Couples get into the swing of things with ballroom dancing lessons

Jim and Joanne Smith work with students on ballroom dancing lessons in Aundeck Omni Kaning. photo by Robin Burridge

AUNDECK OMNI KANING—Eight week-long ballroom dancing lessons have kicked off in Aundeck Omni Kaning (AOK) on Wednesday nights. Last week was the first official class, but latecomers are still welcome to join.

“It’s like dancing with the stars ‘rez style’,” said organizer Lois Nahwegahbow, a family support worker for Aundeck Omni Kaning. “I wanted to bring a fun activity to the community—something to get people active and something engaging and social.”

Ms. Nahwegahbow noted that the program is funded by the band and is free to AOK band members and $70 for other interested individuals.

“It is good for health, improving your health and fitness by exercising without ‘working out’ and burning calories with low-impact aerobic movement,” explained Ms. Nahwegahbow. “It also helps reduce stress, improve balance, mobility, flexibility, coordination and increases strength and stamina. It also helps enhance memory, alertness, focus and concentration and is social, helping people feel more confident and build social connections.”

“Dancing lessons in Toronto are around $350 for 10 lessons, so this is a pretty good deal,” urged Ms. Nahwegahbow, “and just a great chance to do something new and socialize.”

The dance instructors are Islanders Jim and Joanne Smith, a fun couple that love dancing and sharing their passion.

“When Lois called us to ask if we would consider teaching people to dance we thought it would be great fun,” said Mr. Smith. “We have always loved to dance.”

“I married him because he could dance,” joked Ms. Smith.

“I think it was more likely because I had a car,” responded Mr. Smith. The two said they carry on a constant back-and-forth dialogue as they teach, keeping lessons light and undemanding.

“We certainly don’t profess to be professional dancers,” stated Mr. Smith. “We are members of the Burpee Mills Dance Club, run and taught by Wayne and Seija Bailey and Pentti and Penny Palonen of Evansville. We go to the Caruso Club once a month to dance along with other members of the club where we have a nice dinner and then practice what we have learned on the ballroom floor. We call our lessons ‘social dancing’ as opposed to ballroom. We are much more concerned with our students’ enjoyment of what they are learning, rather than the perfection of the styles.”

The couple plan on teaching the basics of foxtrot, swing, waltz, rumba, cha-cha and polka during the eight-week session. They also plan on teaching some pattern dances.

“The eight weeks of lessons will end with a dance party where the dancers can show off their new moves,” concluded Mr. Smith.