If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new hobby and to meet new people while improving your physical and mental health, ballroom dancing has all the right moves.
Cleveland’s newest addition, The Ballroom, located in The Venue Creekside, is offering everything from the waltz and the cha-cha to the tango and swing.
The first lesson is free with no strings attached, according to Amy Marie Anderson, a co-owner and instructor at The Ballroom. Anderson and co-owner Tammy Harrelson said they are proud to be able to teach dancing to a wide variety of students, including disabled beginners in wheelchairs, at their new facility.
“We’re inclusive to all ages and physical abilities,” Anderson said. “As far as I know, The Ballroom in Cleveland is the only studio in the area that is certified in Wheelchair Ballroom Dancing through the American Dancewheels Foundation. It’s very satisfying to be able to offer this to the disabled community who might otherwise be left out of a fun activity like this.”
According to USA Today, ballroom dancing, as a media phenomenon, sport, hobby and business, is enjoying its biggest resurgence since the 1940s. Even in its 18th season premiere, ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” was up 6 percent over last year in viewers and held even in adults ages 18-49.
Anderson, the recent winner of Dancing with the Stars of Dalton, has been competitively dancing for more than seven years and has been a certified aerobics instructor for more than 25 years. Harrelson has been teaching dance for more than 20 years and has been competitively dancing since 2005. Both are certified in American Dancewheels for seated dancers.
Anderson worked in public television for 17 years, hosting “Kids Town” as “Miss Amy” on WDGA channel 43 in Dalton, and “Fuzzy Company” on Chattanooga’s PBS station, WTCI, channel 45. She said she recently moved to Cleveland and discovered the interest in affordable ballroom dancing is high in Bradley County.
“I talk to everyone about ballroom dancing and they always say, ‘Oh! I want to take ballroom dance lessons!’ It’s unreal — the desire right here in Cleveland,” Anderson said. “So we brought The Ballroom to the Venue on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. It is so affordable — only $10 for singles and $15 per couple. I also give private lessons. The classes are for beginners. And don’t worry, I specialize in people who have two left feet! I believe everyone can dance. If you can walk straight, walk sideways and walk backwards, you can dance.”
Anderson said the benefits of dancing are both immediate and gradual for individuals with certain health issues because it helps build strength and stamina in the legs by means of rehearsing dance steps. Flexibility is also increased as one’s range of motion increases with practice. Experts say the constant mental activity that goes along with learning and performing a new dance can help sharpen intellectual and mental abilities.
A New England Journal of Medicine report that studied adults 75 and older for more than two decades found that dance was almost exclusive in its ability to improve cardiovascular fitness while reducing the risk of dementia. This is because using the brain for activities like learning and performing dance steps actually helps create more neural pathways that ward off the weakening of synapses that often comes with aging.
Dancing can also lead to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and can help prevent or slow down bone loss related to osteoporosis. Research regarding further health benefits of dancing includes stress reduction and increased serotonin level, which contributes to a sense of well-being. Anderson and Harrelson said they can attest to these facts seen in their students at their other location, The Ballroom in Hixson.
“In Chattanooga we have an 80-year-old who is a ball of fire!” Anderson said. “He wears us out. We have a lot of dancers in their 70s. It makes them feel young and they catch on fast. We’re also seeing a lot more high school students taking ballroom dancing. This is for young and old. Anyone can do it. I don’t think there is anything quite like dancing that makes people happy. They just light up!
“I work out. But when I dance it’s not like a workout. You’re having so much fun and you’re learning something new! Besides, it’s a very social interaction. Our kids today are texting all the time. Kids today need to learn how to be more sociable. We teach that. We teach proper etiquette on the dance floor.”
Her fiancé, Dr. Bob Sanders, a longtime dancer and local veterinarian, assists Anderson and Harrelson at The Ballroom.
“He’s very good!” Anderson said. “We have a great time together.”
The most popular Ballroom dances in the world are Smooth Dances such as the foxtrot, waltz and tango, and Latin Dances like the cha-cha, rumba and swing — all of which are taught at The Ballroom in Cleveland. Other dances will also be spotlighted, such as the mambo, salsa hustle and more.
Anderson says she’s been dancing all of her life, in one form or another. As a youth she took ballet classes and was a nationally ranked college cheerleader at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She has been dancing competitively for seven years now. The bubbly, energetic dancer said she is excited about offering ballroom dancing classes in Cleveland, adding, “Our motto is: ‘Walk In, Dance Out!’ We don’t promise you’ll be on Dancing with the Stars, but anyone can learn how to dance — even in a wheelchair.”
Beginning lessons are Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. at 527 West Inman St., inside The Venue Creekside. The Ballroom can also provide private lessons for upcoming events and choreograph special dances for any occasion, including weddings. To register or for further information, call 473-9668.