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.