Never too late to learn ballroom dancing
The art of ballroom dancing is an ageless activity, one which has been around for centuries and it is something which can be picked up at any stage of life, as Sanibel’s LeAnne Trout has proven.
Ballroom dancing was not in any part of Trout’s life prior to her turning 85 years old. But now, as an 87-year-old Sanibel resident, dancing is an integral part of her life, which provides her exercise, companionship and a strong sense of self-confidence.
Trout decided to walk through the Island Ballroom’s doors almost three years ago, when she decided she wanted something else to do besides walking on the beach.
It was a decision which changed her life.
“I thought I’d like to learn how to dance,” said Trout, who is a widow. “I love the music and never learned how to dance properly. My husband and I would shuffle around, but I wanted to learn how to dance.”
When Trout heard there was a ballroom dance studio opening on the island, she immediately took advantage of the opportunity.
That’s when she met Island Ballroom owner and instructor David Flory, who opened the studio after being the top male instructor at Fred Astaire in Fort Myers for seven years.
“When LeAnne first came in, she had neck issues and had seen a lot of specialists for it,” Flory said. “In the beginning, instructing her to hold her posture took some time.”
Flory’s technique was to wear a button-up shirt and start with Trout to focus on one of the lower buttons on the shirt. As each lesson went on, he would have Trout look at the next button up.
“Soon, she was able to look straight up at me,” Flory said. “Now, when she walks into a room, everyone knows she is there, because her posture has improved so dramatically.”
But posture and agility wasn’t the only benefits ballroom dancing gave to Trout. As each lesson progressed, and Trout started to learn the steps and her glide kept improving.
That in turn, increased her confidence in dancing in front of people.
“I used to be frightened when someone would walk in the room during a lesson,” Trout said. “Now, I can’t wait to get there and start my lesson.”
Trout’s confidence blossomed so much, that she and Flory has competed in six competitions, winning each and every one of them.
“Practice and repetition is what is key,” Flory said of teaching dancing. “When LeAnne started, she was starting to build up her strength and took one 50-minute lesson a week. Now, we dance three times a week.”
Building endurance also has been a benefit for Trout, who danced in 70 minute-and-a-half sessions in one day in the competition in New Orleans a few months ago.
Trout is attracted to dancing because of all the benefits like great exercise, the music and confidence building, but she also loves the fact it’s an excellent form of expression.
Her favorite dance is the Tango and it’s the best one she can express herself in.
“You have a chance to express yourself more and you get to add a little pizazz to it,” Trout said of the Tango. “It’s a dreamy, wonderful little dance.”
Overall, learning the four different dance steps is the basic foundation of learning dance.
“I teach the basic elements to beginners and that’s the walking, side, rock and triple steps,” Flory said. “Those are the four elements you need to know. Then you take all of those and piece them together and put them in different formats, which makes up the different dances.”
There are 13 difference ballroom dances and all of them work off those four basic elements.
“Yes, there are 13 dances, but there are really only two styles – Ballroom and Latin,” Flory said. “Ballroom has your waltzes, tangos and foxtrots, while Latin or Rhythm dances like Cha-Cha and salsa are faster and let’s you shake your hips a little more.”
Flory said one key component to learning Ballroom dance when starting off, is to schedule lessons closer together, just for the fact of retention.
“Also one thing in dance, is to focus on leading and following,” Flory said. “That’s what takes practice. You don’t have to necessarily have to remember the steps, you just need to learn how to follow and respond to movement.
“Dancing is when two people come together and move as one.”
Dance also has provide Trout with the outlet of forgetting the day’s pressures and the chance to let everything float away with each step taken on the dance floor.
“When that music starts and we get into position to dance, all the tension I walked in with, just goes away,” Trout said.
“It’s 50 minutes of freedom,” Flory included. “It allows people to focus out all the stress.”
Flory estimated for beginners to become comfortable and confident dancers, they usually take anywhere from 10 to 20 lessons. But practice always makes perfect, so any opportunity to keep the steps a-flowing, do it.
“To maintain it, use it and practice it,” Flory said.
Trout said she dances all the time around the house and keeps “her happy feet moving.”
Island Ballroom is for both beginners and seasoned dancers. Lessons are taught by appointment, with both singles and couples acceptable. To book a complimentary lesson, call 239-425-7389 or visit the website at islandballroom.com.