Thursday, October 29, 2009

News From Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Syracuse, NY

By Karina Moskaleva

On September 15, the Syracuse Fred Astaire Dance Studio held a Trophy System test. We are very proud of our students who successfully passed test!
Siubhan Bongiovanni
Tania Fedotova
Sharon Gridley-Pelkie
Cathy Marriot
Mary-Pat Northrup
Nikki Palmer
Jimmy Retzos
Cathy Scaffer
Michael Stedman
Liz Wall
Susan Wocjick

Monday, October 26, 2009

In step with the CHS Ballroom Dance Club

From the Crestview News Bullentin (FL):

by Brian Hughes

Thursday afternoon at 2:30 the music cranked up at Crestview’s Fred Astaire Dance Studio. Nearly a dozen couples took to the dance floor and under the expert tutelage of instructor Crickett Gautreaux, they were soon going through the paces of basic ballroom dance moves and etiquette.

It’s time for the weekly meeting of the Crestview High School ballroom dance club, now in its third year. The studio donates each week’s 45-minute gathering, including the expertise of its instructors. Last Thursday was only the third time the club has met this year, so many members are still getting the hang of ballroom dance.

“Because this group is just getting started, first they must coordinate the mind with the body,” explained studio owner and manager David Colón. “Then we can start doing choreography. Routines can come later.”

Those who are dedicated can dance in a spring showcase, Colón said. Last year the club had several couples perform in a countywide dance showcase at the Hilton Hotel in Destin.

The club’s adviser, choral music director Kevin Lusk, periodically heads out into the midst of the swirling bodies to offer a little instruction of his own. He didn’t intend to be the club’s sponsor.

“They needed someone to be a co-sponsor,” Lusk explained. But when the other faculty co-sponsor dropped out after a week, the club’s sponsorship fell on his shoulders.

CHS seniors Moya Moore and George DeShields paused for a break, and while resting explained how they became members of the club.

“I’ve been in sports a lot and I wanted to try something new,” said Moore.
DeShields, who has experience in hip hop, tap and ballet, just enjoys dancing. Noticing the girls outnumbered the guys, I asked DeShields if some guys are intimidated being in the dance club.

“I don’t know,” he answered, as he headed back out onto the floor. “I know I’m not!”

Kody Lusk, a junior, is another who finds the club a fun co-curricular activity.

“I like to dance and I thought it would be fun to work with professionals,” he said.

Kody Lusk, whose dad, yes, is the club’s adviser, has been in the club for all three of his years at CHS. He is excited by the large turnout this year.
“Last year it kind of dwindled but this year I’m excited to see we’re back up in numbers,” he said.

The 45-minute session seems to fly right by. As the kids break up for the day, several return to the floor with Gautreaux or instructor Scott Seip, a CHS alumnus himself, to perfect the steps they learned that day.
Colón smiles to see another generation of dancers being groomed in his studio. “Maybe some of them will become instructors themselves someday,” he said thoughtfully.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ballroom Dancing For Kids

The Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Dutchess is kicking off group classes for kids ages 6 and up. Classes are offered on Fridays 4:30-5:30 p.m. There are two group classes available: Group 1 for ages 6-10; Group 2 for ages 11-16. Cost for this exciting program is $60 for four weeks. To pre-register, call 845-297-2711 or e-mail via

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fred Astaire Dance Studios National Competitions In 2010

We have a great year planned for 2010, full of exciting events in exotic locales. Go to our NEW competition website for more information on Fred Astaire Dance Studios National Competitions:!

“So You Think You Can Dance”: Top 20 Announced

From the Wall Street Journal:

After weeks and weeks of auditions and three weeks of Vegas eliminations, the judges of “So You Think You Can Dance” have selected the Top 20 dancers to compete on season 6.

On the judges’ panel sat Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, Debbie Allen, Adam Shankman, Tyce D’Orio, and Mia Michaels. One by one, the judges brought in the nervous dancers and either squashed their dreams or granted their wishes of becoming Top 20 dancers. Amazingly, three tap dancers were put into the Top 20. Not a single tapper had made it all the way through before. Also in the history-making category, Russell Ferguson was put through as the first krumper to ever make it to the Top 20.

A twist was presented when contemporary dancer Paula Van Oppen actually turned down the spot the judges presented to her, paving the way for ballroom dancer Ashleigh Di Lello to join her husband Ryan in the Top 20. Apparently, Van Oppen was offered a movie contract, and chose that path instead.

The show announced last month that TV and movie producer and choreographer Adam Shankman would become a permanent judge in season 6, likely ousting the majority of weekly guest judges the show has had in previous seasons. While this move may potentially make the judges’ table a bit static, it does free up all the choreographers to work up routines weekly. (Choreographers can’t present routines and judge in the same week.)

Speaking of Adam Shankman, it was announced this week that he’s now at the helm of the film adaptation of the wildly successful Broadway production “Rock of Ages.” As if that weren’t enough, Shankman will be producing the Academy Awards. Talk about multi-tasking.

On the flip-side, Emmy Award-winning choreographer Mia Michaels announced via Twitter and Facebook last Friday that she was leaving “So You Think You Can Dance.” Lythgoe said in a statement that Michaels was welcome back on the show this season or next. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what she’s up to.

Also, judge and ballroom expert Mary Murphy came forward this week with her heartbreaking story of domestic abuse, having survived an eight-year marriage to her abuser. She tells her story in Us Weekly and on Ellen.

Whew. After all that, let’s get back to our Top 20 results, shall we?

The Top 20 girls are:

Channing Cooke, 18, contemporary

Ariana Debose, 18, contemporary

Ashleigh Di Lello, 26, ballroom

Mollee Gray, 18, jazz

Karen Hauer, 27, Latin ballroom

Noelle Marsh, 18, contemporary

Pauline Mata, 19, jazz

Kathryn McCormick, 19, contemporary

Bianca Revel, 20, tap

Ellenore Scott, 19, contemporary/jazz

The Top 20 guys are:

Phillip Attmore, 25, tap

Billy Bell, 19, contemporary

Ryan Di Lello, 28, ballroom

Russell Ferguson, 20, hip hop/krump

Kevin Hunte, 23, hip hop

Jakob Karr, 19, contemporary

Legacy Perez, 28, hip hop/b-boy

Peter Sabasino, 22, tap

Victor Smalley, 21, contemporary

Nathan Trasoras, 18, contemporary

The show is mixing it up this season with a meet-the-Top-20 special on Monday, Oct. 26, at 8 PM. Also, Lythgoe tweeted that Paula Abdul fans should tune in to Monday’s show. So plan appropriately on Monday, and come to Speakeasy Tuesday morning to discuss your reactions!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Patrick Swayze Tribute On Dancing With The Stars

My Golden Dancers

Power and Attainment
By Elita Sohmer Clayman

A reader of my articles told me of things gone wrong in her marriage and how ballroom dancing helped her physically and mentally to let her cope with this problem. She had a mother-in-law who was geared to disliking this lovely young woman. She tried her best to break up the young couple and never showed any love toward her son’s two children. He had wonderful, beautiful, and smart offspring, and this terror of a mother-in-law always displayed her love and affection towards her daughter’s children. The son’s children did not really care since they had another grandmother who adored and loved them so much.

After much time had passed, the children dreaded going to holiday dinners at the obnoxious grandma’s house. Years rolled by and the two wonderful and beautiful children went off to college. They had grown up with one grandmother who completely and fully loved and adored them and on the other side, a grandmother who barely could carry on a conversation with them. One day sparks flew, and the two no longer talked to the other grandmother and life became easier. Unfortunately, the good grandmother passed away but her memory and her love for these two sustained them and they both named their own sons after her as was the custom of their religion to honor a dead relative or friend that you loved. So their sons have the male version of their beloved grandmom’s name to bestow upon her in death-their unforgettable love she gave them and they to her.

During the episodes of all this turmoil in the family, the husband and wife took up ballroom dancing. They excelled in it and the wife went on to compete with their professional teacher in many competitions and every trophy or medal she won, she told her own mom that this was dedicated to her. Even when her mom had passed on, she always “spoke” to her beloved mom and thanked her for being her and for loving her son and daughter with all her heart. They, in turn, still remember and cherish the years they had with the “good grandmother.”

Of course, the other grandmother never really got to know or care about her son’s children. In her mind, she could not distinguish that if she really loved her son that much, then she should love his children too. To her, her daughter’s children were what mattered.

Ballroom dancing helped the wife to forget the awful moments, nasty comments, and terrible family holiday dinners. Ballroom dancing cemented the couple’s relationship, and when they danced or took ballroom dance lessons at the studio, happiness overcame the ugliness of the husband’s family.

He did not really feel the pressure that his wife and children did because he had the marvelous attitude to look away. Looking away at problems is the way some folks cope with life. Not all can turn to a sport or hobby because they possibly cannot afford the costs or do not have the time to spend on it. In this case, the woman involved was able to stabilize her home, her life and her children’s lives because two or three times a week she was able to relax and help her mind to cope with her in-law problems by ballroom dancing and being in a world away from her awful mother-in-law. So ballroom dance can not only be a wonderful exercise and hobby, it can be a calming moment in a hectic day.

When advertisements are placed in magazines or newspapers for ballroom dancing recruits, it is rarely said that it can help your mind. We all know we need a keen mind to dance. Before I took dance up, I thought it was your feet that did the work. I remember wondering how I would be able to move if I couldn't look down at my feet.We quickly learn that we cannot look at our feet from our first lesson. The ads should say that ballroom dancing can ease the mind, clear the thoughts, and also be good exercise.

So the writer who wrote to me all about how ballroom dancing lessons, social dances, and competition helped her to keep her marriage going and her mind clear is right on target when she says DANCE SAVED HER MARRIAGE AND GAVE HER THE GRACE TO CONTEND WITH HER LIFE. So to ballroom dancing, we give this accolade, honor and tribute because it surely is a beautiful entity.

The saying goes that a straight line in the shortest distance between two points. I suggest that the two points are your heart and fulfillment. Passion is the straight line and when we have passion for our dancing than we have shortened the distance between fulfillment and we have established happiness in our heart.

It is said by medical people that the brain is probably the most valuable asset we have but many feel it is the heart. Whether it is the heart or the brain, both reap rewards when we dance no matter how old we are.

It was said on the news tonight that babies being born at the present time could probably live to be 100 years of age. How nice if that would happen to us. My dad only lived to be 72 and six days, my brother lived to be 72 and 11 months and my mom lived to be 77 and five months. Times have changed and we have the capacity, we hope, to live well into our 90s.

Ballroom dancing is a good exercise and we all know that exercise plays an important part in our health. Ballroom dancing is also quite relevant for our brains. We all know that to dance, we surely need not only our feet and arms but our brains to remember and to perform the steps. So ballroom dancing enhances our lives with brain power, feet power, and happiness power. All this keeps us young and vigorous. When we are feeling the power of dance, then we are powerful, energetic, and vibrant.

Power to politicians means they can control us. Power to an individual in their own life means they are effective and in control. Being in control of your own destiny is a pretty important asset. Feeling good about yourself when you have a hobby like dancing makes you have a positive attitude and as the lady with trouble from in-laws told me, dancing helped to calm her down and to continue to excel in her life and not to be bothered by the terrible family she married into.

The straight line and the shortest distance between two points is now drawn and becomes perfection and attainment. We have attained something so unique and perfect when we learn to dance that there no longer is a line. The line goes directly to our heart and we feel we are excellent people.

I have recently lost a total of seventy pounds. I feel good about myself and when I look into the mirror I wonder who that seventy-five year old person is? I have attained, accomplished and also shortened the line between being overweight and now being quite slim. Losing weight is like ballroom dancing. You need desire and the spirit to try doing it. When it is accomplished, like dancing, it makes one feel powerful in a wonderful way.
Let us all try to dance and feel the moment of the power and in so doing we are quite delirious with completion.

Bob Meyer, the editor of Amateur Dancers magazine for over 25 years, recently said, "I implicitly believe that ballroom dancing enhances one socialy, mentally and physically. It is the greatest overall enhancer in this fashion. Board games are known by experts to help one with social and mental aspects of waking hours-but not physically. Many sports help with physical aspect, sometimes to a much lesser degree,social and mental. It is our beloved ballroom dancing that involves one deeply in all three categories.The relationship between partners even in a single dance is much more definite than doubles tennis or sailing. Viva ballroom dancing."

Keep On Dancing
Elita Sohmer Clayman
October 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dancing Tips...How To Practice Cuban Motion!

By Stanley McCalla

One of the students who I started to coach on a regular basis is showing considerable progress. He now looks like a different dancer: his posture has improved, his legs and feet are looking decent, and his Cuban motion is on the way to being authentic.

Last time I coached him, I said: “J, you are improving very nicely! What are you doing differently?”

“Thank you,” he said, “I have been practicing the exercises that you’ve talked about and I’m starting to feel it.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” I said.

For those of you out there who are wondering about the exercises that J is talking about, I’m going to let you in on it (although the information isn’t any different from what your teacher is telling you). But, to satisfy your curiosity, I will list them here for you. It’s about Cuban motion and how you can practice it.

Cuban motion is described as the lateral motion of the hips, which occurs as a result of the flexing and straightening of the knees, never a conscious swing of the hips. You can use this technique in the Rumba, Bolero, Mambo, Cha Cha, Merengue, and Salsa, to name a few.

Stand with your back straight. Your shoulders should be lined up over your hips. Your center should be pulled toward your spine. Your feet should be together with toes turned out. You should feel that your weight is poised towards the balls of your feet. Imagine, for a moment, that your hips start at your rib cage and that you have extremely long legs.Start by bending one knee at a time, and then straightening it. You should allow your rib cage to move from side to side over the bent knee. While doing this, you should control the movement through the center of your body. In order to feel your center, tighten your stomach muscles as well as your plexus muscle. You should then feel the natural and lateral motion of your hips. If you don’t, then your posture is incorrect.

Once you feel the correct motion, try to use the same principle by taking a small step to the side with your left foot, then slowly closing your right foot to your left foot. All the while, remember your posture, your center, and the bending and straightening of the knees one at a time.
That’s it… now all you have to do is practice, practice, practice. Make sure that you confirm what you’re doing with your teacher.

Until next time, happy dancing!

Stanley McCalla
Fred Astaire National Champion
FADS National Dance board member examiner, coach and adjudicator
Available for coaching and examinations.

Derek Hough - Out With The Flu

From the

Derek Hough is reportedly off of Dancing with the Stars, at least temporarily, as he recovers from flu-like symptoms. Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who was previously eliminated with celebrity partner Debi Mazar, will temporarily take over for him as Joanna Krupa's partner.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fred Astaire Professional Dancer On SYTYCD!

Kimalee Piedad, a professional dancer with the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Ft. Walton Beach, has made it to the Las Vegas audition round on the hit show So You Think You Can Dance!

“I thought that was just fabulous,” said Mary Murphy after her audition. Lil C thought Kimalee's dancing was “graceful and visually informative.”

Kimalee, a 25-year-old native of Fort Walton Beach, is classically trained as a ballerina. She danced professionally with the Louisville Ballet (2002-2003), Ballet Met (2003-2004), and as a Principal Dancer for the Northwest Florida Ballet in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.

In 2005, she joined Fred Astaire’s Dance Studio in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida and immediately began her competitive ballroom dancing career. Kimalee and her partner, Jesse Benedetti, are currently ranked second in the nation and the world in the Cabaret Divisions. Together, they hold many dance titles for their unique performances. This dynamic duo most recently placed 2nd at the prestigious United States Championships in the Theatrical division, and were invited as one of the world representatives in 2009 to Blackpool, England.

Watch “So You Think You Can Dance at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on Fox.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Dancing With The Tampa Bay Stars!

By Elizabeth Joy, Fred Astaire Dance Studio Developer

The Tampa Bay Fred Astaire Dance Studios were very proud to sponsor the
Second Annual Dancing With the Tampa Bay Stars on Saturday, September 26.

12 Fred Astaire professionals were paired with 12 "brave souls" back on
August 1 and were given 25 lessons to perform a choreographed routine to
an audience of 850 people - all to benefit Heartbeat International, providing heart transplants and pacemakers to under-privileged people throughout the world.

Our stars included Melissa McGhee (former American Idol finalist), Miss Tampa, Lynne Austin (the original Hooters girl), Tom Dupont (of Dupont Registeries), a stand-up comedian, the World Champion LPGA pro, and a host of other local "celebs." Fred Astaire Dance Studios also provided the production numbers for the opening ceremonies and the "half-time" activities.

My special thanks to Jim Carter and Stefan Dobrev for judging the event and the staff of all four studios (St. Petersburg Central, St. Petersburg North, Safety Harbor and Palm Harbor) for their time and effort in producing an event that raised over $150,000 in one evening!

Dovolani's Love of 'Dancing'

From the California Chronicle:


STUDIO CITY, Calif. -- When dancer Tony Dovolani glides through a torrid tango or hops to a lively Lindy on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" he's just emulating what he saw as a kid.

He and his father used to watch a movie every week in his native Kosovo.
"My dad found these Fred Astaire- Ginger Rogers movies and Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor. Every Sunday we had movie night. And we watched musicals. It was so amazing because I was addicted to it as a kid. I couldn't wait to come to America to see some of this live.

He'd fallen in love with dancing at 4. "When I was 3 years old my dad tells me I showed interest in music and dance so he took me to classes where I learned how to learn instruments and a dance class. In Kosovo, it's very big to do folkloric dancing, ballet but also folkloric dancing," he says in his slight accent.

"I quickly realized I didn't want to be behind an instrument while everybody else was dancing. So I quit taking music lessons and just wanted to do dance lessons. I was 4 years old. I remember telling my dad about it," he says.

"My dad is one of the most wonderful, smartest people I've ever met in my life. He encouraged this and he was always there whenever I needed him but, at the same time, he always gave me tough love. If I had tough times, he didn't want me to quit. He said, 'This is what makes somebody good. If you can get past the tough times then you can appreciate this later on in life.' And he was right.

On "Dancing With the Stars" (7 p.m. Monday and 8 p.m. Tuesday on ABC, channel 8) , Dovolani is paired with model-designer Kathy Ireland. This marks his eighth season on the nine-year-old show. He missed Season 1 because he was preparing for his first world title in ballroom dancing when they invited him to join.

When Dovolani arrived in the U.S. in 1989, he was heartily disappointed that there were no musicals like he'd seen in the movies.

"I was 15. I started working as a dishwasher because they didn't accept our diplomas here and I was already in my second year in college back home. I was one of the brainiacs. My dad majored in math. And I wanted to be like my dad.

His father, who was a CEO of a computer company and his mother, a chemist, had divorced when Tony was 14.

"When I came here it was sad to see on TV there was no dancing," says Dovolani.

"The closest thing to it was 'Star Search.' I used to look for different channels. And one time I was working at the diner till 3 in the morning and the only time I could find anything that resembled dancing in the movies was at 3:30 in the morning at Nickelodeon.

One of the cooks at the restaurant where I was working got an invitation to the Fred Astaire Dance Studio. I asked him where is this?

I couldn't even speak English that well. He took me to it and, as soon as I walked in, that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was 16.
He'd seen ballroom dancing contests on PBS before. The day he walked into the Fred Astaire Studio he vowed, "I'm going to win that one day. The owner of the studio said, 'Sure, sure let's get you dancing first.' In 1998, I represented the United States in the world championships and, in 200,1 I won my first PBS championship which was the United States title." He kept on winning and trained Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez for the film "Shall We Dance?" in which he had a small part.

Dovolani insists anyone who can walk can dance.

"No dancer was born a dancer. Every dancer has been taught ...
Even walking takes rhythm.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Dancing In D.C.

News from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Washington, D.C.:

Let the Showcase Begin!
This Sunday, 4 October, is our Disney themed showcase! We have a great event planned!

3:00 to 3:30 pm: Registration
3:30 to 4:00 pm: Act 1
4:00 to 4:15 pm: General Dancing
4:15 to 4:45 pm: Act II
4:45 to 5:00 pm: General Dance
5:00 to 5:10 pm: Group Dance
5:10 to 7:00 pm: Appetizers and General Dancing
7:00 to 7:15 pm: Professional Shows
Good Night Waltz

Our staff is excited and our students are even more excited! Everyone has been practicing hard, please come out watch, dance, and enjoy! Tickets are $15 and sold at the door.

The National Dance Championships!
We have a large group going to Orlando for NDC! Our presence will be so large, all our instructors are that's the good news. The bad news is that there will be no one left to teach lessons! So the studio will be closed on 21 October and classes will resume on Monday, 26 October. Please wish our students and staff luck and maybe they will bring back some awards! No pressure!

Are You Ready to Take Your Dancing to the Next Level?
We have a nationally recognized coach, Marylynn Benitez coming to the studio for coaching lessons November 5th and 6th. Please ask your private instructor for more information.

3rd Annual Halloween Party!
Our annual Halloween celebration will be on Friday, 30 October. We have our normal Newcomers and Advanced Bronze classes at 7:15, then the characters, most with costumes, will come out! It is always one of our favorite events; please join us for a great time! Our instructors love to dress up (for some reason we think they love the added attention and we all know they hate having fun!) and some of our students put some spectacular costumes together. Prizes will be given for best costumes and if you want to win, you have to bring it!

Bachata is Back!
We've got some more great group classes this month. Wednesday's at 8:00 p.m. is Bachata, so get those Latin hips moving! There are also plenty of other classes so we are sure that there is something for you.