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Teens learn ballroom dancing
By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
When someone wants to learn how to dance, John Brown is more than willing to help.
"My wife and I enjoy dancing and I have a lot of really good music on records," he said, with songs ranging from the 1930s-era to present.
When several high school students expressed interest in learning how to dance like he and his wife, he had a ready solution.
All they had to do was find 10 couples who would take a class.
Tori Black, a senior at Baker High School, said it was her mom, Becky, who first approached the Browns about dance classes.
"We saw them dancing at a community dance," she said.
That was at a BHS-sponsored benefit dance in October; now this group of 26 high school students has nearly completed three weeks of ballroom dance lessons.
"I was completely surprised that so many showed up, and with so much enthusiasm," John said. "I was just overwhelmed by all these fantastic high school kids."
Black said it was actually easy to generate enough interest for a class.
"Everybody wanted to come. It was a lot harder to get people to come to a dance than dance classes," she said.
The class, led by John and his wife, Marian, is through Crossroads Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. By the end of three weeks, students will have learned the one-step, two-step, waltz, fox trot, and tango.
The young adults have all proven to be quick studies, he said.
"Normally after we get past the waltz, everybody knows what they're doing."
Nike Henshaw, also a senior at BHS, was one of Black's recruits and has really enjoyed the dance classes.
"It's been a lot of fun. I have horrible rhythm, so it's kind of been a struggle, but they're great teachers," she said.
Teaching dance classes isn't new to John; he's been instructing interested dancers for more than 20 years.
The largest group consisted of 15 couples, and he's held classes in the basement of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, upstairs in Basche-Sage Place and at Crossroads.
"Most of the time we've had adults," he said, although a few years ago he had several high school and middle school couples in his classes.
The "couple" part is of paramount importance in ballroom dancing, he said, and partners can be helpful in the learning process.
"Whatever you do, they have to do. You have to learn together," John said.
At the final dance class, John said they have an actual dance, and participants are encouraged to dress up.
"The last session we get together and play a little bit of everything," he said.
John's hopeful that the popularity of ballroom dancing is making a comeback, and hopes these young adults will find chances to use their newfound knowledge.
"I suspect that with the high school jazz band playing from time to time, they'll really go in and dance," he said.
As the popularity for this type of dancing grows, he said more opportunities will become available to practice the skill.
"If more and more people do it, someone will answer the need. I'm just delighted that the kids are taking this up."
He said that if there is enough interest, there will be more ballroom dance classes held after the first of the year.
"It's a lot of fun, it really is," he said.