As the Bruno Mars hit song “24K Magic” plays in the background, Andy and Alicia Kamin call out dance steps they hope will keep local teens on their toes — literally and otherwise.
The Santa Rosa couple run Santa Rosa Teen Dance, a monthly gathering for young dancers, including those who don’t know the first thing about dancing and can’t tell the twist from twerking.
“That’s key. They don’t have to know how to dance to come to these dances,” said Alicia Kamin.
The gatherings are informal, with kids in jeans, T-shirts and tennis shoes as welcome as those who prefer dancing in a dress or suit and tie. The emphasis is an affordable night out for teens, unplugged and away from video games, computer screens and social media.
The Kamins reserve the spacious Lodge Room at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, charging dancers a $5 admission fee to help with expenses. They’ve been breaking even since introducing the dances six months ago.
The pair are seasoned dancers with a special love of West Coast swing, a contemporary partner dance that’s fun in a variety of tempos. They offer a 45-minute lesson at the start of each dance.
“It can be fast, it can be slow and it can be done to lots of different music,” said Alicia Kamin, 49. “It’s mostly contemporary (music) so it appeals to teens.”
She and her husband patiently demonstrate steps, counting out the beat, “one, two, three and four, five and six,” as a couple dozen youths follow their lead, smiling and laughing as they glide along the dance floor.
It’s not the easiest dance to learn, but with a few lessons to master basic steps, teens have enough foundation to enjoy the fun of West Coast swing.
“I am so addicted to it,” said Andy Kamin, 56. “Moving your body to music is timeless.”
The semi-retired couple, with two accomplished teen dancers of their own, started Santa Rosa Teen Dance to share their love of dancing and offer kids a fun, affordable and engaging night out.
Their 17-year-old daughter, Caroline, is in the Art Quest dance program at Santa Rosa High School, and their 19-year-old son Austin, a freshman at Whitman College in Washington, also has been dancing for years.
Austin was a freshman at Summerfield Waldorf School in Santa Rosa when he mentioned to his parents that a physics teacher was teaching a West Coast swing class at school. The teacher was a good sport, but with minimal experience in the dance form.
The Kamins stepped up to help out, discovering that even kids with little interest in dance were having fun, some of them signing up for additional lessons through a local dance studio.
“We kind of saw this enthusiasm among kids who are dancing,” said Alicia Kamin.
She and her husband could find few opportunities for social dancing for middle school and high school kids around Santa Rosa, despite the abundance of dance options for adults.
Their first five dances, held the third Saturday of the month, have averaged about 40 teens, with room and enthusiasm for many more. The Kamins know several West Coast swing instructors among “the best of the best” who occasionally help with lessons.