Hit the timber with a nimble dance step

By: Megan Sanders Journal Correspondent
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If you are interested in learning to ballroom dance, you may want to join the DeWitt Social Dancers. Members say the dance program provides a social atmosphere and exercise. “It’s a good place to meet new friends and get exercise,” dance coordinator Jim Hulin said. Hulin and his wife Evelyn coordinate the weekly dance lessons and the monthly tea dance. Each month is a different dance and July’s dance was the Night Club Two Step. The group votes by ballot on which dance they would like to do. The dances with the most votes get put on the schedule for the upcoming months. “It’s a place where ballroom is taught and expressed,” Hulin said. Hulin said there is more of a mixture of age at the Tuesday night lessons. On average there are about 15 to 20 people and the lessons are open to all ages, not just seniors. “It really has a family feeling and a lot of camaraderie,” Hulin said. Susan Shard, who assists in instructing, said they do get all ages coming. Usually they have an equal number of men and women, but every now and then the women outnumber the men. This is when Shard steps in and assists in the instructing. The dance instructors are Pam Rivera and Roger Zabkie from Citrus Heights. Rivera has been dancing for 40 years and Zabkie has been dancing for 15 years and they have taught the Social Dancers for six years. Rivera said participants are in the 40 to 80 age range, but sometimes they get some younger people coming in as well. “Seniors know how to party,” Rivera said. Zabkie said that the seniors are very interested in learning the style aspects of the dances to make sure they get it right. “Ladies want to know what to do with their arms when not in hold,” Rivera said. “Gentlemen want to know what to do as well.” She also said the social dancers have a great learning curve, which allows people to come to class whenever they want. “Dancing is walking with style,” Zabkie said. Some of the participants have prior experience with partner dancing, but others do not. All partner dancing is in the lead-follow style, where the men lead and the women follow. Rivera and Zabkie break the group into leaders and followers so that each can learn their steps. Teri Harrison has been dancing with the Social Dancers for a year, but started with swing dancing two years ago. “The challenging part is learning to follow,” Harrison said. “Partner dancing is new.” Harrison also said that she will try any dance. “I love to move to the music,” Harrison said. Many people get involved in the dancing for not only the social aspects but for the exercise benefits as well. Patti Anayi has been dancing for 10 years with her husband George and became interested in dance after he had his heart surgery. She said that they wanted him to get exercise but he did not like working out on the treadmill, and dancing became a better alternative. Jim Hulin agrees. “It keeps mind active, and the body active,” Hulin said. He also said that you have to concentrate on what you’re doing and think about what is going on. Zabkie said that it also helps with body coordination and control and requires balance. He also pointed out that it has an excitement and sociability factor as well. The Anayis live in Citrus Heights and travel around to many different dance places. “It’s fun for the variety and you get to meet different people,” Anayi said. Music for the lessons comes from Zabkie’s Ipod. They make specialized playlists for each dance and play through them throughout the lesson. The songs in the playlist have a beat that is key to the dance. “You will hear that same beat over and over in every song,” Shard said. On the second Sunday of every month there is a tea dance which features live music by Wally and Rich who play keyboard and saxophone. “They are quite colorful characters and are popular with the people.” Hulin said. Hulin said they called it a tea dance because that was the time that tea was traditionally served. The next tea dance is from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 9 and is a salute to country music. Hulin said that there will be a 2:30 p.m. practice session before the dance where he and his wife will go over line dancing and the Texas Two Step. He said they want to recognize the good times that you can have with the country people since they do not usually teach Country Western dancing. “It is a safe place to meet people and to dance with them,” Hulin said. Megan Sanders can be reached at megans@goldcountrymedia. com or comment at Auburn -------------------------- social and tea dancing lowdown Who: Social Dancers What: Ballroom dancing When: Tuesdays 6 to 9 p.m. Where: DeWitt Center Building 313A Cost: $5 for 6 to 7:30 p.m. session and $1 for the 7:30 to 9 p.m. session. What: Tea Dance Date: Second Sunday of every month Time: 3 to 5:30 p.m. Where: DeWitt Center Multipurpose Room Cost: $6 Information: Visit