Stage & Dance

Ballroom dancing is a fun workout in dressy clothes

Tom and Nancy Tapp of Winchester, at the monthly ballroom dance at Central Baptist Church, said they dance several times a week.
Tom and Nancy Tapp of Winchester, at the monthly ballroom dance at Central Baptist Church, said they dance several times a week. Mark Ashley

Pop-rocker Pink was getting her party started over the stereo speakers as a dozen or so couples cha-cha-ed their way across a church gym floor.

Steps were precise. Frames were held. Toes were pointed, and time was counted with subtle nods of the head — 1, 2, cha-cha-cha.

Sure, some hips were swiveling, but not in, you know, that way.

"We are a group of people that like to have just good, clean fun," said Linda Baber, a longtime member and president-elect of the Bluegrass Chapter of USA Dance. The non-profit group offers monthly dances, which begin with a 45-minute lesson by a professional. The next one is Saturday.

"There is no liquor," Baber said during the group's August dance. "There is no cigarette smoke. It's just 31/2 hours of dancing."

Ballroom dancing, that is. No booty-shakin' crunk battles for this crowd, thank you very much.

There are snacks of cookies and soda on a table, and tables and chairs nestled near the walls for resting.

On a typical night, the group might go through a 50-song play list. It's likely to include what might be considered the usual suspects — Dean Martin, the Arthur Murray Orchestra, Lawrence Welk, a little Count Basie thrown in for the foxtrot crowd.

But there are some unexpected additions: the aforementioned Pink, Shakira and Lady Gaga. (Gaga's Just Dance is, apparently, just the thing if you like the hustle and the swing.)

Sometimes, Baber said, it is necessary to edit some of the racier lyrics in contemporary songs just to keep the atmosphere what people have come to expect. Tom Tapp and his wife, Nancy, try to dance several times a week.

"It's just wonderful," gushed Nancy. "It's the best form of exercise."

Plus, Tom said, if you are really in the zone, really concentrating on that just-right rumba or hitting the perfect merengue move, the stress of the world falls away. There is no room in your head for worries.

"It is like taking a short holiday," he said.

Monica Stock of Lexington, dressed in a deep-blue dress and seriously high heels, said, "The clothes are much better than the gym."

Janet Raider has been dancing with the group for about 11 years. She was looking to make some friends after getting a divorce. She ended up finding a husband, Jerry.

That, she said with a smile, isn't a guarantee for everyone.

What's the allure? Time together as a couple, doing something they both enjoy. They even go on the occasional dance getaway. The Raiders have a favorite: the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis, where Sunday afternoon dances are held six times a year. (Check it out at Indianaroof.com.)

Pamela and Brad Pabian thought a night of ballroom dancing might be romantic. They celebrated their first anniversary at the August dance. They were dusting off the moves they had practiced for their wedding but were eager to expand their repertoire.

"We are still learning," she said.

Good music, good fun and good times all make people keep coming back, Baber said.

That and, she said, "it's a cheap date."

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