This FADS Student’s Story Is 1,000 Lessons Long…

(And that just might be the number of times Marilyn Clasen passed the building sign, too…)

…the one in her neighborhood, that said “Fred Astaire Dance Studio” — before she went in. Once she did, she no longer felt like ‘just another stranger from Cleveland’. She was soon immersed in a new, healthy, exciting, favorite pastime: ballroom dancing at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Since then, she has experienced to the hilt what she calls “the joy of dancing.”

A ballerina student in her youth, by 2006 Marilyn was in her 70s. So what. She set out to fulfill her dancing potential, seizing every dance-related opportunity thereafter. She performed in seven Fred Astaire Dance Studios dance competitions in 2011 and 2012 – including four National Competitions, two which led her and her best dancing friends to beautiful Puerto Rico. She also performed in three Regional Competitions, six studio Showcases, and assorted Mini-Matches. Both her smiles and best efforts shone throughout them all. Besides 10-15 dance lessons per week, Marilyn always reserved two coaching sessions at studio performance workshops.

Thus, in her 70s, Marilyn grew to become a dancer, more physically fit and mentally strong than some people half her age. And, as tends to happen with those who invest in dancing, her power as a person grew alongside her stamina as a dancer. More real and more free than ever, “every time the music comes on – and it doesn’t have to be in the studio, either – Marilyn always starts dancing,” laughs Karen Gates, who owns the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Chagrin Falls OH. “We’ve even danced in the sand in Puerto Rico!” Marilyn’s story has become part of studio legend. “It all began,” Karen says, “when Marilyn’s father purchased a piano for her mother to play. When Marilyn’s mother would play the piano, Marilyn would always dance around the floor. Marilyn’s  mother took her to the movies to watch Fred Astaire gliding across the silver screen. Marilyn told her mother that one day, she would dance like Fred Astaire himself.”

Marilyn “loves all the dances,” but her face lights up especially bright while she’s dancing the Swing. She also loves her dance instructors, Angel Criado, Bob Gates, and Ryan Schultz. Likewise, when Karen and Bob Gates talk about Marilyn, their faces light up. “Marilyn and I have shared so much together on the dance floor in the past four years,” Karen fondly remembers, “even subbing, myself, as a gentleman!”

One thousand shared experiences all led to June 17, 2014. When Marilyn came again to the studio to dance, the thrilled studio celebrated with a press release that read: “1,000 Lessons: Chagrin Falls wants to Congratulate Our Marilyn on such an Incredible Accomplishment.” Now approaching her late 70’s, Our Marilyn has slowed her pace in the past year, though she still takes about four lessons a week. As remarkably fit and lovely as ever, she dances, her beautiful smile where it’s been for the past six years. “Every private dance lesson is special,” Karen says. “She is such a dancer, she is still dancing, and her smile lights up our dance floor – always.”

This story was reprinted from the Winter 2014 issue of inSTEP Magazine, Fred Astaire Dance Studios’ quarterly student publication. For more info on FADS’ inSTEP Magazine, look for the current issue at your local FADS studio, or visit our Facebook page