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OH Magazine | Extra Credit: Ballroom Dance

This duo makes ballroom look easy as they waltz around the Oak Harbor Senior Center dance floor during a lesson earlier this spring. - Cynthia Woolbright/OH Magazine
This duo makes ballroom look easy as they waltz around the Oak Harbor Senior Center dance floor during a lesson earlier this spring.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright/OH Magazine

Even couch potatoes can't avoid America's renewed love for dance as of late. Flip through the channels and you'll see celebrities waltzing. There's dance crews battling and young phenoms out to prove they not only think they can dance — they can make your jaw drop.

Oak Harbor's no stranger to the dance bug. A number of studios around town teach everyone from tots to seniors in the finer points of ballet, jazz and other traditional repertoire.

But if you want to dance like the stars, the moves to master come by the name of foxtrot, waltz, samba, jive, swing, tango and even cha-cha-cha.

"I think we'd forgotten about ballroom for a while," said Kathleen Mack, an Oak Harbor ballroom dance student. "We used to think that it was only for our grandparents' generation, but now everyone's realizing how fun ballroom can be."

Almost every Sunday the dance floor at the Oak Harbor Elks Club is a whirl of life as quarter turns are practiced and foot work is refined. Before stepping on to the hardwood, students lace up or buckle their dance shoes, all the while chatting up that week's events.

"Step, one, two, three! Turn, one, two, three! Great."

This cheerful chatter, happy dancing and colorful scene are all part of ballroom dance lessons offered by Dan Branscum, a dance enthusiast turned enthusiastic instructor.

Branscum himself began dancing a little over two years ago. After a year of attending social dance class in Seattle, he looked into stepping up to ballroom.

"With social dancing you get out there and move your feet and learn basic patterns," he said. "But I decided there was more to dancing than I was getting."

Mack said she likes the fact that ballroom dance is exercise that doesn't seem like exercise.

"I'm not the type to go to the gym and sweat on a treadmill," she said. "But I love to dance."

Right now, Branscum said his dance students, on the average, are in their 40s or 50s. And each new season of Dancing with the Stars brings a new crop of eager "hoofers" looking to cha-cha like the pros.

"I'd like to see more people of all ages come out and join in," Branscum said. "Dance is really for everyone."

Mack and Branscum want to remind people that they don't need a partner to learn — just get out and dance.

"It's loads of fun," Mack said.

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