Monday, August 30, 2010

Ongoing: Dance lessons at Fred Astaire in Arrowhead


by John Stanley - Aug. 27, 2010 09:09 AM
The Arizona Republic

For several years now, millions of Americans have enjoyed shows like "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance."

While most of us are content to fox trot in our fantasies or mambo in our minds, more than a few viewers have been inspired to get up off the couch and venture onto a real dance floor, said Robert Doyle, owner and director of the Fred Astaire Arrowhead Dance Studio, which relocated to Glendale last month.

"Those (programs) have helped us tremendously," he said. "I can't even tell you."

Doyle - Mister Doyle, in the formal parlance of the dance studio - has seen the dance demographic evolve.

When he was younger, he said, it was mostly senior citizens. Now his students include middle-age couples and singles of all ages.

Some come because of an upcoming wedding, charity ball or other occasion with dancing.

More and more, though, people simply want to take up a fun activity they've seen showcased on TV or learn one of the enduring social graces.

Most of Doyle's students are beginners; a few are quite advanced.

When Lauren Froderman was named a finalist on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," judge Nigel Lythgoe advised her to brush up on her ballroom skills. The effervescent 18-year-old Greenway High School grad turned to Doyle.

"I was with her three lessons a day for two and a half months," he said.

It was time well spent, as Froderman was named "America's Favorite Dancer" on Aug. 12.

Anne Robbs of Phoenix is one of Doyle's longtime students.

Earlier this year she and her dance partner, Ken Euge, won the People's Choice Award for couples at the "Dancing with the Stars Arizona," the Arizona Kidney Foundation's ballroom dance competition.

Dancing, she said, is a great activity for all ages.

"You're never too old to dance. And if you need to keep your shape or lose a little weight, it's a wonderful exercise," she said. "You use your whole body and you don't have to lift a lot of weight and you don't have to be in good shape to start. As long as you can walk, you can dance."

The most requested lessons these days, Doyle said, are for country-Western and Latin dances.

"Things that are practical, that you can go out and use that night," he said.

Students can sign up for an introductory $40 package of four lessons - three private, one with a group. Instructors customize the private lessons to suit their students. And the studio hosts a free open house dance party every other Thursday.

While they're dancing, Doyle said, his female students feel like Cinderella, the male students "like Bond, James Bond."

He also touts the benefits of dancing - it's good exercise, an effective stress reliever and a fun social activity. And while it's not unusual for students to feel a little awkward or self-conscious at first, they quickly get over it.

The variety of dance is part of what keeps Robbs on the floor.

"You can have a romantic dance, you can have a wild dance and kick up your heels," she said. "I just love it. You're out on the dance floor with the music and you go into another world with no problems. You're just out there dancing and learning and having fun."

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