Couples high step in dance class

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

The beat starts, pulses pound and another night of scintillating ballroom dance instruction begins at Ohio University Southern.

Once a week, these amateur hoofers take to the floor of Ohio University Southern's Campus & Community Center to learn the hottest ballroom and Latin steps.

Although the record number of participants in the six-week workshop are giddy, it's old hat for 12-year ballroom dance veteran and instructor Gayle Riggs who picked up dance after art roller skating died in the area.

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"So it was find something else to do, and I love to dance and I had a background in skating, and I'm a '50s kid, so swing was right down my alley," Riggs said. "I just helped somebody here, helped somebody there, and from there it took off."

Her class has always been well-attended, but this year is a record, thanks, Riggs believes, to popular television programs such as "Dancing With the Stars" and ballroom dancing's inclusion in the 2008 Olympics.

"It's a social outlet for one thing, and it's very good exercise; it's aerobic exercise," Riggs said. "And it's a swing back to the type of music you can dance to. I think we've burnt out dancing by ourselves on the floor, we're ready for partner dancing."

Lawyer Mark McCown actually began taking Riggs' classes six years ago to prepare for his wedding to wife, Anke, who attends classes with him.

McCown agreed that working up a sweat was one of his main reasons for staying involved.

"It's wonderful exercise," McCown said. "And it turns out that it's really a lot of fun."

McCown admits that he was trepidacious before taking his first steps on to the dance floor, but soon found himself hoofing with the best of him.

"Anytime you start something new in a public setting where you have no idea what you're doing there's some initial apprehension, but the reality of it is that 99 percent of the people have never danced,

and are in the same boat that you are," McCown said.

"Those that have danced are so easy-going and willing to help you learn new steps and new things that it's a lot of fun."

The McCowns are so comfortable that Anke has even picked a favorite step, the cha-cha.

Riggs said that is an important factor for her when it comes to dance Š making it so accessible that anybody can jump in and boogie.

"I think anybody can do it who wants to," Riggs said. "I taught a class at the Cabell-Wayne Association of the Blind and they were even able to pick it up, and there's a gentleman there still teaching line dancing. All you have to be able to do it follow instructions."

Riggs' classes take place on Wednesday evenings, more information is available by calling 1-800-626-0513, ext. 4588.