From free tango lessons in Central Park to fox trot lessons as part of gym class in local schools, ballroom dancing’s popularity has exploded in recent years. This doesn’t surprise Irina Grabowski, owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Mount Prospect and Vernon Hills. "Growing up in Odessa, Ukraine, dancing wasn’t something special. It was a way of life. Even when we lived in Brooklyn, there was a dance studio on every corner."
Fred Astaire offers group classes for kids 5 and up. By 5, kids have a longer attention span, can count, are able to learn left and right and can memorize and retain dance steps.
"There is no such thing as an ‘uncoordinated child’ or someone who can’t dance," insists Grabowski. While some children may pick up the cha-cha more quickly than others, everyone can learn to dance. "There is no limit to how good you can get. Anyone willing to work hard and dedicate themselves can succeed."
Ballroom dancing’s combination of art and sport is a big draw for both children and adults, Grabowski says. Dance is physically demanding and requires a good deal of muscle memory, but it is also artistic in its specific movements and interpretations. Ballroom competitions, in fact, are not limited to television celebrities. Kids as young as 5 are competing in local DanceSport competitions. Children who pursue competitive dancing can expect to travel locally, nationally and even internationally once they enter the highest levels.
"Dancing gives children a better understanding of their own bodies and what that body is capable of doing," Grabowski says. And, best of all, dancing is just plain fun.
Fred Astaire Dance operates studios throughout the Chicagoland area, most of which offer children’s classes. Check out www.fredastaire.com for a studio directory. Or try www.ballroomchicago.com a list of dance studios offering ballroom lessons.