Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bye-Bye Sandy – Hello, Wonderful World

Jeannie Penatello and FADS Area Developer Laura Martin contacted us to share everyone’s incredibly uplifting experience at the NY/NJ Regional Competition last weekend in New Jersey.  Read on – this is amazing!! 

Laura Martin writes:

As you are aware, Hurricane Sandy impacted New York and New Jersey pretty severely, and it was touch and go whether we would even be able to hold our Regional Competition. In the end, the hotel got power back on Sunday, and we arrived the next Wednesday, 11/7, in Parsippany, a town still without power. Fortunately, we were only missing a small number of people due to the loss of their homes, but sadly, the Red Bank area was really devastated and had to cancel altogether. It was amazing the energy and enthusiasm of the attendees who did participate, and everyone really came together to be supportive. The camaraderie was beautiful.

Charlie, Jeannie, Armando and I decided to hold a Mix-n-Match event on Saturday evening during the banquet to raise money for the Red Cross in support of the people who had experienced Sandy’s devastation.  We charged $30 per dance and all pros (including the judging panel) were available to dance! We collected $4,290, which we doubled according to the organizers’ announcement that we would match whatever we collected. So, by the end of Saturday afternoon, we had come up with $8,580. 

During our announcement of what we had raised, a generous, anonymous donor matched what the organizers gave: an additional $4,290!  This brought the total to $12,870. We had a fabulous Mix-n-Match and were so thrilled with the raised amount, but the thrills kept right on coming! A student at the banquet gave $500 and then the mind-blowing moment came when another student wrote a check in the amount of $20,000!  In the end, New York and New Jersey Fred Astaire studios raised $33,370 for the Red Cross’s disaster relief fund. It was an absolutely unbelievable evening and we are so proud of our region's generosity and selflessness during such a devastating time.

We are, as always, grateful that ‘good works’ are so often a part of our lives as a result of being in the Fred Astaire organization. One more time, we came up to the plate for a worthy cause. Thank you, everyone – you made a difference!  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bringing Brighter, Better Days: Westwood's Autism Workshop Spotlights the Incredible Benefits of Dance

by Nancy LaPierre

Author-therapist Victoria Marin, who features her autistic son in her popular children’s book, Aiden’s Waltz, brought her Waltz For Wellness workshop to the Westwood Fred Astaire Dance Studio on Saturday, October 13, to shed light on the benefits of ballroom dance for those on the autism spectrum.

Ms. Marin’s presentation teaches teachers, participants, and their caregivers about the healing powers of ballroom dance to relieve autistic symptoms, transform related behaviors, and bring about improved physical condition, better social skills and a much brighter outlook on life.

Jaclyn Laurino, a Westwood FADS professional dance teacher,  teaches Bryan to dance
‘Timothy,’ a 20-year old workshop participant, had never tried ballroom dancing before. He seemed nervous at first, telling his mother he wanted to go back home. But after the presentation, he asked to join the dance teacher on the dance floor. Immediately, his demeanor and postured changed. His rounded-shoulder stance changed. He stood upright. He was smiling even giddy at times. With tactile prompting from his instructor, he learned the basic steps of the waltz within minutes. 

Ballroom dance helps strengthen the core, leading to better posture. This reduces pressure on the lungs and improves breathing and oxygen levels for people who spend time in wheelchairs. A strong core and strong shoulder girdle make fine motor movements easier so eating and handwriting skills improve. Muscle conditioning develops coordination and balance for walking, running, dressing, and enjoying leisure and sports activities.

And there’s more:

  • communication partners engage in eye contact, invite their partners to the dance floor and discuss the dance process
  • friendships dancers develop and nurture a trusting relationship with their partners
  • self-confidence we teach dance steps in the method that is best suited to autistic learners. Mastering steps and movements leads dancers to feelings of success and accomplishment
  • mental processing ballroom dancing to classical music opens brain pathways and improves mental organization and learning

Ms. Marin’s informative one-hour workshop includes a PowerPoint presentation and a 15-minute dance lesson for participants. To schedule a workshop, please contact her at (845)200-4101, or via email at

Thursday, October 04, 2012

FADS West Hartford part of Pink Party to support Breast Cancer Awareness

~by Carmen Champagne

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and FADS West Hartford is more than aware … they’re taking part in a local fundraiser, in conjunction with Hartford Magazine and other area business, to help support the cause.  "Pink Party", an outdoor street fair, which includes a fashion show, fabulous food, live music and a dance exhibition by FADS instructors, will be held at Blue Back Square in West Hartford Center tomorrow, October 5th.

Jessica Lengenfelder, owner of FADS West Hartford, had the opportunity to speak about why the cause was so important to her on Fox News this morning.  View her interview below.

The party runs from 5-8 p.m. and will be emceed by a Fox on-air talent.  Swag bags and raffle tickets will be available to purchase with a portion of the event proceeds going towards breast cancer research and local breast cancer programs through Komen Connecticut.  For a full schedule of events, visit Hartford Magazine.

Houston FADS Showcased by ABC News

~ by Suzanne Carter & Nancy LaPierre

The gazillions of Dancing with the Stars viewers in the Houston, Texas, area recently received an extra-special dancing treat on Tuesday, September 25, 2012! The BEST Ballroom Dance Studios -- Fred Astaire Dance Studios, of course! -- were proudly represented by the Houston Memorial studio on the local ABC newscast following the premiere episode of the Dancing with the Stars results show.

Mr. Pahjmon Lipsey, Texas Area Developer, welcomed ABC News anchor, Sharron Melton, and a host of cameras to the beautiful Houston Memorial Fred Astaire Dance Studio.  There, Ms. Melton experienced for herself the reason why ballroom dancing at Fred Astaire Dance Studios is so hip and popular with Houstonians of all ages.

FADS Houston Franchisee, Mr. Philip Gutierrez, also interviewed in the show, is shown twirling the anchor around the ballroom floor packed with fabulous dancers from all 9 Houston Fred Astaire Dance Studios.

Though the piece highlights the trendiness and mass appeal of ballroom dance, it (thankfully) also addresses what we in the dance business have been saying all along:  ballroom offers opportunities for people to connect at meaningful levels, for couples to rekindle the spark in their marriages, for learning something new and fun, for improving posture, balance and poise, and for experiencing higher levels of confidence than ever before.

Beyond the exposure afforded by popular TV shows, the ‘celebrity service’ everyone receives, as well as the many incredible health and social benefits dancing offers, are why people are flocking to Fred Astaire Dance Studios.  Not only in Houston, but also all over the country and even overseas, the "Dance Revolution" that Fred Astaire himself brought to the world continues at each studio bearing his name and it’s definitely here to stay!

Click here to enjoy the ABC news clip.

Many thanks to Suzanne Carter, the Texas Regional Manager, for providing the information in this article! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ballroom Dance: Powerful Steps Beyond Autism

~by Nancy LaPierre

(Adapted from the letter ‘He Danced His Way from Disability to Ability’ by Victoria Marin)

“Ballroom dancing proved to be the ideal activity for my child.  It provided the opportunity to develop social and communication skills as well as more fluid and coordinated movements . . . . . a sense of self awareness as well as self esteem.” ~ Victoria Marin, mother of Aiden and author of Aiden’s Waltz

Autism rates have shot up 78% in the last decade, announces CNN’s headline, a disturbing footnote to March’s report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that 1 of every 88 American children is now affected by the disorder.  

Therefore, Victoria Marin, a dedicated Fred Astaire dance student at the Westwood, New Jersey studio, couldn’t have picked a better time to write her book, Aiden’s Waltz. At once a sensitive and inspiring children’s story and a tribute to our field,  Marin’s words testify to the power of ballroom dance to free her own son from many of the physical, emotional and social challenges of his disability. 

Marin, who holds a degree in Occupational Therapy and is the mother of five children, published this chronicle of her “out of the box approach to raising a child with special needs” in February this year. “These misunderstood children have suffered from difficulty in making friends and handling relationships with peers,” she wrote in her recent letter to us. Aiden’s mother is amazed by just how far her son has come through his dancing journey.  From a boy who used to do nothing but watch as other children played soccer, she reports, “Aiden rose from the shackles of autism to dance with the grace and elegance of a swan across the ballroom dance floor.”

Marin is convinced of the benefits of ballroom dance, especially when it comes to helping kids like Aiden, who are, her book teaches, “like every other child who needs love, care and respect.”  She credits ballroom dance with “a holistic approach to dealing with the challenges of autism,” and attests that the benefits to Aiden have been multi-dimensional and inspiring, reflecting physical, social, emotional and cognitive growth.

Prior to his dance lessons, she says, Aiden, like other autistic children, experienced great difficulty with recreational activities, such as being on a sports team and any other situations where initiating and maintaining peer relationships is necessary.  However, through dance, “my son’s communication skills developed to where he could initiate a conversation with his dance partner.  After continued participation, his communication skills blossomed to where he could approach other dancers and ask them to dance.”
FADS instructor, Larisa with Aiden and his sister, Laura

Autistic students gain confidence in themselves and others through ballroom dance, for it requires that “the child learns to let go of their fears and anxieties and trust the movements of their partner,” Marin explains.  The constant contact with a partner it demands also helps overcome the distrust of physical closeness that often comes with autism. “In addition to learning the steps,” she explains, “dancing requires the participants to respect physical boundaries, maintain position and posturing and conform to the social rules of the ballroom,” all lessons that strengthen areas of weakness most autistic children face.

“Another fascinating component to ballroom dancing is the classical music,” she reports.  “New research has noted the role of music in facilitating self-expression, creativity and sociability in children.  Classical music appears to reduce stress while increasing the ability to concentrate.  Muscle tone relaxes and the heart rate slows which causes the mind to be receptive to learning.  A positive outlook or increased self esteem often leads to improvements in the creative thinking process.” And, she adds, the effect classical music has on the anatomy of the ear actually “stimulates brain activity.”

“The dance can be viewed as a dynamic conversation between partners where eye contact is necessary, external sensory stimuli is processed, gross and fine motor movements are coordinated and a relationship between partners is developed,” says Marin. To her great joy, Aiden overcame the seemingly-insurmountable hurdles autism erects in each of these areas through learning ballroom dance.

“In my experience, ballroom dancing helped my son to emerge as a young boy who no longer felt ‘different’ from the other children.  The world of ballroom dancing opened the door to a fresh and innovative sport.  Aiden beamed with self confidence which he gained from being a leading partner on the dance floor.  In time, his coordination improved which helped build his self esteem.” 

“While Aiden still is not considered a social butterfly,” she adds, “his beautiful ocean blue eyes look right at you when he speaks,” a directness that autism usually inhibits. “Ballroom dancing provided the necessary tools for my son to emerge from his own darkness and dance before the entire student body.”

Marin’s experience has made her faith in ballroom dance unshakeable:   “Given the support and opportunities,” she now knows, “all individuals with special needs possess talents as well as the ability to achieve!”

Thank you to Renata Sowul, Manager at FADS Westwood, N.J., for introducing us to Aiden, Ms. Marin, and her book.  Ms. Marin and two of her children are warmly welcomed students of Renata’s studio.

Friday, June 22, 2012

It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swag

It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swag

by Nancy LaPierre

The online Top Ten list at begins like an assortment of 2000’s-decade Billboard artist nominees: ‘Michael Jackson’. . ., ‘Jennifer Lopez’. . ., ‘Chris Brown’. . .,
‘Shakira’. . . .

An unexpected twist then occurs, making the list a potential roster for this year’s Big STAR Entertainment Awards – ‘Prabhu Deva’. . ., ‘Allu Arjun Arjun’. . ., ‘Hrithik Roshen’. . . .

Scrolling down, it gets stranger still, for in the Number 9 slot is (drum roll, please) ————— Fred Astaire?

It’s a weird but pleasant surprise to find our namesake on this quirky, seemingly-random list, honored as one of the Top Ten Best Dancers of All Time!

It feels like nothing proves the timelessness of Fred Astaire’s talent and appeal better than the appearance of his name here, the sole ‘old-timer’ among some of today’s most popular, youthful, and well-known artists reflecting an eclectic mix of styles, backgrounds and nationalities.

Of course, No. 9 isn’t the place I and TMOTC (uh, that’s Too Many Others To Count) would assign Fred Astaire. For example, check out this list by the highly reputable Observer. But ‘nuff said.  He’s there. 

How fabulous that Fred Astaire is recognized as ‘a big name in lights’ to today’s youth, as drawn as they may be to alternative choices that they may perceive to exist, as well as the inevitable differences between generations that result from the sheer passage of time.  Think, for a moment, of everything that has happened between the introduction of the ‘talkies’ and the unveiling of the I-Phone.  Folks – we’re talking more than a hundred years!

The man who was ‘the bee’s knees’ to World War One’s Lost Generation would, in today’s lingo, be credited with ‘swag:’  that’s swag capable of surmounting more than a century to live large in so many hearts, including those of the young group some people credit with ‘digital DNA’ that is collectively known as the Internet Generation.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Fred gets 'Made'

Brandon FADS Makes MTV’s ‘Made’
by Nancy Lapierre

Wow!  Is Brandon studio owner Kelle Pierce Chancellor excited – and so were we when we heard why!  Her Florida studio has earned FADS a fantastic new opportunity — to be featured on MTV’s reality show, ‘Made,’ on June 14!

With the motto “Spinning dreams into reality one hour at a time,” ‘Made’ is a highly popular reality television series now in its 12th season. Showcasing teens with goals that they could never fulfill on their own, the teens are offered a little help from MTV and their MADE coach (and, we happily note, Fred Astaire Dance Studios!) to become the people they dream of:  from singers and film directors to athletes and dancers.

The FADS episode will feature the magic of dance lessons in improving the confidence of an awkward teen-aged boy. What will happen?  Will the lessons help?  Will he gain the self-assurance that he seeks? Or will he hit the skids on the dance floor?  Will our dancer turn famous, like Branden Naccarato, the Pennsylvania teen couch potato-turned-tri-athlete who gained national attention after his appearance on ‘Made’? 

The mystery will remain until show-time, and we sure do want to know what happens!
This exciting honor was bestowed upon the studio because of its enticing, comprehensive website (do check it out here!) and "the friendly, upbeat way" MTV’s initial call was handled.
Kelle writes, “We are so proud that they chose us amid several independent competitors!” 

Kelle runs the studio with her husband, David. The pair makes a supreme effort to reach the younger age group, and Kelle knows that “this is an awesome way to get the FADS name out to the teenage demographic.” 

Kelle and David Chancellor
A favorite teacher at her own studio, Kelle was also recently hired to be the local high school’s dance program choreographer for the 2012-2013 year. “We will have a FADS ad in all their programs and on the school’s website,” she notes, “which will reach hundreds of students and their families.”

“The Brandon Team is SO proud to be a part of the great FADS family,” writes Kelle, who is thankful for “everyone's support of the newbies on the block!”

Congratulations to the Team for this great opportunity, the result of great work!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

FAWC 2012 Theme Night

FAWC Saturday Night Theme

The 'fire' will be burning with the hottest dancers from all over the U.S. at the 2012 FAWC in San Juan, Puerto Rico! You won't want to miss this year's World Championship event complete with fabulous Pro/Am and professional dancing, and many more highlights throughout the week.  


The El San Juan Casino and Resort and the FADS family welcomes you to our World Championship with open arms. The moment you arrive at the Fred Astaire registration desk, you'll know that this event will be the one you'll never forget. For four straight days, the beach will be hot with the sun and the ballroom will be even hotter with some of the best dancers in the U.S.!

The event will end with a fiery professional show, "El Fuego!" Attire for the evening is casual chic white; so, pull out your linen, Tommy Bahama, gauze, or cotton white shirts, pants and dresses and watch the ballroom come aglow! 

Your FADS family will be waiting for your arrival!


Friday, May 25, 2012

FADS opens in Cape Town, South Africa

The corporate office of Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studios is pleased to announce the opening of the Cape Town, South Africa dance studio.

CEO and President Jack Rothweiler called the opening "an exciting chapter for both the company and Cape Towners." As the second most populous city in South Africa, Cape Town is an indelible symbol of the beauty and promise of post-apartheid South Africa. Its logo - an outline of the majestic Table Mountain superimposed over a rainbow - suggests its historic mix of races and cultures. A popular tourist attraction, located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town is a health-oriented city which takes social dancing seriously.

New franchisee Chris Sauer, along with wife, Gail, both South African natives, will run the daily operations of the studio. Gail has over 15 years experience teaching social and Latin American style dancing having previously worked at Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Sandton, while Chris has administrative experience working there as well. As the newest franchisees in the FADS organization, the Sauer's already knew about FADS' philosophy, teaching methods, and naturally - its iconic namesake.

The new studio's website is:  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thursday, May 03, 2012

FADS in Beirut, Lebanon!

The corporate office of Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studios is pleased to announce the grand opening of the Beirut, Lebanon franchise.

CEO and President Jack Rothweiler says the opening “is an important milestone for both the company and Beirut.” As the capitol and cultural center of Lebanon, the city has a thriving night life and a vibrant social and ballroom dance scene (as evidenced by the numerous independent ballroom dance studios) which is something the organization wants to tap into.

Marwan Jammal, a native of Beirut, will run the daily operations of the studio along with his business partner, Guitta Dabdab. A competitive ballroom dancer for over a decade, Jammal taught dance for a number of years and has an extensive background in fashion retailing. As the newest studio owner and franchisee in the FADS organization, Jammal initially was attracted to the company’s philosophy, teaching methods, and naturally — its iconic namesake.

The new studio’s website is:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day One: 'Sin City' and CCDC

~Carmen Champagne

The ballroom is filled with dancers and onlookers alike. The dance floor is a sight to behold: women
sparkling from head to toe with sequins, hair flourishes and embellishments; the men all in black. It's so very impressive at 8:30 in the morning!

It's the American Rhythm Bronze Single Dance Divisions and the dancers are pumped. A swamped up version of Willie Dixon's, I Just Want To Make Love To You is blaring through the speakers. Each couple takes turns performing their best East Coast Swing. They have 45 seconds to wow the judges with the moves they've been faithfully practicing at Fred Astaire Dance Studios over the past year.

This is Cross Country Dance Competition at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Competitors from all over the country come to participate in Fred Astaire Dance Studios' largest national dance competition.

I arrived at the hotel the aftern
oon before and was able to catch the Solo Exhibition Division. This was more of a theatrical dance showcase, complete with costumed dancers performing to less traditional songs (like Maniac from Flashdance and Warrant's Cherry Pie), in shiny turquoise leg warmers, 'metal hair' wigs and concert tee shirts. It also gave this writer a strong indication that CCDC was also about cheeky fun as well.

This morning as the competition hopefuls milled around the breakfast buffet, I was able to chat with Edward Black, a student at the Clear Lake studio in Texas. This was his second competition, having attended his first Astaire World Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico last summer. When asked how he was enjoying the challenge he replied with a big grin, "My feet hurt!" Edward started ballroom dancing in January of 2011 and he clearly enjoyed his new pastime.

Obviously, CCDC is off to a magnificent start . . . stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Cross Country Dance Championships Schedule of Events

2012 CCDC
Schedule of Events
April 11 – 15, 2012

WEDNESDAY April 11, 2012

#1 Wednesday Afternoon

12:00 PM Proficiency International Ballroom Grading Divisions
12:15 PM International Ballroom Single Dance Divisions
1:15 PM International Ballroom Open Championship Divisions
1:30 PM Fred Astaire Dance Alliance Scholarship Divisions
2:05 PM Proficiency International Latin Grading Divisions
2:12 PM International Latin Single Dance Divisions
3:12 PM International Latin Open Championship Divisions
3:36 PM International Latin Multi-Dance Championship Division
3:45 PM Fred Astaire Dance Alliance Scholarship Divisions
4:30 PM Solo Exhibition Division
5:54 PM Novelty Division
6:21 PM Showcase Production Division
7:15 PM Pro/Am Cabaret
7:45 PM Argentine Tango Divisions
8:50 PM Proficiency Smooth Grading Divisions
10:10 PM Proficiency Rhythm Grading Divisions

THURSDAY April 12, 2012

Thursday Matinee

8:00 AM American Rhythm Bronze Single Dance Divisions

Thursday Evening

6:00 PM American Rhythm Silver & Above Single Dance Divisions
9:10 PM American Rhythm Bronze Open Single Dance Divisions

FRIDAY April 13, 2012

Friday Matinee

8:00 AM American Smooth Bronze Single Dance Divisions
1:00 PM American Smooth Silver and Above Smooth Divisions
2:55 PM American Smooth Open Single Dance Divisions
5:52 PM American Smooth Open Championship Divisions

Friday Evening

8:00 PM Professional Championship Divisions

SATURDAY April 14, 2012

Saturday Matinee

8:30 AM Smooth Multi-Dance Championship Divisions
9:58 AM Fred Astaire Dance Alliance Scholarship Divisions
11:10 AM American Rhythm Open Single Dance Divisions
12:45 PM American Rhythm Open Championship Divisions
2:45 PM Rhythm Multi-Dance Championship Divisions
4:07 PM Fred Astaire Dance Alliance Scholarship Divisions

Saturday Evening

7:15-8 PM Cocktail Party - St. Croix and Patio
8-9:30 PM Gala Banquet and "Cirque D'Astaire" themed dance show

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Dr. Don Sheldon Casanave Passes

Dr. Don Sheldon Casanave
Beloved husband, father and grandfather passed peacefully Tuesday, April 3.

Born in Chicago and raised in Westchester County, NY. Graduate of Principia College and Leeds University, England where he earned his doctoral degree in English Literature. As a young man Don's golden voice won him the famous Arthur Godfrey talent radio contest, but his love of Shakespeare won out and he enjoyed 10 years as an English Literature professor at Eastern Michigan University. Where he was known for his beautiful lectures, snappy dressing and impeccable grooming. Not your typical professor.

Don never lost his love of singing and piano playing and moonlighted at piano bars and serenaded many a family member at special occasions.

In his later years Don joined his brothers Charles and Chester in the family business founded by their late father Charles Louis Casanave and Fred Astaire as Vice President of the Fred Astaire National Dance Association. In this role, his charm and grace shined and he was a mentor to many.

In his own words, one of Don's greatest sources of pride was his happy and fulfilling 25-year marriage to Sally Lincoln Casanave.

He is survived by his faithful and loving wife Sally, son Jean-Marc, daughter in law Pam, daughter Ondine, son in law David and grandchildren Miles and Marcela.

Services to be held Saturday, April 7th at 2 pm
Fred Astaire Dance Studio
151 SE Mizner Blvd
Suite #16A
Boca Raton, Fl 33432

Donations can be made in his honor to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Champagne Social - Episode 6

Strictly Dancing

~by Carmen Champagne

I have a free Friday night!

What to do, what to do?

Stay home and watch a movie with
Ben & Jerry?


Go out for drinks at a bar where the sports announcers on the multiple TVs do battle with the music piping through the overhead speakers?

I don’t think so.

No, tonight I’m going dancing.

It never dawned on me that regularly scheduled social dance parties would be the norm at Fred Astaire Dance Studios. But in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. If you are learning how to dance, you want the opportunity to practice…and not just to the radio in your kitchen. The intuitive instructors at Fred Astaire know this and provide the perfect setting to dance the night away…

Off is the fluorescent lighting in the studio this evening. Instead, festive, clear twinkle lights line the walls and small spot lights are strategically placed creating a warm and festive vibe. Music is playing, refreshments are laid out and the waiting area is filled with students, the teachers welcoming and greeting all. I am not sure how the evening is going to go, but I slip into my sandals and make my way towards the group. I feel a tap on my shoulder just then and turn around to find Tobi asking if he might have a dance. Of course!

The evening passed in a delightful whirlwind. Cha-chas, tangos, rumbas and waltzes. I danced with Tobi and the other teachers. I danced with students of various skill levels. I danced all night. And as I twirled around from partner to partner, I got to learn a little bit about them. The mood was light and easy. This was not the time for instruction and rules of learning. This was the time to enjoy dance. Purely. And honestly, I had the time of my life.

Stay tuned for the final episode of Champagne Social, Friday February 17th

Stay up on all things Fred Astaire. Like us on Facebook!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fan Mail

That's a photograph of the letter that was waiting for me when I arrived to work on Friday morning. To say I was delighted, would be putting it mildly. I had a smile plastered on my face all day long.

Abbie is a fan and asks:

Q. Why do you enjoy dancing and what inspired you to perform and video tape it?

A. Dear Abbie :)

I enjoy dancing because it makes me feel happy when I'm doing it. I love music too. All kinds of music. And sometimes when I'm listening to music, my toes tap or my feet stomp. I just want to move. I thought taking lessons would help my toes tap and my feet stomp a little bit better. You see, Abbie, I happen to be kind of klutzy. I've been known to walk into poles or trip up the stairs for no good reason (I even broke my toe once doing that trip up the stairs bit...true story). I was hoping that maybe I would gain a little grace by taking dance lessons.

I brought along the camera because well, if it didn't inspire people to try to dance themselves, they might at least get a kick out of watching my silly antics. However, the teachers at Fred Astaire really know their stuff and I learned a lot from them. Maybe my bumbling days are over!

I'm glad you have enjoyed the series. Our last episode of Champagne Social airs on Friday. Hope you tune in!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

And We Danced

What I noticed first when I entered the studio that evening for my group lesson was that the male students outnumbered the female students. I thought I needed to move to Alaska to get those kind of odds. Who knew all I had to do was head to my local Fred Astaire Dance Studio? The reception area became filled with jovial banter and laughter as students came in, removed their coats and changed into their dance shoes. Though I was new to the group, they welcomed me right into the fold.

The super chic and stellar dance instructor, Nicole Jeurgens, would be leading this evening’s lesson. The dance being taught was the cha-cha. These group lessons were important, Nicole explained, as a way to gain your own sense of balance. So while you want to offer resistance to a dance partner, you do not want to rely on them for balance. You must be able to stand on your own before you can merge with another.

Yeah, I know, I know. I won’t even type it out loud.

Nicole explained and demonstrated the cha-cha as well as a variation on the basic step while the entire class followed along. We spent the remainder of the time going over the newly learned moves in our own space.

After class, staff announced that the following Friday would be a social dance night. What? FADS regularly puts on social dances right at the studio so you can mix, mingle and practice your moves. What a brilliant idea! I’m in.

Hope to see you there!

Tune in for the dance party extravaganza Friday, February 10th on the next episode of Champagne Social

To watch previous episodes of Champagne Social on our Youtube Channel, click here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Resistance Is Futile...Or Is It?

Thoughts on...

Dancing, Dating and Life’s Lessons

~by Carmen Champagne

Over the years I’ve developed a sound belief that there are only three options available when life hands you lemons (well, four, if you count making lemonade):

  1. Change yourself.
  2. Change the situation – this means altogether removing yourself from it.
  3. Change your mind – in other words, your attitude. Just quit fighting the inevitable and accept the lemons. Fully. Zero resistance.

While I’ve done my share of all three, it is the practice of letting go of resistance that is always foremost on my mind. So imagine my surprise when Tobi began our third lesson with an exercise in — of all things — resistance!

“In dance,” he explained, “You need to offer some resistance to your partner in order to feel where they are leading you. “

Ha! The irony of this statement struck me as too funny.

But then I thought, well, perhaps that might explain a few things about my lack of skill as a dancer (and dare I say a dater, as well). Either total resistance or none at all.

Tobi brought me to the wall in the studio, and had me stand in front of it, palms outward in front of me, touching nothing but air. Alternately, I was made to touch the wall by moving forward on the balls of my feet until my palms met with just the slightest of resistance. Could I feel the difference, he wanted to know. This insightful exercise taught me that a certain amount of resistance is not only good, but is absolutely necessary if you want to dance with a partner. Hmmm…

Tobi got his point across and scored some extra points from me besides! This eye-opening moment revealed itself as the dawning of another of life’s lessons.

The rest of our time was spent going over the basics of tango. My new found knowledge in place, I confidently followed along as Tobi explained the steps. The character of the tango comes to life when dramatic flair is added to it. My love for all things theatrical made me a more than willing participant.

Well, folks, although I’m going to play it a little cool…show a little resistance:) but I really think I have met the dance of my dreams…

Tune in for my very first group lesson on Friday, February 3rd on the next episode of Champagne Social!

Click here

To watch previous episodes of Champagne Social on our Youtube Channel.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The First Waltz

~by Carmen Champagne

Just like everyone else, my life is hectic. There is work and errands to run, various appointments to keep, tending to my children’s needs-- all during the week between my first dance lesson and second. Oh, right; and there’s the holidays. I didn’t give much thought to my upcoming session with Tobi until it was time to go again. So, perhaps it wasn’t odd that I found myself more than a little bit nervous driving to the studio that evening.

When I arrived, Tobi was as gracious as ever and informed me of our lesson plan for the evening; a recap of all the dances we had covered on the first lesson, and he also would be introducing a new dance as well. Yikes! Would I remember everything?

After changing into my sandals, we progressed onto the dance floor and started with the Foxtrot. Poised in formation, Tobi gave my right hand that familiar squeeze and immediately my right foot responded accordingly. Tobi started by counting and reiterating the steps we were making and then changed the course of our conversation, asking me about my children. What are their names? How old are they? Were they excited for the upcoming holidays? I answered, all the while we continued to move about the dance floor. When we reached the conclusion of our box step, Tobi pointed out that I had been correctly doing the dance steps while focusing on something else entirely. Well done, Tobi. Well done.

Practice of the Rumba netted the same successful results. Yay, me!

Next, it was time to learn the Waltz. Now, when I hear the word, “Waltz”, I immediately envision white-haired, stodgy old men in black tuxedos and overly-starched shirts (perhaps even a monocle in hand, used to survey the choice of available dance partners), and the women have pointy noses, overdone curls and dour looks. They stand around the floor talking with each other in small circles, pretending to drink punch all the while wondering if they will even be asked to dance at all. In other words, I felt it was a bit outdated and stuffy.

But I paid attention as Tobi explained to me that we would be using the same box steps as we had during the Rumba just performing them in a different order. We would also elongate our stride so as to cover more ground on the dance floor. I followed his lead and absolutely FELL IN LOVE with this dance. Moving backwards, my steps longer, I noticed a definite lilt in my gait as Tobi glided us all over the ballroom floor. I was elegant. I was graceful. It was a straight-up fairy tale moment and I was the beautiful princess dancing with the handsome prince. Had I known how, I would have curtsied at the end of our Waltz.

We ended with a recap of the Swing dance and Tobi added turns to the mix. What fun! The swing is just so enjoyable and more laid back and was a fine way to end the lesson.

The icing on the cake for the evening…Tobi advised me that our next lesson would include my introduction to the Tango.


Catch up on the entire series here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Begin The Beguine

~by Carmen Champagne

When I walked out of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio after completing my first lesson, my steps were light. I felt truly giddy. And while a far cry from being the next Ginger Rogers, I had begun the beguine.

What a fantastic experience! Charmed by the charisma, good manners and consideration extended to me by Tobi and the other instructors on staff at the studio, I felt as though I had stepped onto the set of a glamorous 1950s Hollywood movie (and not just because there was a camera there either). The studio was brightly lit and elegantly decorated. The hardwood floor sparkled and beckoned to me.

I was taken aback when Tobi extended his arm to guide me onto the dance floor. I believe that was the first time that I was ever properly escorted onto a dance floor. And that gesture alone made me feel like I was in capable hands. Past experiences at social dance usually turned into a battle of wills between dance partners and me as I was reluctant to allow them to lead (surely, they didn’t know what they were doing). This would often result in frustrated and stilted dance moves on both our parts and an exasperated dance partner stomping off the dance floor in a huff. Now that I was here and knew that I was dealing with someone who was professionally trained in dance, I had resolved to forgo the urge to lead. I was here to learn.

What impressed me the most on that first day was the fact that though there were thousands of different dances in existence, with Fred Astaire’s conceptual method of teaching they were able to break down all those dances into just two categories: Smooth and Rhythm. Really? That sure made the task of taking on several new dances a whole lot less daunting.

Over the course of my 40 minute lesson, Tobi introduced me to one smooth dance; the Foxtrot, and two rhythm dances; the Rumba and Swing. His instruction was clear and uncomplicated. I noticed that he would squeeze my right hand whenever we practiced a dance step. This was an excellent signal for me to always start with my right foot, as I was supposed to. This simple, consistent reminder allowed me to keep my attention on what Tobi was actually saying in the moment rather than trying to keep dance patterns running through my head. Interestingly enough, I found that when I kept my eyes and attention on Tobi, I glided across the dance floor. If I turned my focus to my feet, I stumbled. Huh? Who would have thunk?

At the end of the lesson, Tobi and I scheduled my second lesson and he advised me not to practice.

I didn’t.

So it was with a bit of nervous apprehension that I showed up for my second lesson. Why did I listen to Tobi?? I should have practiced! I was going to make a spectacle of myself for all the internet to see.

Did I?

Click here to watch Episode Two now!

(if you missed episode 1, you can watch it here)