments and they may not have been so golden then but retelling them now makes it a happening. We can learn from the past and can beautify our present and our future remembering how it was then. We did not have control over things then as we have now with all this modern technology. My older grandsons can go on their computers and converse and play games with friends. They are in their homes and their friends are in their homes and the two meet via the computer. Who would have thought this amazing happening would transpire?
I worked 50 years ago as an administrative assistant to the president of a printing firm. We were amazed when they got the first Xerox copy machine. The artist who worked in our place need no longer make two copies of any artwork. Before, he required one for his office and one for the client. So he labored hard to make identical copies. It took hours of work. When the machine was delivered, we all stopped to admire this piece of modernization. Howard, the artist said: 'Amen.' His work was easier, more precise, and less time consuming. Modern miracles had happened at this printing facility.
I remember the day I spent $25 and bought my mom and dad an electric can opener. It cost so much money they did not want to accept the gift. We oohed and ahhed over the cans automatically and neatly being opened. My dad took the empty can and turned it over and opened the underside just for fun - to see it move. I can see it as if it happened yesterday.

We were so thrilled at these small wonders. Look how things are now with computers, iPods, DVDs, videos, cell phones, etc. We super sages and elegant elders can help our children, grandchildren and friends by relating what life was then. We survived, we were happy, and most of all we respected each other and our elders. Now we are the elders and we are elegant and super and we want our younger population to realize that. We were brass and now we are golden and we have lots of time left to continue being golden. When we dance before younger people, we show them that gold is better than brass and age is ageless.

Regardless of whether you are a senior now or will be a senior soon or even if you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s, you can learn to dance and to dance beautifully. Dancing not only enhances your thoughts about yourself and your ability to learn, it becomes a distinctive part of your existence. John Dryden said, “Dancing is poetry of the foot.” Not only is it lively legs, it is an instance of pure movement.

My fifteen-month-old 4th grandchild, Ava Maya, turns on her toy machine and out comes some very pretty music. At her young age, she sits on the floor and moves her body to the music she hears. It is as if it is inborn to her to know that she can shake and move because of what she hears. Perhaps it is in her genes because her Grammie loves to dance.

So go out and take some dance lessons, engage in dance activities at the studio, and become so involved that you have something down on your weekly calendar showing that you are participating in the dance world.

Dear seniors - or shall I say elegant elders, respected retirees and almost seniors and just everybody out there - remember and realize that we are still valuable, vigorous, and full of vision regardless of age. We have the vision for now and the vision of the past. Both the now and the past make us golden persons moving to platinum. In jewelry, platinum is the ultimate and we will remain so all the days of our lives.

If dance is poetry of the foot or feet, then it is also a depiction of our body. The movement of our bodies with its parts and our feet and legs becomes
a ladder for us to climb. As we reach the top rung, our hearts are full of happiness, our mind is full of mental activity, and our souls are replete with fulfillment of this accomplishment we have attained. Someone once said the body is a machine that winds its own springs.

It is a stunning consummation of the learning process regardless of age. Age is only a number and numbers add up to total success. Success is what we all strive for from the beginning of our knowledgeable years. Children cannot wait until they are older. They often tell their age as six and a half, ten and three quarters, because they yearn to be older. Older people sometimes fib about their age; others are proud to say they are so many years old, etc.

The ultimate compliment one likes to hear is: ‘You do not look that age.’
The paramount tribute to our self is to participate in our own life, not in someone else’s life. Turn the ordinary into the extraordinary because people climb a mountain in different ways. We all accomplish the goal.

So move your body like my little darling granddaughter does; have poetry with your feet; leave the brass behind and become platinum in your dancing. Climb that mountain and reach the top because your life will be quite meaningful every day as you dance to higher pinnacles than you ever thought possible.

Always keep dancing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Professional Dancers from Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Chandler, AZ

Nikolei and Gergana from the Chandler, AZ Fred Astaire Dance studio give an interview at the 2008 Fred Astaire National Dance Championships

Interview with Professional Dancers Hayk Arshakian & Albina Habrle

Dancing With The Stars Prediction

MSNBC thinks Lance Bass is going to waltz away with the mirrored trophy:

"Somewhat lumbering in his NFL-appropriate, but less ballroom-friendly frame, Warren is not the most obviously graceful person in the group. Some football players, particularly Emmitt Smith and Jason Taylor, have been legitimately talented dancers, but Sapp is not. He’s a showboater and a charmer, and he certainly has a great smile. But light on his feet he is not, and the judges will likely ding him hard enough that he won’t have a chance without an overwhelming audience response — which he won’t get. That will leave Lance and Brooke.

Brooke Burke has been the front-runner all season. She’s got the long legs and elegance of a dancer, and particularly because most of the other women (other than Misty May-Treanor, who went out early with an injury in this heavily bandaged season) were not strong dancers, she stood out. Brooke isn’t, however, very entertaining. There is something bloodless about her performances; studied and skilled, but not the kind of dancing that makes you want to watch it again.

Because the entertainment factor is her weakness, it’s especially unfortunate that during last week’s jive, Brooke suffered her first genuine catastrophic dancing failure of the season. You almost never see it on this show, especially late in the season: she simply lost track of what she was doing at certain moments, and she was visibly watching her partner, Derek Hough, to get back on track.

Not only that, but as judge Bruno Tonioli pointed out, the entire routine looked sloppy — bad leg position, bad footwork, and a general lack of grace. That’s okay for Cloris Leachman during a group hip-hop routine, but not for a contestant who’s supposed to be getting by on her superior skills.

This brings us to Lance Bass. Barring a sprained ankle, Lance will take home the trophy. He has the personality of a champion — he’s a direct descendant of Drew Lachey and Apolo Anton Ohno, in particular: guys who started off good, worked hard to get better, and always seemed endearingly plucky in spite of the fact that they were naturals.

Audiences, in the end, are not dance experts. They cannot necessarily identify the right way to hold your foot during a foxtrot, and most of them don’t have any idea how good your tango hold is. No, when it comes to the dance itself, audiences reward two things: agility and novelty. They may not be able to tell the difference between perfect and imperfect waltzes, but they can tell whether a quickstep or a jive was crisp and lively.

Joey Fatone’s strong showing in Season 4 was largely the result of his ability, in spite of his bulky-looking body, to look like he was made entirely of springs as he bounced through a couple of different jives. Season 5 champ Helio Castroneves is best remembered for a loud, exuberant quickstep in which he wore a yellow suit that was gaudy even for a dance costume. We like fast, chandelier-rattling dances, not because we’re uncultured, but because we understand them better.

Again, this plays directly into Lance’s hands. His mambo and jitterbug last week demonstrated that he can move with lightness and speed. At the same time, Brooke completely biffed that jive, the best chance she had to get out from under being the “less fun” contestant."

Dancing With The Stars - A Teacher's Perspective on Week 9

By Debra Stroiney
I think this was a very exciting semi-final! The judges made a complete turn around and scored and judged them as if it were a semi-final. Many of their comments were ones that should have been made in other weeks of the competition. Well, at least they are doing it in the finals when it is down to the wire and the dancers need to prove that they deserve to win. I am glad that they recognized that Brooke had a bad dance; with the way they have scored her in the past, I was wondering if they were going to mark her higher than what her performance deserved. And they scored everyone fairly that night…

I am not surprised that Cody was eliminated from the show this week. When comparing his performances to the other dancers, they were lacking although they were still danced and performed well. I think that he has the potential of being a great dancer but he is still young and it takes time to develop some of the things that are needed for ballroom dancing. His scores reflected his performances and sometimes the votes can’t save you from elimination when all the contenders were scored that much higher.

I find that Warren is going to start to get a good chunk of the audience vote because everyone seems to love him. No matter how much his technique might be off, he goes out there and really puts on a show. He is fun to watch and that just might win it for him.

For the dancing ,it’s going to be down to Brooke and Lance. Brooke developed her ballroom abilities faster but Lance has definitely caught up. If Lance keeps up the quality dancing and adds the showmanship and musicality that he has had all along, regardless of audience votes, he will be the winner. I think that Brooke is also great at performing as well as dancing cleanly with the correct technique. Maybe it is what I prefer to watch but there is something about her dances that are not as exciting as Lance and Warren’s. There is some piece of showmanship and entertainment value that is missing. I am surprised this week that Len gave her a 10 whereas the other two judges who have always been her fans gave her the lower of the scores.

I am really interested in seeing the dances they come up with this week for the finals. They are going to be playing to their strengths and it could get interesting. So I guess it will come down to who displayed their strengths the best and outperformed the others while also who gets the votes. I have to admit I have not voted all season but I am going to have to this week!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dancing With The Stars - Lance Bass Loses His Shoe!

My Golden Dancers

"Angles, Angels and Dance"

Leeza Gibbons, a television personality, was on a show and she was talking about a sick relative and how hard it is to care for them. She said she needs kisses from angels to help her cope with the situation. Many times we feel we may need a kiss from an angel. I never believed in angels and many years ago I had an experience with an angel of sort.

My husband had a large pharmacy for almost twenty-four years. It was an independent store, not affiliated with a big chain grocery store. Just an old-time, family run business. I used to work there two days a week at the store and did book work at one time at home by hand long before there were computers to use doing that type of work.

We knew our customers by name and always greeted them graciously even for the smallest of a sale. It was a homey type business and every one knew everyone. The clerks, the pharmacists, the customers were like one big and happy group. There was a little old man that came in daily. I guess he was about sixty something and of course I was forty something so I thought him elderly. He looked at me longingly and would call me angel. Everyone would laugh and he chuckled too and he continued to call me that. From the front of the store, my husband who was on duty that day would call out to him 'hi' and he would ask “where is my angel?” meaning me. It was cute and sweet and I would go along with the jocund attitude because it was that type of relationship with customers, owners and sales clerks.

I even bought myself a key chain that had the word angel on it. I got to believe that somehow there might be angels around and if this man thought I was one (jokingly) that it was proper and fine and I would enjoy the moments. One day I realized that I had not seen Mr. Garland for several weeks and I asked the clerks if had they seen him. They replied that they heard that Mrs. Garland was ill and he was no longer arriving daily at the store since he was caring for her. They were of modest means and had no children to help them in their health care needs.

So I got the address from the records and I got together a box and filled it with sweet things, household things and items he may need to help in her care and I sent it with our driver when he made deliveries to Mr. and Mrs. Garland. I signed it 'Angel and husband Jerry.' I knew they could use the items and I got back such a sweet note. In the note he said “Thank you, my angel, the Mrs. and I appreciate your angelic deliverance and I always knew you were an angel.” Not too long passed and Mrs. Garland died and he stopped coming in to the store.

Everyone missed Mr. G, not for the little business he gave us but for the smiling and loving personality he possessed. He was of such meager earnings in whatever he did, but he always had a smile and a joke and a beautiful charm. He always referred to me as 'angel' but in truth he was the angel. I was just the messenger. We can be angels to others on this earth and many of us can do this in our ballroom dancing. I am always preaching that we should inspire everyone we can to participate in dancing and of course the interest has spiraled since the dancing television shows of these years.

When we encourage folks to go out and dance now they should not perceive it as the way it was shown on the Dancing with the Stars show. They need not have expensive gowns or suits, they need not take dozens of lessons and they need not practice excessively like it was portrayed on the shows. They only need the willingness to learn, to study and to love it and to enjoy it. They need to realize that the television show was a bit of hype and that in real life one can learn ballroom dancing and not be so enamored of it that they invest too much money or even time that they may not have at the present moment. There are ways to learn that are not costly. Some group lessons are not expensive and the social climate of a group lesson can be helpful by meeting and greeting and being seated with others at the dance party or the dance lesson. They only have to dress nicely and the clothes do not need to be expensive or designer names. They can learn at their own pace and someday if they want to compete, they should consider the cost, the time, and effort and can do so at their own free will when they desire it.

Dancing with the Stars is not representative of real life ballroom dancing. The voting by the public was more of a 'who has more fans' type of thing and not representing who was the best and most talented dancer. Many who remained on should have been taken off weeks before they were voted off and many who were voted off should have remained and been given a chance at winning. Television shows are not always the true reality of our lives. In this instance, it does help to promote dancing and that is good and shows that with hard work anyone can learn.

Angels come in all sizes, all nationalities, and all ages and even if you do not have financial reserves, you can be an angel here on earth and you can give kisses as an angel without doing the actual deed. You can stimulate the thoughts in people who may be inclined to go out and dance and you can initiate the desire in their hearts.
L’Oreal, the cosmetic company, had a contest for Women of Worth where you were encouraged to nominate someone who does worthwhile deeds. There are many out there- I call them People of Worth who deserve to be noticed because they help others to share in their love of dancing and promote the concept of dancing by enticing men and women to ballroom dance in their communities. I know of a few folks who drive single men and women to dances because these people no longer drive and would be sitting home because they had no transportation. There are other folks who will pick up someone who cannot get around easily and bring them in to take a dance lesson and that gives the person a chance for exercise and social times. These people are angels of the day. They wait for the lesson to be over and return the student to his or home. They have given a shut-in the opportunity to go out into a community place and to be with others enjoying themselves and also a learning experience.

William Arthur Ward said: “The good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates and the great teacher inspires.” The good friend dancer will help his fellow dancers to excel and to be happy in their dancing activities. They will ignite the flame of desire to become an excellent participant in this lovely activity of mind and exercise.

There are two words that you can change the letters back and forth. They are 'angle' which means viewpoint or standpoint among some of its meaning and the word 'angel' spelled with the same letters. Angel means benefactor in one of its meanings. To have an angle of a viewpoint on ballroom dancing and to be an angel and help someone are two words to have when we dance. The angle is our thought on dance and the angel is what we can be to a new dancer and we can use both words to help and encourage dancers who are always a bit apprehensive in starting their dance ‘career.’

Many years ago in the 1970s, when we first started to dance, there was an obnoxious older lady who had been dancing for about thirty years. When we would come to a social dance at the studio, it was difficult to figure out which song was a Waltz or Foxtrot. We would stand there or sit until we figured it out. She would yell out seeing our lack of knowledge and security in knowing this; she would say: "Jerry, it is a Waltz" in a tone like we were stupid. "Jerry, it is a Foxtrot." One day, I said to her very politely (though she did not deserve my respect), "Jean please do not tell us, we will figure it out." I never forgot her for her lack of kindness towards new students. I vowed I would never do that to any new person like she did to us. It is a wonder we did not walk out and never come back to ever dance again. We were lucky that we had the fortitude to eliminate her intimidating voice and actions and to go on and do our dance thing.

People of Worth do not need L’Oreal cosmetic company to acknowledge them with monetary rewards. People of worth know that they are that and they give kisses every time they respond to others with giving them the responsibility to go out and learn to fill their time and life with a hobby such as dancing. People of Worth are angels and as Mr. Garland used to yell across the Alameda Pharmacy way back in 1980-something “Where is my angel?” (meaning me), we can speak out and say "Here we are, we are your angel, we are your mentor and we will help you to sustain your love for ballroom dancing. We will be the stars of the dancing and we need no television show to exclaim this or to enhance our worth. We are the angels and we need no row of judges to tell us how good or how poor we did. We are people of worth and we know it."
We older dancers are here to help the first time dancers and to encourage them with our help, our kindness, our confidence, and our willingness to motivate these folks to continue on dancing because they will find great happiness in accomplishing this motivation to be happy from doing this.

So, as Leeza Gibbons said, she needs a kiss from an angel; we can be that angel who plants an imaginary kiss on someone as we instill in them this thought that they too can dance, learn new steps, be happy at the studio learning and most of all keep their minds active.

The activity to the brain is as important as doing the steps well. You will feel unbelievably wonderful not only with your feet but with your mental acumen. You will have been kissed by the angel who had the angle to bring you into the family of dance because after a while, the other dancers become like your second family. A family that is away from your immediate home family. A dance family consisting of all of us who simply love to dance. We continue on as kin. George Santayana said: “Family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”
Our dance family is a dynasty of performance. Perform we do in the most showing way of beauty. We dance for ourselves first and our hearts benefit from this love of this delightful portrayal of emotion and movement. That is a masterpiece and a jewel in a crown of regal realizations. We are dancers and we are really full of spirit and as someone once said: “We have that inward flame; a lamp that never gets put out.”

Always Keep On Dancing.