Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Waltz or swing, timid students learn to let go

By Shannon Russell
Enquirer staff writer

Instructor Greg Underwood walks students through the steps while teaching swing dancing and waltz at the Park Hills Center. The six-week Get Up and Dance class is presented by Kenton County Community Education.
THOMAS E. WITTE for the Enquirer
PARK HILLS - Nine-year-old Ben McGraw vowed to take his mother Cheryl dancing once he was tall enough.

So last month, when he was a few inches shy of her shoulder, they put their best feet forward. They did the foxtrot, waltz and swing dance in Get Up and Dance, a six-week recreation class presented by Kenton County Community Education at Park Hills Center.

"I had had a dance class before, and once (Ben) was tall enough to dance without getting tangled on the turns, we decided to do it," said Cheryl McGraw, of Erlanger.

That's part of the class's appeal, said instructor Greg Underwood. Some participants yearn to dance at weddings, and some duos - mothers and children, husbands and wives - just want to share a casual, athletic activity.

Underwood, a 22-year dance teacher, introduces classic steps to about 30 Greater Cincinnatians each week. Most people, he said, have never formally learned to dance before walking through the center's doors.

"The hardest thing is getting them here on the first day," Underwood said. "For a lot of people it's not just about learning to dance. It's about having a good time and relaxing. You don't want to make it stressful because everyone's lives are stressful enough."

Underwood aligned male and female dancers in opposing rows at the class's start. He and assistant Barbara Winters demonstrated the foxtrot by calling each step "slow" or "quick."

It's exactly what Fort Wright residents Bob and Joy Kress had hoped for when they enrolled.

Formal dancing was something they'd always talked about and never tried - until they were tired of watching from the sidelines at wedding receptions and festivals.

"They always have music and dancing and it looks like a lot of fun, but when you're sitting on the side and just watching ... it's hard to get up and join," Joy Kress said.

Although more women sign up for Get Up and Dance and a subsequent salsa and meringue dancing class, Underwood said it shouldn't deter potential dancers. There's always someone to dance with, male or female, he said.

Co-workers Pat Cogswell, Donna Krebs and Sharon Williams call their Wednesday classes "girls' night out."

They usually spend free nights together at the theater and dinners, but once Williams brought in a Kenton County Community Education brochure, they decided to learn classic dance steps.

"I like it because it's exercise and it's fun," said Cogswell, of Burlington.

Underwood segued into swing dancing during the hour-long session and demonstrated a spin move called the "sweetheart wrap."

The McGraws broke into laughter as they attempted turns.

Cheryl McGraw said the classes could benefit Ben in the future.

"Once you take dance lessons, it's something you can do your whole life," Underwood said.

The class is closed until Kenton County Community Education posts winter sessions. Information: (859) 261-4499.


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