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Ballroom classes: More than 1-2, cha-cha-cha

June 02, 2017

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Lots of people think they can dance. And it’s clear that they also like to watch other people do it. Television shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” have made competitive dancing must-see TV.


But these types of shows are nothing new. From July 1950 to September 1960, “The Arthur Murray Party,” hosted by famous dancers Arthur and Kathryn Murray, aired weekly. The show featured the couple and other instructors teaching their guests how to perform a certain step.

Sound familiar?

Since then, there’s been a long line of dance shows, in all sorts of formats. From teen dance shows like “American Bandstand” to “Soul Train,” to reality shows like “Dance Moms” and “Bring It!” to shows that featured dancers for no apparent reason, like “In Living Color” and “Solid Gold,” America’s love affair with dance has a long and much televised history.

But is that all there is to it? Just a need to either see or be seen?

Certainly not, according to those who enjoy ballroom dance classes right here in Statesboro. There’s so much more to it than 1-2, cha-cha-cha.

Just ask Tony Phillips, who has been teaching ballroom classes for more than 35 years. If you stop by his classes at the Averitt Center for the Arts, you’ll find happy, smiling faces and people truly enjoying themselves.

When the Averitt first opened, Tony said, there were several couples in Statesboro who enjoyed ballroom, and wanted a place to get together and dance. The executive director at the time, Tim Chapman, wanted to add ballroom dance to the offerings at the center, and asked Tony to teach the classes.

He now teaches three classes: two are beginner level and one is an advanced beginner. The classes are held on Wednesday and Thursday nights at the center, and this year there were about 15 couples enrolled. 

Tony begins his classes with three classic dances: the rumba, the fox trot and swing.

“These three go very well together. After we have learned those, I take that same class and as we continue to keep those in our mind, we add to that the cha-cha, the tango and the waltz. That’s the second level of classes,” he said. “Those six dances are the basic ballroom dance classes.”

In a recent class, Tom and Vicky Marshall were dancing alongside their son, Tommy Marshall, and his fianceé, Marissa Leveritt.  The foursome was getting ready to cut a rug at the couple’s May 20th wedding.

“We started after Christmas and thought we’d learn a little bit so we could dance at the wedding,” said Tom. “We love it.”

He said that although they’ve taken lessons before elsewhere, he’s not sure they’ll continue it.

“We’ll just see what happens after that. It’s fun,” he said.

When asked which of them is the better dancer, the couple points to each other, but Tom says it’s definitely Vicky, who laughs and shakes her head.

Tommy and Marissa started coming to the class shortly after they started dating, because Marissa had always wanted to learn how to dance, Tommy said. And on their wedding day, they plan to wow the crowd with what they’ve learned.

“We’re going to start with a slow dance, and then the DJ will ask, ‘Can you rumba?’ and we’ll do that. Then he’ll say, ‘Can you fox trot?’ and we’ll do that,” he said, adding that they’ll demonstrate all the dances they’ve learned.

For Tommy and Marissa, the class has afforded them a mid-week break from the hectic pace of life and wedding planning.

“It’s a time to get together and dance, and then go out to dinner afterwards and talk about our week,” she said.

“It’s kind of like our date night,” Tommy said, adding that it’s also helped them to learn some conflict management skills.

“When I step on her toe, I get to apologize, and it helps our communication skills,” he said, laughing.

Another young lady in the room with a particular sparkler on a particular finger was Madison Phillips, dancing with her fiancé, Garrett Darsey. The couple, who met at Georgia Southern University, also began the class while they were dating, but continued after their engagement in order to brush up on their skills for their November wedding.

Madison is no stranger to the dance floor, having taken classes before. She’s also taken ballroom, and is a natural, Garrett says. It should come easy to her – her dad is Tony Phillips.

For Garrett, it was a bit more of a struggle. But he says that Tony has worked miracles with him.

“When I came in here, I didn’t know which way was left and which was right,” he said, laughing.

As a couple, they agree that the class has brought them closer together.

“And now when we get out on the floor, I actually know what I’m doing,” Garrett said. “When we would get out there before I’d get real frustrated and it was very difficult. So now I feel like we’re a little more in sync.”

Like Tommy and Marissa, they have also planned something special for their wedding day.

“Our song is ‘Dancing in the Moonlight,’ and we’re working with our band on a slow version of it so we can show off some of our dance moves we’ve learned,” said Madison.

Alongside these two couples eagerly awaiting their weddings and their parents were others who may not have been preparing for a wedding, but they were clearly having just as much fun. Everyone in the room was smiling and it seemed no one wanted the class to end.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. Classes run from August to May, and you can sign up anytime.

For more information on ballroom dance classes at the Averitt, go online at , or call (912) 212-2787.



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