It’s OK, you can admit it – we’ve all busted an MTV-worthy move in the privacy of our living room or gotten down while doing the dishes. But when it comes to dancing in the presence of, well, other people, it’s tempting just to flash back to that tragic junior high social and pull up a chair.
Fear not, though: The Corridor’s dance scene has enough going on to have you up off the sofa and down with your bad self in no time. And no matter what makes you want to move – salsa, belly dancing, foxtrot, tango, swing or hip-hop – there’s somewhere you can go and someone who wants to teach you.
Consider it your own little dance revolution.
SUSIE MURRAY, DANCE NEW YORK, MARION
Before “Dancing with the Stars,” most of us put ballroom lessons in the same box as shuffleboard and pitted prunes – something best left to Grandma. Then came the “DWTS” phenomenon and people started thinking: wait a minute, ballroom dancing is hot. And while we might not all have the body of Karina Smirnoff or the fancy footwork of Maksim Chmerkovskiy, there’s no reason not to give it a go, says Dance New York co-owner Susie Murray.
“Take the leap – what’s the worst thing that could happen?” she jokes. Murray – a competition pro with a number of titles under her rhinestone-studded belt – didn’t start in ballroom herself, instead coming to dance as a career after working as an interior designer. And when her husband and studio co-owner Derrick saw her take the leap, he followed too.
“Derrick didn’t have a dance background,” Murray says. “But when I became a teacher, he started taking lessons and coming to parties, and it went from there. You can start from scratch – everything’s teachable.” Today, the Murrays compete and perform across the country, including an appearance at Friday’s American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Gala, a “Dancing with the Stars”-style event taking place at the Marriott Hotel in Coralville.
The Murrays’ students range in skill from absolute beginners to competition veterans and vary in age from pre-teen to – well, let’s just say that dancing keeps people young. And whether young or old, single or in pairs, everyone’s welcome on the floor. Says Murray: “It’s a very social thing. Most people make a lot of friends dancing – everyone is extremely friendly in the dance community.”
If that’s not enough, there are also the health benefits of ballroom to consider– mental as well as physical. “Most people don’t realize how much of an effect dancing has on their entire life,” Murray says. “It gives people confidence. I’ve had students say they should pay for the therapy as well as the lessons!”
GLORIA ZMOLEK, CEDAR RAPIDS
Remember the movie “Dance With Me”? If that got your pulse going, salsa may be the thing to try. And with a burgeoning scene in the Corridor, you can strut your stuff at a nightclub or in a more formal setting – whatever strikes your fancy.
Gloria Zmolek, an art teacher at Linn-Mar High School, started dancing salsa almost a decade ago and never looked back: “It’s the only New Year’s resolution that I’ve ever kept,” she says. “I didn’t even know what salsa was, but one thing led to another and I got very addicted!”
These days, Zmolek and her daughter Laurel Zmolek-Smith are doyennes of the Corridor dance community. Go to almost any salsa event and you’ll find them there, dancing with students who’ve started out in their Saturday afternoon classes at CSPS/Legion Arts in Cedar Rapids. Over the years, Zmolek says, she’s seen the salsa scene grow from a tiny band of devotees to a large, thriving group. “There’s a really healthy community between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids,” she says. “We started with just one place a week, and now we have three, sometimes four.”
Even better, Zmolek says, is that salsa brings together people from across the globe. “It’s a very diverse population for Iowa,” she explains. “At our last lesson we had students from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, India…“ And no matter where you’re from, we all have one thing in common: Everybody likes to party. One of the things that makes salsa a favorite for Zmolek, she says, is the excuse it gives you to go out and have a good time.
“We’re in a society where people don’t get dressed up any more,” she explains. “When you dance, you can dress however you want to, put on makeup or whatever you want – you don’t ever feel out of place, you just feel like ‘Hey! I look hot!’”
MARK McCUSKER AND NORA GARDA, ACEXPERIMENT/INTERDANCE, IOWA CITY
If there’s one message Mark McCusker and Nora Garda – founders of ACExperiment and InterDance in Iowa City – are shouting loud and clear, it’s this: Just get off your backside and dance.
“We don’t believe that anyone has two left feet,” Garda says. “People just need to try.” And if that means taking a formal class or simply showing up to boogie, it’s all valid. “We teach the rules, but you don’t have to obey them,” McCusker says. With that in mind, he and Garda host a variety of events, from Tuesday night open dance sessions at Old Brick in Iowa City to the full-scale annual Iowa Dance Fest. It’s an alternative, they say, to the regimented classes we may have been shuttled through as kids – as well as the bar scene we might get a little tired of as grown-ups.
“People like to go out, and if you don’t go to the bars, you don’t know where to go,” Garda says. Instead, she suggests, find a drop-in class or a special event to sample. Where to start your search? Consider what you already enjoy.
“One way to choose a dance style is just to ask yourself ‘What do I want to wear?’” McCusker says. “High heels, jeans, tights? Say you like to dress hip-hop. Simple. Join a hip-hop class like MOvMNT in Cedar Rapids.”
But be careful, Garda cautions – once you find your feet, you might get a bit swept off them, too. “Sometimes I feel a little guilty when I go to work and say ‘I’m so tired, I danced for four hours last night,’” she says.
“I feel a little spoiled.”
– Jessica Schilling
WHERE TO GO
- Dance New York, http://www.dnyia.com
- Cedar Valley Dance Club, http://wheedance.home.mchsi.com
- Ponderosa Ballroom, http://ponderosaballroom.com
- MOvMNT Dance Company, http://www.movmntdancecompany.org
- Baile Latino, http://www.crsalsa.org/
- Cedar Rapids/Marion salsa Facebook group, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=49875894847
- University of Iowa Swing Dance Club, http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiswing
- Hawkeye Swing Festival, http://www.hawkeyeswingfestival.com
- Iowa City Tango Club, http://www.tangoiowa.org
- Kahraman Dance Studio, http://www.kahramandance.org
- Swing Out Iowa, http://www.swingoutiowa.com
- ACExperiment, http://ace-xperiment.blogspot.com
- InterDance, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=115603942949
- Arts a la Carte, http://www.artsalacarteic.org
- Cultural Corridor, http://www.culturalcorridor.org
Get ready to rumba
So you think you can dance? You may think again after seeing the ballroom pros in action.
Champions of the Dance will be spinning onto the Englert Theatre stage in downtown Iowa City at
8 p.m. Friday.
You’ll see the fancy footwork of dancers featured in ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” the BBC’s “Strictly Come Dancing” and “The American Ballroom Challenge.”
Among those luminaries are Andrey Motyl and Inna Brayer from “Dancing with the Stars”; national champions Hugo Villanueva and Jessica McMorrow; German youth champions Thanh Tran and Zoya Altmark; and theater arts champions David and Natalie Wakefield.
They’ll be whirling, twirling, dipping and flipping to the waltz, fox trot, Charleston, quickstep and jive, as well as the passionate Latin rhythms of the cha-cha, rumba, mambo and more.
Audience members will no doubt be as breathless as the stars afterward.
Tickets are $35 and $30 at the Englert Box Office, 221 E. Washington St., (319) 688-2653 and www.iowatix.com
For more information, go to www.englert.org
For a video preview, go to www.championsofthedance.com Your head will be spinning as fast as their feet.
— Diana Nollen, The Gazette
Burning up the dance floor
Not quite ready to don the dancing shoes yourself? Watch other brave souls take a turn for a good cause at “Dancing for the Stars” Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.
The event benefits the Russell and Ann Gerdin American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Iowa City, which provides non-medical lodging for out-of-town cancer patients and their families who travel to Iowa City for cancer treatment. Organizers hope to raise $40,000.
Based on the TV show, “Dancing with the Stars,” the gala will feature 12 Eastern Iowa celebrities coupled with expert dancers will demonstrate ballroom dancing to the lively music of the Rod Pierson Big Band featuring Craig Boche.
The dancing gala features a reception, dinner, a live auction, dancing and special speakers. Local dancers representing various organizations, educational institutions, government and business include Bruce Aune, Dr. John Buatti, Catherine Champion, Elizabeth Chrischilles, Steven Grace, John Grier, Patricia Heiden, Sharman Hunter, Michael Lensing, Katherine Moyers, Lane Plugge and Joyce Summerwill.
The gala also will feature a reception, dinner, a live auction and featured speakers. Tickets are $100 each or $1,000 for a table of 10.
For more information, go online to www.hopelodgegala.com or call 1 (888) 266-2071, ext. 7104.