Ballroom boom

  • Fernando Sarmiento, center, dances with Jessica Adams during a practice party, where student dancers can socialize while practicing what they are learning at the Arthur Murray Dance Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., on March 14, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

In partner dancing, it takes two to foxtrot, waltz, rumba, salsa, cha-cha, and tango. And therein lies the charm.

"There's nothing more social than ballroom or swing dancing," said John Ross, director of The Ballroom dance school in Rohnert Park. "You're in somebody else's arms. ... It's intimate, but not so intimate that it scares people away."

The social aspect of ballroom dancing, in a time when people are often plugged into screens, has contributed to its dramatic resurgence in popularity over the past decade, say North Bay dance instructors.

Many also credit "Dancing with the Stars," a TV show that pairs celebrities with professional dancers, for bringing it back into the spotlight.

"When I first started teaching, I told people I was a ballroom dancer, and they didn't know what it was," said Cara Recine, who opened an Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Santa Rosa in January. "Now everyone does."

Ballroom dancing also provides a ready-made community where you can share your passion.

"With ballroom dancing, you make lifelong friends, and you see them every week," Recine said. "People need a sense of belonging."

Then there is the cardio benefit of twirling around the floor or swinging your hips to the fun, upbeat rhythms of bands like Pink Martini.

"People want to exercise, but they don't want to be bored to death on a treadmill," said Helen Andrade, director of Steppin' Out Dance Studios in Petaluma. "They want to do something that is fun and creative."

Although ballroom dancers range from teens to nonagenarians, the average age hovers around 45 or 50.

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