Thanks to the popularity of “Dancing with the Stars,” more and more people are discovering the age-defying health benefits of ballroom dancing.
“I have no aches and pains,” says Barbara Ritschel, 67, who has been involved with ballroom dancing for more than 20 years. “When you walk into a dance studio, you leave everything outside. The music is on. You visit with people. You have fun. There are no strangers when you walk into a dance studio.”
Dancing Helps Create Social Connections
Ritschel, who lives in upstate New York and works full-time as a mortgage officer, began ballroom dancing 20 years ago when a recently divorced friend asked Ritschel to accompany her to an Arthur Murray dance studio for lessons. She remembers wishing the floor would swallow her that first visit, but within a couple of weeks she realized she’d found her calling.
Just months later, Ritschel was entering professional/amateur competitions, which she did for 10 years. Although she no longer competes, ballroom dance is still her source of exercise and entertainment. The ballroom studio has weekly parties. Her local chapter of USA Dance has monthly dances at different venues in her area. Also, when she travels, she contacts local USA Dance chapters and finds instant friends.
Richard Collett, 64, had his first dance lesson 21 years ago. Then a career Navy man, he found dance after a chance meeting with the woman who would become his wife, Dr. Laurie Collett. Today, they are ballroom champions and own a dance studio, Rhapsody Ballroom, in Florida.
“Our clientele ranges in age,” says Collett. There are teenagers and people in their 80s. “We get people who’ve had knee replacements, hip replacements, open heart surgery and they’re still here dancing.”
“Socially, it’s a great experience,” he continues. “The ballroom dance crowd is very friendly.”
He says in the 19 years they’ve owned the studio, they’ve seen many relationships – romantic and platonic – forged. People who share a love of ballroom dancing enjoy doing other activities together. Also, the health benefits are huge physically – in terms of cardiovascular health and keeping muscles strong – and mentally.
There are weekly parties at Rhapsody Ballroom, and every week new people, including many 65 and up, join in. “People who come to our parties get hooked on ballroom,” says Collett. “They find themselves saying, ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?’ ”
How to Get Involved
Ballroom studios around the country offer group classes as well as private lessons. Most studios have dance parties, usually weekly, which are generally inexpensive and very welcoming to newcomers. You can find most ballroom studios online or in the phonebook – Arthur Murray, Fred Astaire and non-franchise – and if one doesn’t feel like the right fit, try someplace else. USA Dance has chapters all over the country that stage regular events, which begin with a lesson. You may also find classes at local restaurants and bars, community centers as well as parks and recreation departments. In addition to www.USADance.org, sites such as EveryDanceSchool.com and DanceStudioConnect.com may be helpful.