Have your or one of your kids ever tried “couple dancing” like celebrities do on Dancing With the Stars? Seeing a pair of people moving in sync across the floor to enticing music is exciting. It can look so easy but it is pretty hard to figure out from just watching.
In Richmond, Texas, Rhythm Inc. Dance Studio teaches ballroom dancing with a special focus on Latin and Swing styles. Latin dances include the Paso Doble, Salsa, Cha-Cha-Cha and Rumba. Swing is the Jive and other Big Band inspired dances. Some classes do not have pairs so Latin steps are taught for solo and group performance.
I spoke with the studio’s co-owner, Jessica Blanco, to learn more about ballroom dancing and her studio. She and her husband Michael opened this location about 2 ½ years ago after teaching for other studios in the area for about 7 years. She has been dancing professionally and competing for over 12 years.
They take their students to competitions around the county. Her student, 10 year old Tatum Wise, won 1st place in the Junior Championships at the United States Dancesport Championships in Orlando Florida this summer. Joining a competition level class is optional and competition opportunities are available for children and adults.
When I arrived at the studio, I saw Michael working with a woman during a private lesson. Jessica said he was working with the woman to prepare for a Pro-am competition in November. The woman was the amateur and she will be judged based on her dance with Michael. She was pretty impressive to me.
I asked Jessica some questions about the benefits of ballroom dancing.
Why is dancing great for kids of all ages?
The mind and body work out from dancing develops character and self-confidence. Learning better physical control develops concentration and a healthier body. The partner and group component develops a sense of team work.
Studies have shown that dancing helps reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s, in part because it works memory along with the movement. Learning and remembering choreography keep the brain active. Dancing also adds an emotional component so the dancer expresses how the movement makes him or her feel. It uses both the left and right brain in addition to the physical movements.
How do you encourage boys to try ballroom dancing?
Jessica nodded and said it can be a challenge. “I had three boys that quit soccer just to be here… What people don’t realize about ballroom dancing, specifically with Latin dancing, it’s a very masculine dance.”
Boys and girls get the opportunity to work together in a positive environment. Latin Dance Sport is the official title for competitions and dancing is as physically rigorous as sports like soccer or football. Ballroom dancing includes the team work elements as well.
What is number one benefit for kids to take dance with you?
“What sets us apart as a studio apart is that we are like a little family.” Jessica said. The studio hosts events for holidays and after competitions. She stresses that the kids feel at home in her studio and get to know the other students really well. “We put God first in our studio and in our lives.” She added.
Decorated in sleek black, white, and red with wood floors, the studio has a front ballroom studio with full length mirrors and lots of light from windows. There is a waiting room with a door that leads into a back practice room. Heavy black theater curtains can be used to divide the back room into two classrooms or opened up for a terrific large space.
Finding a place to learn ballroom dancing is not easy. Jessica also offers classes and choreography for wedding or Quinceañera dances to help make those moments shine. The studio has classes for adults and children for ages 3 and up. Private lessons are available.
This is great way to help a shy boy or girl interact with other kids in a positive, structured environment. Jessica told a story about a class of 7 years old. At first, the girls wrinkled their noses at the thought of touching a boy’s hand and dancing with him. But after a few rounds, both the boys and girls relaxed and had fun together. A free trial class is available for any interested students. Tuition rates vary depending on the number of classes taken per month.
Tell us what you think about ballroom dancing in the comments below.
-By Cynthia Marpl