The music is pumping. The couples are smiling and laughing as their feet sometimes shuffle/sometimes glide around the room. Some are incredibly graceful, others not so much. It doesn’t seem to matter.
As evening descends, the Food Garden at Northlake Mall on this Tuesday is partly transformed into something of a ballroom. The music is big band, a mirrored disco ball hangs overhead and most of the couples are silver haired. Still they exude youthful spirits and share a love of dance.
Welcome to Dine and Dance, a free monthly event at the mall.
Dance is very much alive in DeKalb County. From the mall to a local YMCA to a downtown Decatur art studio to a local recreation and Knights of Columbus hall, folks are flocking to learn, practice and enjoy ballroom and Latin dance in many forms: swing, lindy hop, rumba, cha-cha, waltz, salsa to name a few.
Dine and Dance is just one of many outlets for couples and singles who enjoy dancing. On the last Tuesday of each month, tables are moved out of the circular center of the Tucker mall’s food court and couples dance to live music performed by the Atlanta-New York Connection. Sometimes the crowd is said to number well into the hundreds. On this last Tuesday in October, it’s estimated that about 75 people are there. The mall has been hosting the free events for the past nine years.
Over at the Decatur-DeKalb YMCA on a Sunday night seven people come for a dance lesson first then a practice session with a more robust crowd.
Amos Causey is among those in the class. Causey, 53, of Decatur is an electrician who was inspired to take his first dance class after driving by the Y and noticing their marquee advertising the class. For the past year and a half, he’s taken four different classes and has learned to waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha, tango, swing, salsa and rumba.
“They break it down real simple,” said Causey of the instructors. “They make it real fun to follow along.”
He said he likes the cha-cha best due to its distinctive rhythm but finds the salsa the hardest because it’s difficult “for me to hear the rhythm of it.”
He said he likes dance for the exercise and the opportunity to meet new people.
In addition to the classes, Causey attends practice parties and is among the 200 or so people who go to monthly dances at Perimeter Church.
Back at Northlake Mall, the dance event attracts a broad cross-section of people—some who are new to dancing and others who’ve been gracing dance floors for a lifetime.
Young and Tai-Hyung Kwon, a professor of physics from Sugar Hill, were there dancing. And so was an 83-year-old man who skillfully guided his partner around the floor. Lou and Bill Holton also danced and laughed through songs such as Georgia on my Mind, Take the A Train and the Tennessee Waltz.
George and Bobbie Pike Edwards, Stone Mountain residents who also split their time at a retirement community in Florida, are regulars at Northlake’s monthly dances. The pair was among the couples engaging in the more fancy footwork and impressive twists and turns.
Bobbie Edwards is extremely enthusiastic about dance.
“I love the challenge of the classes, and I love to get better,” she said. “Actually one of the reasons I love dancing is it’s a great communicator with your partner. It really brings this closeness.”
In fact, it was dance that brought George and Bobbie together.
Bobbie started taking dance classes after the death of her first husband. She met George at Northlake and “tripped the light fantastic” with him that night and during a Cajun dance class on another evening. They’ve been married for seven years.
The Edwardses hopscotch their way across DeKalb County and metro Atlanta in their quest to learn new moves, perfect old ones and just have a good time dancing. They take country/western dance lessons at Mason Mill Recreation Center off McConnell Drive in Decatur, attend ballroom dance events at the Knights of Columbus hall on Buford Highway and study steps in classes at Dance City Ballroom on Miami Circle in Atlanta.
“It’s a great way to meet people,” said Bobbie, who guessed they attend three dance functions a week when they’re in Atlanta. “You don’t have to have no equipment.”
As for all the recent dance-related television shows, Bobbie said, “I think it’s wonderful. I think they encourage a lot of people to dance.”
At their large Florida retirement complex, several live bands perform daily to keep the seniors moving and grooving, she said.
She added she would like to see dance taught to elementary and high school students during physical education. In addition to the exercise, dance also involves learning manners, she said.
“You can go anywhere in the world and dance,” she said. “There’s always music.”
And that’s exactly what the Bobbie, 68, and George, 73, do. They’ve danced polka in Germany, the waltz in Vienna and kicked up their heels in Hawaii and on cruises.
“We keep dancing and traveling and meeting lots of new people and dancing around the world,” she said.
Down South Swing offers a range of dance classes such as a five-week beginning swing class that starts from 6 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1, for $40. Classes are held at Firefly Studios, 1026-C Atlanta Ave., Decatur. Call (678) 642-8165 or visit www.downsouthswing.com for more information.
Callanwolde Fine Arts Center is the site of regular tango parties and the next one is on Jan. 9. An introductory lesson begins at 8 p.m., and the tango part starts at 9:15 p.m. Cost is $15 for lesson and party, $10 for the party only. Call (404) 872-5338 for more information. Callanwolde is located at 980 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta.
Ballroom and Latin social dance classes are also offered at the Decatur-DeKalb YMCA, 1100 Clairemont Ave. in Decatur. For more information on classes, call (404) 377-9622 or www.ymcaatlanta.org.