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Put more pride in your stride with ballroom dancing

The more I watched baby boomers Lee and Toni Brasted and Larry Thrift and his wife, Maria Clita, practice the fox trot at an Arthur Murray Dance Studio in west Las Vegas, the more I remembered dancing with my mother in our basement recreation room every night for two weeks.

It was the early 1960s and she was trying, in two-hour sessions, to help me learn some steps for the upcoming ninth-grade prom at Bryant Junior High in Flint, Michigan. She’d put Sinatra’s version of “It Had To Be You” on the record player, and she was trying to get me over my nervousness with corny jokes when she wasn’t showing me where my feet should go.

I remember just one.

Where do butchers dance? At the meatball.

For some reason — probably because it was so stupid — I found that bit of humor uproariously funny. Laughing helped me calm down enough to learn the steps to lead my first date, Leslie Snodgrass, in slow dances.

As I watched the two Las Vegas couples dance the fox trot, Tiffany Higgins, a co-owner of the dance studio at 4440 S. Durango Drive, told me it’s not uncommon for young people today to take lessons at her studio to get ready for a prom.

If your mom or dad or brothers or sisters or friends don’t teach you early in life some partner dances, or ballroom dances, for proms or weddings or graduations, a dance teacher can.

And as proponents of ballroom dancing correctly point out, the activity can be enjoyed at far more than just formal occasions. Movies such as “Saturday Night Fever” in the ’70s, “Dirty Dancing” in the ’80s and the long-running TV hit “Dancing with the Stars”certainly make that point.

Boomers will tell you, too, that spouses can enjoy ballroom dancing, and it’s good for their health.

Sondra Nagelhout, 64, recalls that her husband, Ed, enrolled them in classes with Arthur Murray about three years ago. She says they’ve enjoyed the experience so much — the studio puts on frequent dances and showcases in addition to the lessons — that they continue their relationship with the studio.

“There’s not that many places where you can actually do ballroom dancing in Las Vegas, so we use the dance studio for our dancing outlet,” she says. “Of course, we’ve been able to use what we’ve learned at weddings and company parties, but I often wonder how successful a nightclub in Las Vegas would be that only had that kind of dancing for all ages.”

Nagelhout says it normally isn’t easy for boomers who aren’t working to meet people in Las Vegas.

“But at the studio it’s easy,” she notes. “You meet young and older people while staying in shape.”

Seventy-one-year-old Toni Brasted, who enjoys dances that she says really make her move — cha-cha, rumba, samba and other Latin dances — has been with Arthur Murray for four years.

“If I go to the gym, all I do is sweat,” she says. “Here I can sweat and enjoy it.”

For almost eight years Larry Thrift, 71, and his wife, Maria Clita, 68, have been dancing at the studio.

“Dance lessons were the best Christmas present Larry ever gave me,” Clita says.

When I share with her that my mother gave me my first dance lessons, she recalls how her parents also helped her dance.

“Isn’t it wonderful we can remember having such a fun relationship with parents?” she says.

Yes, Maria, it really is.

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday and Tuesday in Nevada & the West and Monday in Health. Contact him at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

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