Monday, July 20, 2009

Dancing From The Heart

From the

Medford, Florida

Charlie Belknap, a disabled war veteran, is unable to dance. But every time his wife twirls out onto the dance floor, he has to smile.

Frances Belknap, a Medford resident who also lives in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. with her husband during the winters, has been dancing for 11 years. She first became interested in dancing when the pastor of her church invited her and her husband to a practice party at the Fred Astaire Studio in Florida.

“It was a guest party, where people bring guests and they’ll dance different steps with you and offer you so many lessons for a really great price,” said Frances. “They kind of introduced you to rhythm dances and ballroom dances — smooth dances.”

She said the instructors showed newcomers the basics of three different smooth dances, the waltz, the foxtrot and the tango, and two different rhythm dances, swing and rumba. Inspired and excited, Frances decided to sign up for the lessons offered by the studio.

“I went to the first lesson,” she said. “I came home and I was so excited and happy that my husband said, ‘Keep going.’ So I kept going!”

Since then, Belknap has become a veritable veteran of dance.

“The first competition I did was in Boston,” she said. “My teacher said, ‘We’re going to have a competition in Boston, we can dance!’ So I decided I would do it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

And she has.

Since then, Frances and her instructor, Joe Trovato, have gone to several competitions throughout the United States, including Austin, Texas and even Chicago, Ill. Frances’ most recent competition took place at the San Destin Hilton Resort for the Emerald Coast Dance Competition.

Surprisingly, she has never gotten nervous during a competition.

“I always get excited about competing, and showing the judges what we do,” Frances said. “It’s a chance to show off everything we’ve worked so hard on.”

And she always dances with a smile.

“I guess I just dance from my heart,” she said. “The smile just comes, and I don’t think about it.”

But Frances has not only danced like the stars; she has danced with them at the Fred Astaire Studio, too.

“I’ve been dancing with Eric Luna, who was recently on ‘Super Stars of Dance,’” Frances said. “He’s excellent. I’ve known him for a long time, because I’ve been dancing for 11 years and he started teaching there. I’ve known him since he was a boy, shall we say.”

Frances has also danced with such television personalities as Corky Ballas and Jonathan Roberts, of “Dancing With the Stars” fame.

Tony Dovalani is coming!” said Frances excitedly.

She added she owes her ability to dance with these professionals to Trovato.

“He calls them, comes to get them to coach,” she said. “Our teachers are coached by them, and...they give group classes.”

Despite being surrounded by such well-known television personalities, Frances still prefers one dance partner in particular: her teacher.
“I’d much rather dance with Joe Trovato any day,” she said.

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