The popular ABC television show Dancing with the Stars has helped step up the rhythm of the ballroom dancing world, and an Evans dance studio owner says her business hasn't missed a beat.
Emily Tobias, the owner of The Ballroom Dance Center on Grand Slam Drive, said the popularity of the show, which features celebrities paired with professionals who compete and are judged by both a panel and the viewing audience, has doubled the number of new students to her studio each week.
Before Dancing with the Stars, Tobias said her studio would do well to bring in four to eight new students to a typical Friday orientation dance class and as many as 20 on a good night. In the final week of this season's ABC show, Tobias said her instructors saw more than 40 new students, and business has kept the pace.
"We've always had steady business, because ballroom dancing is something that has always appealed to people of all ages," Tobias said, "but the show sort of gave it a popular appeal and made people feel like anyone could do it."
In an average year, Tobias said, her studio is busiest in January as dance classes have become a popular Christmas present or New Year's resolution, but this year the business kept picking up.
David Hamilton, a three-time American Ballroom national champion who said he has competed against or judged most of the professionals featured on Dancing with the Stars, said the show, the swing craze that started in the late 1990s and the Richard Gere film Shall We Dance, has made dancing with a partner cool again.
"It's made people aware that ballroom dancing is still around," he said. "We've been doing ballroom dance competitions in the U.S. for 75 years, and what people are seeing on television is what we're doing every weekend."
Hamilton, a native of Nashville, Tenn., who was at The Ballroom Dance Center last week as a guest instructor, said it's encouraging to him to see so many people attracted to something he's competed in for 26 years.
In his travels all across the country, Hamilton said, he's noticed that dancing has returned.
"Dancing is a lifestyle, not a trend, and lifestyles never go away," he said.
Both Tobias and Hamilton said the show's popularity has resonated particularly with men, who in the first two seasons have seen boxer Evander Holyfield, former pro football star Jerry Rice and this season's winner, Drew Lachey, a member of the pop group 98 Degrees, perform and improve.
"A lot of men were watching and voting for Jerry, and I think (the show) told men that it's a cool thing to do," Hamilton said. "It's a great confidence booster for a single man who's socially wanting to get involved."
Another facet of the show's appeal is that fans can see the true improvement practice can make, Tobias said.
"It's reassuring to them (new students) that there's a reason (the celebrities) are so good, and it's because they spend so much time on the dance floor," Tobias said.
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