At center, instructor Jim Trombley demonstrates a step with partner Beka Smith while dancers watch during a recent lesson given at Twin Cities Dance Club. The club teaches various styles of country dancing and holds dances every other Saturday.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
As the days darken and the temperature drops, the urge to snuggle up on the couch for the winter is a typical one. But typical and beneficial aren’t always the same thing.
For those willing to resist the temptation of a fuzzy blanket and glowing TV set, a rewarding activity awaits one that will keep you warmer than a fleece throw, includes better exercise than reaching for the remote and offers more socialization than the most engaging reality show.
But I don’t know how to dance, you say. Or even if you do, you don’t want to hang out in a bar.
No problem, according to Joe Soares, one of the instructors and board members of Twin Cities Dance Club at the corner of Beaver Loop Road and the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai.
The newly formed organization caters to all levels of dancing ability from two left feet to Arthur Murray aficionado.
“Whether you’ve never stepped on a dance floor before or you’ve danced on the main stages of the world, you’re welcome,” Soares said.
The club focuses on country dancing, including line dancing, the two-step, waltzes, shuffles and swing. Three nights a week instructors offer lessons couple dances and line dancing Tuesdays from 7 to 9, couple dances Thursdays from 7 to 9 and swing dancing Sundays from 4:30 to 6.
Soares used to teach country dancing years ago on the central Kenai Peninsula, but stopped after his students got frustrated with the lack of places to use their new skills. It used to be the only regular outlet for dancing was bars, Soares said, and that doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Trombley laughs with Kitty Galley, who took dancing classes with Trombley when he taught them years ago.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
“A lot of people didn’t like the bar scene,” he said. “They didn’t like the smoke, didn’t like putting up with the drunks.”
For years Soares wanted to start an organization that not only taught people how to country dance but gave them a chance to use and improve the moves they learned in a friendly, smoke- and alcohol-free environment. After three years of planning and networking, Soares’ idea coalesced into Twin Cities Dance Club with lessons three times a week and dances every other Saturday that often include live music.
The group started in September and already has had good turnouts, with the first dance drawing around 45 people, Soares said.
“The response has been great,” he said. “... When everybody goes home each night they thank us, they’re happy they came out, they had fun. That’s what it’s all about.”
Soares said he and the other instructors try to create a relaxed environment where the focus is on fun and not flubbed steps.
“I’ve been in their shoes,” Soares said of new dancers.
He started country dancing 20 years ago in Anchorage and was skeptical at first but quickly won over.
“I had never country danced,” he said. “I went against my will. I was dragged by a friend, and I never quit because it’s a lot of fun and exercise. I was slim and trim back in those days.”
On a recent Thursday night, dancers were becoming converts to the fun Soares discovered 20 years ago.
Galley helps Trombley demonstrate a move to Doug Nightingale. All experience levels are welcome at Twin Cities Dance, say Joe Soares, one of the instructors.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
Jim Trombley was the instructor, guiding dancers through steps he explained with easy-to-understand descriptions such as the “ooh-la” shoulder twist and a move where the men reach back and “check their wallets.”
A big bear of a man, Trombley looked like he’d be more at home as a bouncer than a dance instructor leading turns across a Christmas light-festooned portable dance floor. But being noticeable is a good thing when you’re tasked with demonstrating footwork and arm positions.
Kelly Crane of Sterling said he liked the instructors and the atmosphere.
“It’s nice and clean,” he said. “There’s no smoking or drinking. The music isn’t too loud. You can listen to whatever. It’s comfortable.”
Crane’s dance partner that night, Sally Mudder, also of Sterling, said she likes the social aspect of the club.
“It’s fun. It’s something to do in the winter and you get to know more people,” she said.
Lynn Parish said she was hoping to find a place to dance after moving to Soldotna from Florida.
“I was desperate to find a dance group to get affiliated with,” she said. “I was just thrilled that there was somebody doing country dance. The nice thing about county dance is everybody is very friendly.”
Soares said lessons and Saturday dances have brought a mix of people, from teens (they prefer 13 and up) to adults and beginners to people who used to take classes from he and Trombley years ago.
Trombley pointed to Kitty Galley of Soldotna, saying she’s always been one of his regular dancers.
“I just came out for the fun,” Galley said. “I learn something new all the time. I learn things I forgot.”
About the only people missing are more men to take the ladies for a spin around the floor.
“We’d like to have more guys show up,” Soares said. “I don’t know if I should offer a challenge to the men in Kenai or what. It seems like they might be afraid to grab a woman on the dance floor.”
Soares stressed that partners aren’t necessary and everyone is welcome to come.
Ozzie Osborne, from left, Lynn Parish, Kelly Crane and Sally Mudder work on a couples dance a recent Thursday at Twin Cities Dance Club in Kenai.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
Though Twin Cities Dance is a club, membership isn’t required to participate, al-though it does save money. Soares also mentioned the building is available to rent for other organizations.
Admission for Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday lessons per person is $3 for members and $5 for nonmembers. Admission for Saturday dances is $4 for a single member and $7 per member couple. Admission to dances for nonmembers is $8 per person. A season membership can be purchased in November for $35 and is good until the last dance of the season in April. Membership decreases in price by $5 each month, so the cost in December would be $30, and so on.
The next dances will be Dec. 3 and 31.
“It’s cheaper than about anything else you can do,” Soares said. “Where else can you go for $3 and have fun for two hours and have somebody teach you a couple dances?”
Soares hopes people will keep the club in mind the next time they’re sitting on the couch and think, “We should get up and do something to get a little exercise, have a little fun.
“This is it.”
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