Dancing 101: How I learned to stop worrying, and love the beat

When I arrived at the Front Street studio of Hattiesburg Ballroom and Beyond on a Thursday evening, donning my dancing shoes and a case of the new student jitters, there wasn’t a single corner for this Baby to hide in. Dirty Dancing references aside, though I’ve had the pleasure of joining the cast of Hattiesburlesque for several years, my official instruction in dancing consists only of the obligatory stint at the local dance studio as a 4-year-old (and even then, I think the costumes were a bigger draw than the dance moves).  Joining the crew of dancers in their third week (classes begin anew every month, each week adding additional techniques), I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up. But Rebecca Chandler, studio owner and an instructor with more than a decade of experience, assured me if I could count, then I could dance, and threw me into the mix.

A varied group of dancers, in both experience and age (we even had one astute pre-teen),  we all hit the dance floor to follow Rebecca’s skillful and laid-back instruction. As we reviewed this month’s dance, a Waltz, leads were separated from partners as we walked through each part of the basic box step.  Then came the moment of truth – my first line up. My dance card for the evening was full, as practicing consists of rotating through partners as you try not to stare at your feet and/or trample your partner’s toes (of which I’m proud to report, I did much more of the former than the latter).

After 50 minutes, during which time I learned about the importance of holding the frame (the arm positioning), following your partner (which, if you know me, was probably the hardest technique to master) and successfully completing a turn without colliding with your dance floor companions. Nervousness shed, I was feeling confident going into my next class, Tuesday night’s Beginners Latin class.

Surprisingly, whether it was because I knew other dancers in the class or was simply riding the high of having a single lesson under my belt, the Latin class, where we were learning the Rumba, was a cinch compared to the more formal waltz. The counting persisted, but the rhythm was more movement-friendly and within 15 minutes, we were all gliding around the room.

With a new schedule each month of classes for beginners and experienced dancers alike, Hattiesburg Ballroom and Beyond also hosts informal Social Dances every other Friday; tell ’em Whitney sent you and enjoy your first one free of charge. A new addition to the May schedule  is a guest-hosted Aerial Fit Lab on May 19. Due to the necessary equipment, space is limited, so sign up early. To see pictures of last month’s class or find out more about upcoming classes, follow HBB on Facebook at Facebook.com/HattiesburgBallroomandBeyond.