Island dancer takes top honors in U.S. senior competition
Most women don’t introduce themselves by age. Leanne Trout is far different, gleefully announcing that she’s 86 years old.
The islander’s reasoning for sharing her age is clear: she’s the recent winner of a ballroom competition for dancers 80 and up. The event in Orlando featured dozens of US competitors in her age range. Other amateurs danced, and the competition ended in evening performances by important professional dancers, as well.
Trout and her partner David Flory danced in 50 round-robin heats in the daylong competition, earning 49 first-place votes by the six judges in the event. Flory is her instructor and training partner. He is a professional who has danced in competition and for fun in places around the world. He teaches at the Sanibel Health Club on Rabbit Road. Trout has been his student for the last year.
Flory was bowled over by his partner’s enthusiasm and stamina after some nine hours of dancing the foxtrot, rumba, cha-cha, waltz and swing, what is more commonly called ballroom in that circle of performance dancing.
“We worked really hard, and it was very satisfying,” Flory said of the year of rehearsals and training that preceded the crowning day in Orlando.
Most of us learn to not pigeonhole others, but Trout doesn’t appear to fit the part of a serious amateur dancer: she is petite and shows some physical characteristics of a woman of advanced age. But on the dancefloor, her years on earth seem to dissolve with the ease of her gliding movements, her strong posture, her floorcraft under Flory’s guidance as an instructor and partner.
And the chemistry necessary for a strong dance partnership is clearly evident in the gestures and smiles and drifting motion of their closely synced stepwork. There is little evidence that Flory at nearly one-third her age is leading Trout around the dancefloor.
As importantly, the duo worked well in floortraffic at the Orlando event, Flory said, as other competitors swirled about before the judges.
“You’re moving like in NASCAR,” Flory said.
A side benefit to being a champion at her 80s, Trout said dancing has important health benefits, strengthening her legs, back and in balance. Flory said she first came to his studio slumped, posture poor and self-esteem issues at play, having only danced the Lindy in her youth in Connecticut. Four lessons a week in the last year produced a tart and confident dancer, one who will invite her family to observe the duo dance in the next month, she said.
Lessons and a dance trophy have also been a blast, she said.
“This is my time of life to have fun,” Trout said. “I’m doing this for me.”