Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:07 pm
By Denise Membreno
Venus Wilmer was a faithful watcher of shows such as “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” She always has enjoyed dancing but wanted to step it up and improve her form.
When she joined Smith Mountain Lake USADance 6042, Wilmer gained more than smoother moves.
“I’m actually just a social dancer, but I was looking for more technique and different styles,” Wilmer
She found a USADance chapter in Roanoke and from there, learned about a group at Smith Mountain Lake.
“I live in Bedford, and when I found out there was a Smith Mountain Lake chapter, closer to my home, I began to get involved with them,” she said. “They had actually been at several different venues with tile floors and been struggling with a place to call their own.”
Tile floors are not ideal for dancing. They tend to be uneven and hard on the joints in the legs. As a member of the New London Ruritan Club, Wilmer knew of the perfect location for dancing — the New London Ruritan Dance Hall in New London. It has a large room with wood floors and was already the home of country dances on Saturday nights.
Smith Mountain Lake USADance 6042 moved its monthly dances to New London about five years ago. Since then, Wilmer, the self-proclaimed social dancer, has grown stronger and healthier, as well as more graceful on the dance floor.
“There are three of us who have lost a significant amount of weight,” Wilmer said. “I thought my knees will handle the dancing better if I could lose a little bit of weight. Dancing really is an aerobic exercise depending on how you decide to stress yourself.”
Wilmer, who will turn 47 this year, said dancing has helped her lose about 20 pounds.
The 40 members range in experience and skill — from those who never danced before they joined the club to those who are competing in ballroom competitions. Members range in age from the mid-40s to the mid-80s.
They meet for a dance the second Friday of each month. Tickets are $7 for USA Dance members, $10 for non-members and $5 for students who show a school ID. Social dancer membership is $25 per year.
Each dance is preceded by a one-hour lesson taught by professional dance instructors. The lessons start with basic steps and increase in complexity to challenge the more advanced dancers. You do not need a dance partner to attend the lesson or the dances.
“I encourage people to come visit and see if they like it,” said Cindy Zerfoss, SML chapter president. “Ballroom dancing is a couples’ thing, but at our dances, even the men with partners dance with the single women so no one is a wallflower; everyone gets a chance to dance.”
Zerfoss and her husband, Donald Werner, have been dancing with the group for 10 years. In 2006, the couple started competing. In addition to perfecting her moves, being a member of the chapter has been inspiring, she said. The older members of the group have shown her that getting older does not mean you have to be sedentary.
“They found [that] people who do ballroom dancing have fewer issues with dementia,” said Zerfoss. “I think it is a way to stay active and healthy.”
“We have several members that have mobility issues, but used to do a lot of formal ballroom dancing,” Wilmer said. “We will dance with them at a more reserved level and do dancing they can still do despite their age and mobility issues.”
In addition to the physical benefits of dancing, Wilmer said, it helps her emotionally.
“It is a mental release for me,” she said. “The opportunity to get out with a group of people who are having fun and moving around and interacting in motion, I’ve really learned to love that.”
“We missed our Valentine’s Day dance because of the weather,” said Zerfoss. “And so we were going to have Rumba demonstrations we had planned for February this Friday [March 14].”
Smith Mountain Lake USADance 6042, New London Ruritan building, 12411 US-460E, Forest. www.usadance6042.org
Reprinted from the Laker Weekly