Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 3
 
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton



MAGIC OF DANCE: Ekaterina Bronshteyn and Sasha Barakov are instructors at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Princeton. “Our teachers are very talented young people, medal winners, and championship dancers,” says Studio co-owner Millie Dhirmalani. “They are all certified by the Fred Astaire Association, and they are so dedicated. They all have continuing education, and attend teaching seminars and workshops.”

Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Princeton Offers Full Instruction in Ballroom Dance

Perhaps a recurrent New Year’s resolution is to lose a few pounds, tone up a bit, and generally just get more exercise — the problem is you don’t care for the gym. The good news is there’s an alternative, and it’s fun!

Come trip the light fantastic at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Princeton at the Princeton Shopping Center. Opened in October, it has become a popular spot not only to learn a variety of ballroom dances, but to meet new friends, and enjoy a social and welcoming atmosphere — all while you exercise.

“Dancing is not just entertainment, it is a benefit for the body,” points out Millie Dhirmalani, owner, with Nadia Goulina and Ilya Ifraimov, of the studio. “While dancing, your body goes through a wide array of movements, involving an increase of motion, and the more you dance, the more your muscles will flex and extend. Most forms of dancing involve a series of bending and stretching, resulting in an increase of general flexibility throughout your body. By increasing your flexibility, you are also conditioning your body to prevent possible injuries.

“Because dance uses a myriad of muscle groups, you can expect your body to get toned in ways that might surprise you,” continues Ms. Dhirmalani. “Most people associate strength and toning with the gym, but many people forget that your own body can act as its own weight for your muscles. From dipping and turning to mastering the Latin figure eight, you utilize all major muscle groups, including legs, arms, back, and core.”

Magic Remedy

In addition, says Ms. Dhirmalani, because dancing is so much fun, it is also a great stress-reliever. “Many studies have shown how the art of dance can help improve your mind, body, and sense of well-being. It is a magic remedy for redirecting one’s focus. If you are concerned about work, your family, or your massive To Do List, for a short time, while you are dancing, your worries seem to disappear. When you come to dance, you leave your worries at home. Your personal time is just for you.

“The social benefits of dance also have a hand in decreasing stress. As you build friendships and participate in the group activities, this promotes relaxation and confidence and a sense of well-being.”

And it doesn’t matter if you are brand new to the dance floor or know the steps to all the dances. Beginners to advanced dancers are all welcome. Students are all ages — from teens and young adults on up to an 85-year-old lady — and all backgrounds. University professors, a former Navy Seal. a former boxer, housewives, and doctors and lawyers all enjoy dancing at the studio.

Some people come as couples, but the majority — and this includes guys — come alone, notes manager TJ Matthews. Sometimes, a visit to the dance floor can be a surprise, he adds. “One man came in with his wife, and it was a big surprise for her. They came in and took a class, and have continued to dance.”

Regular Student

Princeton resident Ledlie Borgerhoff has become a regular student and is devoted to ballroom dance. “I started coming just after the studio opened. I’ve always wanted to learn ballroom dancing. I had formerly studied modern dance and been active in the theater. Now, I’m passionate about ballroom dancing and come every day.”

“She has been working very hard, and now she will compete in an upcoming competition,” adds Ms. Dhirmalani.

Lessons, both group and private, are 45 minutes, and categories include smooth (waltz, foxtrot, tango, and Viennese waltz), and Latin or Rhythm (samba, rhumba, mambo, cha cha, and swing).

“First, we offer an introduction to all the dances, and teach the basic steps. Then we’ll develop a program around the student’s goals and ability. We customize the package for each student,” explains Ms. Dhirmalani. “Taking both private and group lessons is ideal. You learn the basic steps with the instructors, and then practice and work with other people in the group. We also have the Fred Astaire Trophy system, which includes different requirements students must meet in order to graduate to the next level.”

In addition, the students have opportunities to enter Fred Astaire competitions. Four students participated last weekend, and not only that, says Ms. Dhirmalani, “Other students from our studio went up to support them. There is great camaraderie here.”

That results in part from the welcoming atmosphere and personal attention given to each student. The attractive studio, one of 130 Fred Astaire Dance Studio franchises nationwide, features a full-sized ballroom, with a specially designed raised floor to alleviate stress on knees. Bistro chairs and tables are available for dancers and spectators, and complimentary refreshments are offered.

Special Dances

Ms. Dhirmalani, a former Radio City Rockette, is a national Fred Astaire champion, having entered regional and national Fred Astaire dance competitions, prior to opening the Princeton Studio. She not only loves ballroom dance, but is dedicated to sharing it with others. “I have always been passionate about dance, and now, we want people to know we are here to educate them in dance in a welcoming atmosphere.

“Also, we will choreograph special wedding dances for a couple about to be married, so that their first dance as a married couple can be special. Our instructors have also danced at events for the Princeton Chamber of Commerce and Princeton and Montgomery High Schools.”

She adds that in February, the studio will be host to the Princeton Adult School’s cardio-dance classes.

On Friday, January 22, it will also hold a special “Dancing With The Stars” performance, featuring professional ballroom dancers Tony Devoloni and Snejana Petrova. Dinner, cocktails, and dancing will be included. Tickets are $60.

Ms. Dhirmalani is delighted with the Princeton Shopping Center location and with the response both from dance students and the neighboring businesses. “The warmth and acceptance of being welcomed as a new person in the community has been wonderful.”

“We hope to partner with a restaurant and offer people a dinner and dance date night,” adds Mr. Matthews. “Bring back romance. Try dancing!”

Hours are Monday through Friday 1:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Weekends by appointment. (609) 921-8881. Website: www.fredastaireprinceton.com.

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