New ballroom studio opens in Oak Harbor

Assistant instructor Kathleen Mack partners with an attendee at the studio’s first social dance night, Aug. 30.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Assistant instructor Kathleen Mack partners with an attendee at the studio’s first social dance night, Aug. 30.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

As a dancer and business man, Dan Branscum is usually looking ahead to the next step.

Having established his own company, Dan’s Classic Ballroom, he wasn’t satisfied with his weekly lessons at different fraternal organizations.

He needed his own space.

“What’s lacking on the island is a place to consistently dance,” Branscum said.

This month, Branscum leased a new studio on Pioneer Way next to Island Drug and Ace Hardware. It has an 1,800 square foot dance floor and an adjacent kitchen.

Like Century Ballroom in Seattle, Branscum is opening the floor to weekend social dances. Instructors will offer a pre-dance workshop on different ballroom styles, plug in the Ipod and let people go. The cost is $10 per person.

“It will be a variety of music,” assistant instructor Kathleen Mack said. “And you might have someone doing west coast swing and someone dancing the cha-cha.”

Ballroom dancing has become a household fixation in recent years, from TV reality shows to viral videos. But most people still have the mindset that ballroom means “stuffy,” Branscum said.

“We teach you a style where you’re not struggling to dance with someone,” he said.

Along with the waltz and foxtrot, Branscum’s courses will include a number of Latin dances such as rumba, salsa, cha-cha and tango. The studio is also contracting outside dancers such as children’s instructor Dino Rendon.

Rendon’s “Rhythm of the Arts” program is moving to Branscum’s place and he will offer hip hop, jazz and ballet lessons. They’re also looking for certified instructors to teach yoga, jazzercise, zumba (jazzercise to Latin music), country, line dancing, belly dancing and even martial arts.

“Since we have an empty space we want to use it for all forms of movement,” Branscum said.

The studio will offer 14 different classes and dance partners can be provided. Branscum is certified with the Dance Vision International, headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Before he became an instructor, Branscum retired from the military in 1994 as a Navy chaplain. He also took on a number of odd jobs including banking and freelance writing, but he found his greatest passion in dance.

“It’s a physical sport which exercises the body and mind. It’s also social. I tell people I lost 35 pounds and gained 50 friends,” Branscum said.

Mack also has a unique background as a competitive, artistic roller skater. She won a medal at the USA Roller Sports International Competition and earned 10 regional placements in Portland. Mack began dancing with Branscum to improve her skating.

“Four months after her first class, we entered a dance competition,” Branscum said. They placed first in Fox Trot.

Classes at Dan’s Classic Ballroom began Sept. 1 but the grand opening will be held Sept. 19. The studio is located at 210 SE Pioneer Way No. 3, and courses will be offered four days a week. Social dances will be held every first and third weekend of each month.

There are also lower, introductory rates for new students. And for women, high heels are not required.

“Women watch Dancing with the Stars and they think they have to wear four-inch heels but that’s not true,” Mack said.

For more information, including hours, rates and times visit, or call 969-5005.

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