Cheryl Rudnicke on Routines

Ballroom Does Your Heart Good

Since 2005, Ballroom dance has been our favorite avenue for feeling better about ourselves and the people around us. Not only does it provide a way to improve how we feel physically, Ballroom dance can increase our emotional, intellectual, and social well-being as well and is simply the best exercise for our whole being, not just our body.

Many Ballroom dancers get started because they want to see the physical benefits. Our favorite recreation is one of the best overall forms of low impact/high aerobic workouts available. Ballroom dancing can raise the heart rate to the equivalent of any strength training or aerobic program. Dancing in a lesson or at a party will build not only your heart’s strength, but its endurance, too. Intermediate to advanced levels of technique provides the perfect blend of isometric and isotonic resistance, the two key ingredients to muscle building and toning, which is perfect for building beautiful tone in the muscles without building a lot of muscle mass.

We begin losing our ankle movement in our twenties, and our other joints can begin to stiffen if not used regularly, and can make us feel older than our age. According to the American Journal of Medicine, the best way to avoid arthritis and to remedy current joint discomfort is to continue to use the joints in a controlled manner. The waltz, with its slow rise and fall, demonstrates this beautifully. In addition, improved posture places the puts all your organs in alignment, which is now thought by many medical professionals to fight sickness, disease, fatigue and more. Both the movement and the posture of ballroom increase respiration, and the increased oxygen helps your heart work easier. You look better and feel better with better posture.

And while our body seems to take the brunt of the inactivity and bad habits that develop over time, the effects on our mind and spirit can be even more detrimental. Frequent ballroom dancing also makes you smarter. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that partner dancing could reduce the risk of dementia by 76%…more than even doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week. Dancing with a partner requires “split-second, rapid-fire decision-making” and integrates several brain functions at once, keeping your mind, as well as your body, young.

The human spirit requires nourishment just our body does. Connection and human touch is food for the soul, and partner dance offers a non-threatening way to make contact with our fellow humans in our increasingly isolated lives without the need for intimacy.  Ballroom is the best integrated activity for your body, mind, and spirit. Come dance with us.



Ballroom Dance: The Heart of the Matter

The way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach, but the way to a woman’s is through the dance floor.  Nothing says romance like sweeping a woman into your arms or for a woman to feel like a princess with her knight protector on the dance floor.

Ballroom dancing has swirled in and out of the public eye for generations, but it has always been a part of our cultural imagination. Movies and television have recognized this appeal and romance and has brought ballroom dancing back into our awareness, leaving viewers wishing they could dance like that and wondering if they, too, could actually learn.

Couples and singles alike are taking a deep breath and stepping onto the dance floor in spite of their trepidation and realizing, as so many have before them, the benefits and joys of ballroom dance.  While nobody is born knowing how to partner dance, at the National Dance Clubs, we believe anyone can learn, and once you try, you, too, will begin to appreciate the ways ballroom dancing can touch your life; ballroom dance is not a passing fad; it is a way of life.

Ballroom dance is a proven heart-healthy way to get in shape, not only because it is a great aerobic workout and because it tones those large muscle groups, but because dancing is such a fun way to exercise that you are not only willing but wanting to do it more often and, indeed, to continue throughout a lifetime.

The heart of ballroom dance, however, is social: connection, interaction, and communication.  Attending a dance is a wonderful way to meet people, spend an evening away from the stresses of your everyday life, and escape into the adventure of becoming Cinderella or James Bond.

Oddly, this very desire and expectation can hold people back from trying to dance.  What keeps many people off the dance floor is the fear that they lack the natural talent to learn to dance—the worry that they simply have an inoperable case of two left feet.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  If this were true of other activities, there would be no bunny hills, no wading pools, no putting greens.

So, take heart; nobody‚ not even the most gifted natural dancer, could fulfill the fantasy of dance the first time they step on the dance floor, nor the second or third time.  As with any skill, partner dancing is learned, and with desire, discipline, and a well-trained and enthusiastic instructor, anyone can learn to dance.

In looking for a place to take lessons, remember, as in anything, you get what you pay for.  You want a reputable establishment with longevity in the community, an enthusiastic commitment to service, with lesson guides to mark your process, and plenty of opportunity to practice and use your dancing.

Remember, learning to dance is not just about getting lessons to learn steps; it is about the whole experience.  It’s not just about mastering a pattern; it’s about the complete package: dancing in a room of dancers to a live band and sharing the experience.  Ballroom dancing is also about the joy, the confidence, and the poise you find on the dance floor that you take back to your home and work.  It’s about becoming the person you dream of being and waltzing into a new way of thinking about yourself and the people around you.

attention, affection, appreciation

Tuning In and Reaching Out: Sharing the Gifts of Dance

One of the things that we want to accomplish through ballroom dance is to go beyond the personal need to feel seen, heard, and valued to eventually see, hear, and value others. Partner dancing can take us from worrying less about what others think of us to worrying more about what others think of themselves, and ultimately, ballroom dancing can help us become more confident with and more caring toward others.   If we only teach people to dance and give them the confidence to move outside their own comfort zone step by step and we do not give them the encouragement and the tools to help change the lives of those around them, we have not shared with them the most wonderful gifts of social dance.

IMG_2054Our number one job is to get guests because our goal is to spread the benefits of the movement, the cooperation, and the recognition people get from dance to as many people as possible. By showing our students how to better see and to reach out to other people—family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike—we are improving our students’ confidence in themselves. We are helping them to see the potential of the people around them and to reach out to make a difference in another person’s day, if not their life.

Today, through social media, we can feel  we are much more connected to others than we were in the past. We reach out into the ether and can get a like or a comment that makes us feel as though people see and know us. The irony is that social media can separate us as much as it can bring us together. We often focus on the best, most impressive images, events, and people in our IMG_2182lives in an attempt to craft our online identity. How happy, fulfilled, and busy we seem online may not align with how we really feel.  We think this profile helps others know us better, but in actuality, the artifice of the portrayal puts more distance between us. This pretty fiction we present to our friends and followers gives us the illusion that people really understand and appreciate us. While they see what we post, they rarely understand where we really are. This disparity between what we perceive and what is really going on reminds me of a poem I read in college by Stevie Smith:

Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

When we don’t take the time to really tune in or to really listen to people, we can get the impression everything is fine, while in reality, most people live lives of “quiet desperation.”  We are all drowning a little.  We are all fighting our own battles.  When someone takes the time to focus on us for a time can mean the world to us.  So we owe it to ourselves and other to reach out and connect with others.  Even people that seem to people are shut uphave it all together from a distance could use a smile, a kind word, and, yes, a little more dance in their lives.  Ballroom dancing brings us close enough together to really see more of each other. We, literally, get back in touch with each other.

So remember, the next time someone says they are “fine” or the next time you reach out a hand in invitation and are rejected, they may not be open with you because they may be afraid you are simply being polite or cautious of revealing their vulnerability. We owe it to ourselves and to others to be persistent in our attempts to get to know each other better and to encourage each other to take steps to try new things and meet new people. For only through our connecting with other people can we become more than who we are and join the dance of life. IMG_9062.jpg

How Ballroom Dance Can Help You Become More YOU

What we really do through partner dance is help people become more themselves. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we long to step out of our supporting role in other people’s lives and become the hero of our own story, to step out of the colorless, ordinary day-to-day life to one of Technicolor and magic, filled with unlimited possibilities, to become “larger than life”.

IMG_1994 (1).jpgBut most of us, as Caroline McHugh says in her TED talk on The Art of Being Yourself, “do not take up nearly the space the universe intended for us; we take up this wee space around our toes. Which is why when we see someone in the full flow of their humanity, …they are at least a foot bigger in every direction than normal human beings. And they shine, they gleam, they glow. It’s like they’ve swallowed the moon.” 

Lawrence Elkin, founder of National Dance Clubs used to talk of the “presence” of a ballroom dancer: the confidence and power of someone who has faced the fear of what people might think, to become more of who they would like to be and who they can be, and to transform through the power of partnership dance into a person more confident in their own skin and able to inhabit more fully their own space.

We see people that come into the ballroom for the first time trying physically to take up less space, to shrink into themselves so as to become almost invisible:  their head sinks down into their body like a turtle’s as their shoulders rise up to their ears, their arms pull in close as though the are afraid of bumping into people and things around them.  They are afraid to be noticed because they are afraid of being judged and found wanting.  We hear nervous laughter and self-deprecating comments about themselves or their partner to shield themselves from what others might say or think; they apologize all the time.  We see people who cultivate an image and wardrobe designed to be shapeless and unremarkable.  And we love these people.

We love them because we know they are ready to become more themselves in spite of their fears;  we see where they are and can imagine where they will be as they journey down their path of self-discovery, and we love to see the transformation in the way they carry themselves, the way the think of themselves, and the way they present themselves.  They begin to shine,  to gleam, to glow.  Their whole life becomes a dance.  Not only are they able to become more gloriously themselves, they are able to give and take with those around them in partnership and encouragement.IMG_1882.jpg

The saying in the dance business is that the hardest step in learning to dance is the one through the front door.  Crossing the threshold takes great courage because it is not just a physical doorway, but a spiritual one: the transition between who you think you are and who you wish you could be.  Caroline McHugh calls this an “Interval of Possibility”.  These are challenging times,  and most people “would rather sleepwalk until something happens to wake us up.”  People settle into their comfort zones at home, at work, in their relationships and often are moved only through dramatic events to any kind of change.  We can live our whole lives on autopilot if we are not careful.  McHugh says, “The problem is when it happens catastrophically, you are vulnerable; you are weak. And my question is, why wouldn’t you ask yourself [who you really are] when you are strong? From a position of health?” 

So many people when they entertain the notion of coming in for a dance lesson put it off for another day.  They wait till their relationship is in trouble, till they have drifted apart or feel unappreciated or unheard.  They wait till they have lost their spouse.  They wait until they realize they must exercise or face greater health costs.  They wait for the perfect time, which is actually right now at this “interval of possibility,” not some undefined time in the future when catastrophe forces us to change.  At these times, “when you sense your potential for change is heightened…You know if you make that change the speed of your life will change,” and that scares people.  You reach that moment when you are at a crossroads of the choice to remain the same or to become more, become better, and as McHugh says, our job is to be better and better each year, not to relive the same year over and over.

Ballroom dance, with its fabulous costumes, the expressiveness of the movements and music, and its collaborative creativity with your partner is a perfect way to explore who you are with color, music, and movement.  Ballroom dance expands your heart, your mind, and your spirit, making you seem “larger than life” to those around you because you feel more confident in being more authentically you.  Ballroom dance connects you with your partner and your audience.  It can give you the courage to continue to grow and shine and gleam in all aspects of your life, and “Not only will the speed of your life get quicker, not only will the substance of you life get richer, but you will never feel superfluous again.”

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Rhinestones and Ballgowns: Nashville Sparkles this Weekend with Music City Invitational

National Dance Clubs is having our most spectacular Nashville competition this month; Music City Invitational.  For over 20 years, local premiere dance studio, the National Dance Clubs has organized one of the most electrifying ballroom dance competitions in the mid south, Music City Invitational.  This year, the National Dance Council of America sanctioned Music City Invitational returns to the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Nashville March 23-26, for the first year organized by James and Nancy McCaskill, and promises to be one of the biggest ever with over 14 studios from across the nation, 59 amateur competitors, more than 40 professional couples, over 4500 entries and up to $25,000 in prizes, awards, and scholarships.

The excitement begins with registration for package holders on Thursday evening.  Friday, the pageantry and energy of pro/am competition begins bright and early at 8:30 with International Standard freestyles and Multi-dances followed by American Smooth in the afternoon.  Students and professionals don their dazzling ballgowns and swirl the dance floor with color and sparkle.  The Friday afternoon session culminates in the fabulous show of student solos and spectaculars. This is a great opportunity to show off the work that they have done developing their showcase numbers from this fall and show the progress they have made over the months.  Spectators cheer them on as they show case their fabulous routines.

Friday night, the fabulous up-and-coming band The Henningsen’s will be performing LIVE for our listening and dancing pleasure and a silent auction will provide some wonderful items; the  proceeds  will be donated to the United Way and the children’s gift fund benefiting two 5-year-old boys that lost their fathers last year. Students from all of the participating area studios are invited to come dance the evening away and enjoy the opportunity to get out and use their dancing skills outside of the studio, to meet fellow-dancers from all over the country, and to see the wonderful ballgowns and other dance-related wares.

Saturday dawns with the energy of International Latin and American Rhythm freestyles.  The energy will rock the hotel as the latin beat throbs and the crowds roar.  Saturday evening will dazzle with the professional competitions, one of the most anticipated part of the weekend.  And it is not yet over.  After the rousing professional competition, one of the world’s top professional Ballroom Latin American couples will be performing, the amazing Andre & Natalie Paramonov, one of the world’s top professional Ballroom Latin American couples.  If you are not competing, you don’t want to miss this spectacular event.

Why Guests Are So Important

The 2 Biggest Reasons We Ask So Often for Guests

You may wonder why your teacher asks so often to bring a guest.  You may ponder why we make so many announcements about guest night.  You may think it is nice if you can find someone, but you may not know why it is so essential to who we are and what we do at the National Dance Clubs that you bring new students.

Tipping Point

Studies show only 16% of people will try something new on their own.  The Law of Diffusion explains the majority of people will not even try something unless someone else has tried it first.

No matter how good the advertising campaigns, only a few people will reach out to us and schedule a lesson on their own.  These Innovators and Early Adopters want to learn to dance because of what it says about them: they are cool, adventurous, and cutting edge.  They are usually more confident and extroverted.

Reaching Out

Most of us, however, are more introverted and fall into the 68% that are reticent to even try a dance lesson without the encouragement of someone who has taken one.

We worry about making a bad decision.  We would like to know how to dance, but are nervous about learning.  What will people think?  Is it silly to want to learn to ballroom dance?

We worry about whether we could learn to dance.  Do you need talent or previous training?  Am I too out of shape?  Too uncoordinated?  We probably have no rhythm or two left feet.

We worry about fitting in.  Everyone else at the studio is probably going to be so much younger, more attractive, more popular.

When we learn to ballroom dance, we not only learn the steps to make us a better dancer, performer, and partner, we learn acceptance.  We become more confident in our selves, our abilities, our connection with others.  We learn to step outside our fears and concerns and into our potential.

Through partnership dance, we can better see the beauty and possibility in others as well.  And the best way to demonstrate our growing compassion is to share the gift of dance with others.

Realizing that this amazing journey of companionship and creativity through ballroom dance takes an advocate for the majority of people to take that first step gives us a better understanding of the importance of bringing a guest to the studio.  Yes, bringing a guest will help your teacher and your studio be more successful.  But more importantly, you will help someone who longs for change, who craves more connection, or who desires more magic in their lives.

Bringing a guest is nothing short of heroic.  Your teacher greatly appreciate the testament of your faith in them.  But in heeding your own call to adventure, in taking your first lesson and crossing the threshold of ballroom dance and into a new chapter in your own life, your inspiration and encouragement for others can be life-changing for those with whom you share your story.






Why Guests Getters Are the Best!

Ready and 4, 5, 6 Reasons to Share Ballroom Dance

Dance teachers simply LOVE guest getters.  Bringing someone new to experience ballroom is truly a wonderful thing.  Here are the top six reasons to share the gift of dance:

  1. Dance more!  When you bring a qualified guest that takes a private lesson, you often get referral privileges that help you dance more, whether in the form of free dance lessons or more dances at the activities.  You also have more people to dance with at the activities!
  2.  Showcase what you have learned Bringing a guest to a newcomer night allows you not only to show off what you have learned to the newcomers, which feels great and gives the new students an idea of what they can do if they continue. You also can see for yourself how far you have come from your first time in when you come with your guests and dance with a group of newcomers.
  3. Energize the activities  One of the great things about dancing is that it is a social activity.  When people bring newcomers to dance, everyone gets to meet more people in a group and on a one-on-one situation at parties and in dancing.  The more dancers we have at a party, the more energy, the more laughter, the more variation, and the more fun!
  4.  Expand your friendshipsIntroducing people to dance is a great way to create new and interesting memories with your friends as well as help you cultivate new relationships.  Once we reach the age when our we and people we know may be moving, focusing on careers and families, making and maintaining friendships becomes more challenging.  Getting to know people and working on friendships, like any skill, requires time and attention.  The activities through dancing provides the opportunity to see people on a regular basis and participate in a shared interest and goals.
  5. Help your teacher Dance teachers love what they do, and the greatest compliment you can give your teacher is to bring a guest.  Whether they are someone you know or a complete stranger that you met at the store or doctor’s office, you give your teacher the opportunity not only to do more of what they love, but to continue to make a living and a life doing it.  Your teacher helps you realize your potential and your dreams through dance.  They are your cheerleader and mentor on your quest to create a more amazing you, and the best way to show your appreciation is to bring them a potential new student.
  6. Make a difference Zig Ziglar said in our lives, we move from survival, to sustainability, to success, to significance.  Having a positive impact on the lives of others is one of the most important things we can do in our lives.  When you bring someone in to dance, you help your teacher to continue to teach and change lives, you help your studio and fellow students by increasing the number of participants in dance parties, and most importantly, you help people connect and transform in beautiful ways.  Ballroom dance helps us see others in a more generous and encouraging way, share joy and have more fun out of life, and to realize more of our potential in all aspects of our life through the joy, accomplishment, and community of ballroom dance.  We become more happy, healthy, confident, and connected people through ballroom.  Help someone experience ballroom.







12 Reasons Ballroom Captured Our Imagination

Partner dancing seemed to be old-fashioned in the 80s.  We watched our grandparents jitterbug, polka, and waltz, but the baby boomers lived through the 60s and 70s when the biggest partner dance was the hustle.  It seemed as though dancing with someone had been supplanted by dancing in front of someone or en masse–large groups of gyrating or jumping mobs.    Movies like Fame and Footloose proved gen-Xers wanted to dance, but wasn’t really until nostalgia for a simpler time gone brought dancing together back big in Dirty Dancing.

Ballroom dancing is here to stay.  Partner dance began waltzing its way into our cultural consciousness with Dirty Dancing and still speaks to our desire to add romance and magic into lives.  Here are 12 of the biggest reasons ballroom dance caught our imagination:

  1. Dirty Dancing (1987)  Dirty Dancing was the first big hit to make every woman long for her Danny to pull her out of her corner and make her feel beautiful and adventurous.
  2. Strictly Ballroom (1992)  The campy and colorful Australian foray into the world of dance competitions, Strictly Ballroom showed the transformative power of ballroom dance to take us out of our comfort zone and into the world of our potential.
  3. Shall We Dance (1996) (Japan)  The original version of this blockbuster highlights the struggle between who everyone expects us to be and our inner hopes and dreams of who we could be.  The cultural expectations of the Japanese businessman and the secret desire to break those boundaries.
  4. Friends: The One with the Ballroom Dancing Season 4 Episode 4  (1997)  The sign that ballroom dance was beginning to become part of our world is when it began infiltrating our home through our television.  Not only did it make an appearance in one of the most popular TV shows of the time, but it began showing up in commercials, advertising everything from insurance, to milk, to healthcare, trucks.
  5. Dance with Me (1998) Salsa became the new dance of dances.  The Latin beats and the handsome leading man showed us the sensual nature of dance.
  6. Assassination Tango (2002) In movies, we saw leading men and tough guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall, Brad Pitt, and Pierce Brosnan show the power and attraction of of man who knows how to dance–especially the tango.
  7. Shall We Dance (2004) The American version on this Japanese film showed how ballroom dance can bring people of all different backgrounds together through a common joy.  It touched on a lot of our secret fears that can keep us apart and unfulfilled and highlighted our desire to keep learning and growing and becoming, to meet new people and make new connections, and to share new experiences.  And how to rekindle romance by stepping outside of our box.
  8. Come Strictly Dancing (2004) UK  Before Dancing with the Stars, there was Come Strictly Dancing in Britain, helping to pave the way to the American airwaves.
  9. Dancing with the Stars (2005) US When Dancing with the Stars finally premiered, people began to think that if those “stars” could do it, they could, too.  And everyone began to, if not dance, think about dancing.  They began seeing the “real” men doing it…Emmitt Smith said winning Dancing with the Stars meant more to him than winning the super bowl.  Ballroom dancing was officially “cool”.
  10. Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (2005)  This sweet star-studded indie film shows how ballroom dance can be the catalyst to bring those suffering from loss and loneliness together and give them a new lease on life.
  11. Mad Hot Ballroom (2005) The story of how Pierre Dulaine brought the lessons of ballroom dance to eleven-year-olds in the New York public schools, improving their communication, cooperation, and self-esteem. 
  12. Take the Lead (2006)  A dramatization of the Pierre Dulaine story of bringing dance to the New York City Schools highlighting societal benefits ballroom dance.  “If she allows me to lead she trusts me, but more than that she’s trusting herself. Now if your 16-year-old daughter is strong and trusts herself. How likely is she to let some idiot knock her up? And if your son can learn to touch a girl with respect, how will he treat women throughout his life?”

Stories of how ballroom touches our hearts, our minds, our souls are still being incorporated into our dramas and our comedies, our television and cinema.  Ballroom dance is part of who we are as a culture now.   We are finding partnership dance is a cure for depression, for disease, for dementia, but most importantly, it is the cure for what ails us most: feelings of isolation.  Dance has brought us all together again, strangers and acquaintances, neighbors and co-workers.  Dancing is not something only our grandparents did.  It crosses generations, economic environments, and cultural differences.  Dance gives us a common goal, a shared joy, and a reason to connect.  If you haven’t tried it yet, what are you waiting for?


The Heart of Valentine’s Day: The Magic of Dance

The Heart of Valentine’s Day is taking the time to express love and appreciation we feel.  While we most often think of others on this day of love, we need to also think of ourselves.  Whether you have a partner or you are unattached, the best gift you can give is the gift of dance.

“Attention is the most basic form of love.” — John Tarrant

For couples, partner dance allows each person to focus and attend to the other person in ways they simply do not and cannot off the dance floor.  For the time you are dancing together, all of your other thoughts and worries take a back seat, and you focus on each other.  Moving to the music, creating the dance together, this is real romance.

If you have no partner, you, too, should come learn to dance.  Your dance teacher can be your partner, and everyone dances with everyone else at our practice parties.  To find a great partner, learn to be a great partner.  Don’t wait for someone to dance with; dance and be joyful, and you will find you attract people to you.

So whether you have a Valentine this February or not, make a date to come out and try dancing.  Spread the word.  Dance brings us together.