Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002 Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002
Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002

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Trip the light fantastic
Ballroom Dancers local chapter

While skiers swoosh gracefully down Schweitzer’s winter slopes, an equally enthusiastic, but smaller, group of amateur athletes practice their telemark turns – an intermediate dance figure – on the ballroom floor.

Nationally, ballroom dance is enjoying new popularity, and Sandpoint sports its own chapter of the United States Ballroom Dancers’ Association (USABDA). Organized in January 2001, the Pend Oreille chapter has been busy recruiting members, who enjoy the physical, mental and social benefits of dancing.

“Ballroom dancing was a part of my upbringing and of our whole society,” said German-born Luise Peyton. “When I moved to North Idaho in 1993, I missed it.” Bonners Ferry residents, Luise and husband John, a retired Army officer, felt it was too far to drive to Spokane, so they just gave up dancing. But it kept nagging at Luise. Partly because she loved the dress-up and social aspects of dancing, and partly because, “I hate the gym, and dancing is such good exercise,” she added.

Then Luise discovered and found what she was looking for – guidelines for starting a local chapter. The Peytons formed a steering committee, advertised a public meeting early in January 2001, and the organization held its Get Acquainted Dance on the last Saturday that same month.

On ballroom dance night, usually the fourth Saturday of the month, at the Sandpoint Community Hall, festivities start with a professionally taught beginner lesson. Members and visitors line up on opposite sides of the room to learn the man’s part (lead) and the lady’s part (follow) before trying it with a partner. There’s plenty of laughter, lots of brows furrowed with concentration, and the room practically rocks with enthusiasm.

Members Albert “Red” and Edna Thompson didn’t start dancing until they were in their 60s – “just too busy, I guess,” said Edna. On the last night of a European vacation, seated on a hotel mezzanine on the Spanish Riviera, they were intrigued by couples below swirling to an American-style band. “It looked like such fun,” said Edna. “I vowed right then we were going to learn to dance when we got back.” Red said, “I thought sure she’d forget about it, but no. While driving down the street, we saw a dance studio sign. She made me turn right around.” They were hooked.

The Thompsons studied with a passion and competed for almost 10 years before moving to Bayview, Idaho. “It gave us an opportunity to travel, to attend the kind of gala affairs that just weren’t part of our everyday life,” said Edna. Competition may be in the past, but the dance goes on. Red, now past 80, dusted off his tails, and Edna fluffed the ostrich feathers on the hem of her ballgown to demonstrate the foxtrot at a chapter dance.

Ballroom dance music spans a variety of rhythms – from the passionate Latins such as cha cha, rumba, mambo and tango, to the gliding waltz and foxtrot, to popular club dances – salsa, swing, and nightclub two-step. The group’s activities include monthly dances, with November and December combined into one semi-formal Holiday Ball; a youth program that teaches in the schools during the school year, and occasional dance workshops.

USABDA is recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the governing body for DanceSport in this country. DanceSport, the name given to amateur competitive dancing, is on the list of sports recommended for admittance into the Olympic Games. DanceSport athletes now compete in the World Games.

For more information on the local chapter and events, call (208) 437-0274.

– Robin Campbell

Winter 2004

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