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A time to dance

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:00 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Dana Herra – dherra@shawmedia.)
A room full of aspiring salsa dancers watches as Renee Kopulos and Edwin Gamez demonstrate a turn at the monthly salsa night at The House Cafe.

After a great evening of salsa dancing, Renee Kopulos heard one dancer say, "Wouldn't it be great if everyone knew how to dance?"

It's a long way from "everyone," but dance instructors across the nation have reported a swell of interest over the past decade, which many trace back to the premiere of "Dancing With the Stars" on television. Since that show debuted, dance has remained firmly rooted in the mainstream consciousness through such media as "So You Think You Can Dance," "Glee," even the Oscar-winning "Black Swan."

"We continue to offer dance classes because they are popular," said Lisa March, director of continuing education at Kishwaukee College. The college offers community classes in ballroom dancing, line dancing and belly dancing. "People take them because they're fun and they're a form of exercise and movement."

For people who are bored by bikes and treadmills, or intimidated by weight machines, dancing can be a fun way to forget they're getting exercise. Mike Kloser of DeKalb, who leads line dances every month at the Genoa Veterans Home, said some of the dances he leads are "almost the equivalent of an aerobic workout."

Dancing is also an affordable social outlet. Regular line dance nights in Genoa and swing and salsa nights in DeKalb are $5 each and are geared to dancers at all levels, even those who have never danced before.

"It's fun, it's exciting, it's enjoyment, and everybody has a good time," Kloser said.

John Smith of DeKalb doesn't need to be convinced that dancing is popular. The executive director of Just Make It Happen put on the eighth annual Let's Dance Big Band Weekend last week at the Duke Ellington Ballroom in DeKalb. People fly in from around the country to attend the weekend, he said, which features three Big Band dances with live orchestras. Lessons in ballroom dancing were also offered at $6 a pop.

"We are emphasizing the health benefits of ballroom dancing, where you use all your muscle groups," he said. "This event is for the fun of dancing. If they dance for competition, this is not the place for that."

About 150 to 200 dancers took the floor at each of the weekend's dances, Smith said, and the lessons in waltz, swing, foxtrot and Latin dances averaged about 20 people each.

Barb City Swing Connection began offering regular swing dance nights at The House Cafe in DeKalb several years ago. The evenings include a lesson, and dancers don't have to arrive with a partner. Last year, a salsa-dancing group began offering monthly salsa nights at The House based on the same model.

"I started salsa dancing three years ago after a devastating breakup, and a friend suggested I try salsa nights in Naperville," Kopulos said.

She met her current boyfriend while dancing, and they drove regularly to Aurora, Naperville and Chicago to dance. Since February 2012, the DeKalb couple has danced at the monthly salsa nights at The House, which average 20 to 30 people, she said. While many of the dancers know a few moves, most are beginners, she said.

"For us that makes it nice because people aren't intimidated. People are more willing to put themselves out there and try new things," she said. "People are just so nice and willing to teach new people how to dance."

Local Dance Lessons

• Swing dancing

First and third Tuesdays of most months; next, Aug. 6

The House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb

$5; lesson at 7 p.m., social dancing 8-11 p.m.

• Salsa dancing

Monthly; next, Aug. 15

The House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb

$5; lesson at 8 p.m., social dancing 9-11 p.m.

• Line dancing

7-11:30 p.m. third Friday of each month; next, Aug. 16

Genoa Veterans Home, 311 S. Washington St.

$5; split floor for couple dances and line dances.

• Kishwaukee College

Kishwaukee offers continuing education classes in ballroom, line and belly dancing. The fall schedule of classes will be available after Aug. 27.

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