Get inside and dance
Beat the winter doldrums; feed your mind and body
By Ana Maria King
“It’s my happy time!” declares Susie Crosier as she’s leaving her modern dance class to go right into the hip hop session at Greenwood’s American Dance Institute on a Sunday afternoon.
As the days get grayer, damper, and shorter, “happy time” becomes more elusive for many.
Many of us Seattlelites find our zen and our thrills in the outdoors—hiking, kayaking, rock climbing—but those opportunities become fewer as winter sets in.
Liz and Dave Luba regularly take advantage of all the Pacific Northwest has to offer, but started taking tango with Tony Fan and Ilana Rubin eight years ago because they felt they were missing a creative art form in their life. “It’s a nice complement,” says Liz, “and we’ve met an interesting cross-section of people we never would have met.”
Indeed, looking around the full classroom, the age-range, diversity, and welcoming feeling are obvious. Jim Parfitt loves this aspect of the class: “You don’t have to be skinny and young to dance tango. It’s such a subtle dance.”
This ‘subtle dance’ brings Bambi Haney to her zen-place: “There’s nothing like the connection, and the way the whole world disappears, when you dance tango.”
As Instructor Ilana notes, “Many people are attracted to tango because of its music. How awesome is it to discover a new world of music that will move your feet and heart!” She and Tony have been teaching over 20 years and studied with tango masters from Buenos Aires.
“Argentine tango teaches us about body awareness, musicality, and partner dancing,” Ilana explains.
“In the class, the students will learn how to have proper posture, and more efficient ways of aligning and using the body. This helps students feel more energized, and creates confidence in movement.”
Another dance style that’s good for body awareness, alignment, and balance is Scandinavian.
According to Nancy Neuerburg, of the Skandia Folkdance Society, “It’s a dance style that’s low impact, a good way to get exercise without high impact. And it’s really good for balance, because there’s a lot of spinning and turning, so people get much better body awareness.”
It’s good for the brain too, because “if you keep going in the series there’s so many different patterns to learn.” Student and Skandia Folkdance Society Trustee Cindy Scheyer agrees: “It’s great exercise. Better than sitting home and doing a crossword puzzle; it’s great for your brain.”
Dancers are at once carefully stepping, and beautifully gliding around the classroom with the live music, smiling and laughing as they spin.
Skandia Folkdance Society focuses on Swedish, Norwegian, some Danish, and occasionally Finnish dances. The classes attract a range of ages and abilities—from seasoned dancers to newbies.
Even in the beginning class, the seasoned dancers—often teachers themselves—enjoy mentoring the new dancers, resulting in a satisfying experience for all levels. Like tango, these are partner dances, though you don’t need a partner to sign up for a class.
“It really takes two people cooperating; doing their own individual thing well; and getting a feel for your partner to do the dance well—making a unit out of individuals,” explains instructor Don Meyers.
Student Natzem Lima especially appreciates the cooperative style of the dance: “Both people have to contribute 50/50. It’s not like other types of dances where the lead is leading most of the time. Both people have to come in with 50 percent; otherwise it’s impossible.
“From the standpoint of people meeting halfway, it reflects the equality in the Scandinavian culture.”
Natzem grew up with salsa and merengue, which he “never quite liked from the aspect that it really depends on the lead, so the fact that this dance requires that both people bring 50 percent, I really enjoy it. Plus, there’s no hip-shaking or anything; you can have really inflexible hips and still look good doing it.”
However, if hip-shaking and literally getting down sound like fun, hip-hop may be your thing. Hip-hop is just one of a plethora of adult, teen, and kid classes at American Dance Institute, and it’s one that’s sure to shake any winter blues right out.
Susie is one of about 20 other students having some “happy time” on a rainy Sunday afternoon in the Greenwood Studio.
Alex Gilbert jokes that the class gets him out of bed and moving for the day.
More seriously, he reflects, “It’s honestly a form of therapy for me, it clears my headspace; it’s a form of self-expression and pure creativity.” Alex’s goal is to become a teacher himself.
Amy and Samir Lakhini take the class together. For Amy, it’s also a needed break from the daily grind. “Today, before I came, I was thinking of my grocery list and my to-dos. But, every time we come we’re just so glad we came, because it’s just fun. There’s no time to be depressed in here.”
Instructor Tracey Wong‘s philosophy is to enable students to meet their own personal goals. “I focus on students being able to have fun, to find moments of growth while getting challenged at the same time, and not getting discouraged.”
And she’s successful. Amy says she feels “comfortable in my body in a different way.” At first she thought, “I could never do that, but little by little your body learns it, and you surprise yourself.”
Samir loves the aspect of learning a new skill, and the class is a perfect way to spend time together. In fact, the couple started coming to American Dance Institute as an alternative to traditional date night: “Instead of just going to dinner and a movie, why don’t we take a dance class together?”
Whether you are partnered, single, or somewhere in between, dance offers an opportunity to connect with others, sharpen your brain, tone your body, and simply lose yourself in the moves and the music.
And those winter blues? Alex reflects, “It’s a way I can let everything negative in my life really go, and channel it.” A phrase about dance he remembers once hearing perfectly describes his experience: “Leave it all on the floor.”
Wanna dance? Get more information!
American Dance Institute, with locations in Greenwood, Shoreline and Magnolia, teaches ballet, hip-hop, contemporary/modern, tap, jazz, flamenco and Irish. Schedule and info: americandanceinstitute.com.
Skandia Folkdance Society: Scandinavian Dance Basics* meets every Wednesday in the Phinney Center Brick Building. (See the PNA class schedule.) They also have open Skandia Dances first and third Fridays of the month at Cedar Valley Grange. More info: skandia-folkdance.org.
Argentine Tango with Tony and Ilana: The Tuesday evening Absolute Beginners Series* starts Jan 8, and meets in the Greenwood Senior Center building (see pg. 20 in class schedule). They also have other classes and social dance at Dance Underground on Capitol Hill. More info: seattletango.com.
*These classes do not require a partner to attend.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2018-19 edition of The Review.