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In The Swing Dancing Cheek To Cheek Ballroom Dancing Enjoys Small But Dedicated Following, And It’s A Great Way To Meet People

Louise Winn lost her husband two years ago, and decided not to let her grief over his death stop her from living.

She’s learning how to dance.

Winn is taking lessons at a dance club on North Division, and looking pretty good in her moves.

For years, ballroom dancing has occupied a quiet corner of popular culture. Since the twist of the 1960s, touch dancing has been pretty much passe with most people.

But Winn doesn’t care what’s popular. She said she always has loved music and wants to learn the grace and elegance of dancing.

“My husband passed away, and I decided to see if I could stand on my own feet, if I could still move,” Winn said.

“I decided rather than sit and rock I was going to get out and dance. It’s good therapy. It’s good exercise.”

She’s learning all the ballroom steps - the waltz, the cha-cha, four styles of swing, the foxtrot, the tango and even the jitterbug.

When her husband, Homer, was alive, Winn said she went dancing with him often, but like a lot of people, they didn’t really know what they were doing.

“I’m enjoying this much more,” she said of the lessons.

Her dance instructor, Greg Wold, said too few people know how to dance well, and fewer take the time to learn. Still, dancing is something a lot of people probably wish they knew, especially at weddings or special occasions, he said.

“So many people just get up and shake,” said Wold, who owns Lilac City Dance Club, N1619 Division.

Like learning how to ski, dancing starts with basic footwork. Beginners must master those moves before they can step up to turns and spins.

“Once you learn all the rules, you can break all the rules. That’s the fun of it,” Wold said.

He’s been a dance teacher for 20 years. He said he finds women more naturally inclined to dancing. Men, on the other hand, often have trouble getting the rhythm.

“Guys. They’re not as adept at dancing, but they have twice the job,” he said.

Men not only need to learn the steps, they also have to lead their partners gracefully.

“A lot of guys think real men don’t dance. Guys have to be dragged in here either by their wives or girlfriends. Once they get in here they have fun,” Wold said.

Often, dance students are satisfied with even small progress, like learning a romantic waltz or swing step.

Karen Strohmaier of Cheney wanted to look good dancing at her son’s wedding. So she and her date, Russ Curtis, agreed to take lessons together.

“We would at least like to be able to get up and know our right foot from our left foot,” she said.

Judging from their ease in the basic swing, the couple wasn’t going to embarrass themselves in front of their friends and relatives.

Chet Johns, another student from Rockford, said his motive for taking lessons was simple. “I wanted to get out and socialize,” he said.

The cost of learning basic dance steps range from $300 to $500 at the Lilac City Dance Club, one of two businesses in Spokane that advertise ballroom lessons. A couple can get private lessons for about the same amount of money as a single person.

Colleges in the area and Spokane’s recreation department also offer ballroom dance lessons.

For those who are good at dancing, the opportunities to get out and have fun can be somewhat limited, Wold said.

Few lounges have dance floors large enough to accommodate ballroom-style dancing, Wold said.

The tea dances at the Davenport Hotel in the past year have provided at least one new opportunity for dancers. Also, the dance clubs arrange their own events.

Wold said he hopes the fun of touch dancing will return to popularity, and maybe it will. He said it seems like the interest in touch dancing is growing all the time.

“It’s not just a senior citizen activity,” he said.