Many of our new Fred Astaire Dance Studio students soon find that they want more out of ballroom dancing than just a hobby. They begin to really challenge themselves as they work more consistently and passionately on their dance lessons. Some of them, like Wendy Walcott (Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Milwaukee, Wisconsin) will even aim for “the stars”, discovering that the path to ballroom success is very much within their reach!
In August of 2013, George and Wendy Walcott were looking for something new to do together — something to add some excitement to their lives — something other than the old ‘dinner-and-a-movie’. They had enjoyed dancing at social occasions together for years, and they felt ready to learn the correct footwork and techniques for ballroom dancing – and they found Fred Astaire Dance Studios. They began taking dance lessons on a regular basis, attending the studio’s social dance parties and other activities and events. And as the 2014 Cross Country Dance Championships (CCDC) in Atlanta approached, Wendy’s instructor, Mr. Ilya Velednitsky, saw that she was ready for that competition (she’d won Top Female Newcomer at Oktoberfest 2013, Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Wisconsin’s Regional competition). However, getting George up on the CCDC floor was going to be another matter!
Recalling her journey to Atlanta in late April, 2014, Wendy laughs: “I didn’t know what I was doing, as this was the first competition I had ever competed in,” but she now knows that “you can never feel completely ready.” She put all of her trust in her dance instructor, Ilya Velednitsky, drew a breath, and hit the CCDC dance floor “with a bang.” Within seconds, she was completely focused on her dancing and the jitters all fell away. “I didn’t see much of what else was going on, then suddenly, our dance was over,” she said.
Wendy sums up that first competition experience in one word: “Great.” Although she won no trophies her first time out, Mrs. Walcott still considers it a first-place experience. “It is a great way to see the ‘dancing world,’ to see all the people involved, and to understand more of the big picture, of how it works.” She loved every minute of the 5-day event, including the fabulous entertainment offered by Fred Astaire Dance Studios, of which her favorite part “would have to be the professional show and dinner dance.” Since the Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Brookfield and Milwaukee WI had traveled together for the event, she also enjoyed getting to know lots of new students with similar interests, as well as more of Fred Astaire Dance Studios’ talented and dedicated dance instructors. “I would experience it all again — I just wish we could convince George to join us, though it’s also great to be a part of the crowd from our studios.”
What advice would she give students who might be considering competition? “First, be sure to have a couple of open dances prepared. Second, consider becoming a sponsor for a competition division — it’s an extra touch and the prizes are wonderful. Finally, make sure to rely on your pro, and pepper them with questions! Then, when you’re done, get a big flower arrangement for Ms. Albina Habrle (studio owner)!”
Husband George has yet to be bitten by the dance competition bug, but he and Wendy do continue to partner on Milwaukee’s parquet dance floor. And that’s perfectly okay with them both. Ballroom dancing continues to impact their lives in positive ways, Wendy declares, one benefit after another, one dance lesson at a time. When asked to explain the ways that ballroom dancing lessons have changed their lives, Mrs. Walcott was ready with her answer: “Ballroom dancing has so many benefits it’s impossible to list them all. From losing weight, to improving posture, it’s a low-impact way to improve your health with the safety of proper instruction.” Most importantly, their wonderful attitudes and happy hearts bring joy to all their family members at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio ofMilwaukee, Wisconsin.
This story was reprinted from the Summer 2014 issue of inSTEP Magazine, Fred Astaire Dance Studios’ quarterly student publication. For more info on FADS’ inSTEP Magazine, visit our Facebook page.