Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A Few Common Questions About Social Ballroom Dance


This quick article should help to inform beginner dancers or those considering signing up for a social ballroom dance class about what they might need to know to get started, along with some information that may help to dispel common myths about taking a partnered dance class. Information like this can help to relieve stress and anxiety and help newcomers know what to expect when they get started.

Do we have to switch partners in this class?

The big truth on this is to simply understand that in a beginner ballroom dance class, but also at every level of ballroom dance, nobody is ever forced to dance with anyone they don’t want to. Go ahead, read that sentence again.

While it may be encouraged to rotate partners in a learning environment, it’s perfectly acceptable for couples to stand together and simply not rotate when they both don’t want to dance with others. Those rotating will notice a couple not moving, and simply walk around to the next open partner in the line of rotation. Easy! 

At most local-level social dances, it’s customary to find a few couples who don’t dance with anyone else but do enjoy the social aspect of the dance and making friends, and many more others in attendance who are there to dance with everyone as well as socialize. Both kinds of social dancers can get along in the same space simply by applying a little grace and kindness to one another.

·       There are skill-building benefits to dancing with a range of dance partners to build your lead-follow connection abilities as you are learning.

·       If you’ve taken a ballroom dance class where you felt like you didn’t have any choice about partner rotation one way or the other, that was not a good class.

·       If you want to dance with more people than just your partner but your partner doesn’t allow you to, recognize this as a big red flag. Ballroom dancing and ballroom dance classes in particular do not come with the hook-up connotation that may exist in bar establishments geared toward a dating culture.

What do I wear to a ballroom dance class?

A ballroom dance class involves a lot of movement so you want to be comfortable in clothing that will allow you to move without binding up, weighing you down or causing a wardrobe malfunction. Athletic wear, work-out clothing, light stretch fabrics and sweat wicking materials are all encouraged.

You might show up for your first class in your regular jeans and a t-shirt, but by week 4 you’ll probably reach for a pair of light casual slacks and a sweat wicking polo and find that much more comfortable. A class environment is a casual learning space, so gowns and fancy spangled dresses are rather out of place. Most beginner ballroom students dance in socks until they want to search Amazon for a decent pair of practice-level ballroom shoes that come with a suede sole made for ballroom dancing. *These shoes aren’t ever worn outside on pavement!

Practice-level dancewear is easily accessible via the wonders of online shopping, but if you’re stumped about what you should opt for, have a chat with your ballroom dance instructor who can recommend options that factor in how the instructor has seen you move and dance and the style of dance you’re working to learn. Dance teachers are most often wide open to provide guidance on the correct gear for how you’re dancing in class, taking into account your unique body type, shape and size, and your dance ambitions. Your teacher is also a good resource in terms of what you can see them wearing during your dance class. Your instructor will almost certainly have great dance shoes, so check those out to see what you might want to invest in, perhaps sometime in the future.

Where would I get to use the ballroom dance skills I’d learn?

The ballroom dance classes in June and July at the Decatur Arts Council will include practice time with a great selection of music provided by the instructor immediately following the class so that everyone can practice their steps and moves to music on an open dance floor. As Decatur grows its social ballroom community starting from these classes there will be increasing opportunities to dance right here in town!

There are also many social dance events in nearby cities within easy reach of Decatur. Here’s some good places to try out your new ballroom dancing skills:

·       Regent Ballroom in Savoy

·       Bring Back Dance in Normal

·       Young Dance in Peoria

For more information on upcoming nearby dance events, ask the instructor as she frequently attends local social dance events throughout the Central Illinois region and will gladly share upcoming events with students to point you in the right direction for good dancing!

Beyond local social dance opportunities, many find good use for their ballroom dance skills at family weddings, at the concerts and live music events they attend, and often right at home just dancing in the kitchen. If you’ve ever chaperoned at a prom, church dance, bar mitzvah or quinceanera, these skills come in very handy.

There are just a few open registration spots still available for the June class, so get signed up and get dancing starting this Thursday, June 2, 2022, but plenty for the July Session!



Wednesday, March 28, 2018

1992 - The Community Cultural Plan

In 1992, the Decatur Area Arts Council led the community through a cultural planning process spearheaded by Joan (Rolf) Avis, along with Chuck Archer and Wesley Tower.

The Arts Council received a grant to hire professional consultants and, after raising the necessary matching funds, hired the Wolf Organization of Cambridge, Mass., beginning their work in early 1992.

The Wolf Organization, working hand in hand with Arts Council staff and the 19 member steering committee, conducted a number of individual and group interviews, reviewed resource materials, and compiled a community needs assessment, including:

  • How to increase outreach
  • Facilities report
  • The needs of different arts organizations
  • Current and needed arts education
  • Possible Arts Council changes, capabilities or responsibilities
  • Cultural diversity
  • Financial resources

The inclusive nature of the planning process involved people from many different organizations and cultural backgrounds invited to a series of public hearings. The final report was presented in October 1992. Most priority items revolved around the Arts Council making a commitment to become a facilitator and catalyst for the arts in Decatur.

Task forces were formed to analyze and implement the recommendations of the consultants, which included:

  • Move Arts Council offices to downtown Decatur
  • Establish a local arts network with workshops for local arts organizations
  • Improve the coordination and dissemination of information about the arts in Decatur
  • Establish a resource task force to research a united arts fund approach
  • Work with the City to develop a Public Arts Commission
  • Establish a permanent arts education planning group
  • Work with the Heritage Network to identify their role in the cultural plan

A Cultural Planning Group was put into place to oversee the task force work and to validate their final recommendations.  In Spring 1993, the Decatur Area Arts Council board accept the recommendations of the Cultural Planning Group's Action Plan for Year One and gave the Arts Council staff and the Long Range Planning Committee authority to move forward with these recommendations.

The top priority of the Community Cultural Plan, establishing a downtown location for the Arts Council, became a reality in 2004 with the purchase and renovation of the Madden Arts Center at 125 N. Water St..

Community Cultural Plan Steering Committee members included:

  • Joan (Rolf) Avis, Chair, DAAC
  • Louise Kidd and Susan Smith, DAAC staff
  • Chuck Archer, DAAC and IAC representative
  • Glenda Brown, Downtown Senior Center
  • Ken Crossley, DAAC and Kirkland Fine Arts Center
  • Sherry Gates, Gallery 510 and visual artist
  • Andy Green, Civic Center
  • Debra Harris, WAND and performing artist
  • Angela Hughes, City of Decatur
  • Joyce Matteson, Barn Colony Artists
  • Sue Powell, Decatur Recreation Department and artist
  • Molly Shade, Theatre 7, Lincoln Theatre Restoration Group, and performing artist
  • Nancy Shoop, DAAC and visual artist
  • Norman Stewart, DAAC
  • Mary Talbott, Macon County Historical Society
  • Wesley Tower, Millikin University and Symphony Orchestra
  • Carol Trolia, Symphony Orchestra Guild
  • Don Wachter, Decatur Public Schools
  • Jon Weidlich, Richland Community College
  • Denene Wilmeth, Decatur Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Monday, February 26, 2018

Decatur’s Juried Fine Arts Fair (Arts in Central Park)

In 1962, The Barn Colony created and produced the first juried art show in downtown Decatur. Held the third weekend in September, it was called the Downtown Art Fair. 

'Juried’ means artists must submit slides or photographs of their work which are reviewed by a jury (a knowledgeable committee) and accepts artists into the show based on technical skill, creativity, the medium, and/or other requirements.

(Barn Colony)  In 1939 local artists formed a group for the purpose of shared learning as well as providing arts education to the community. This group met on the ground floor of the barn/carriage house at the James Millikin home, 125 North Pine Street. The group adopted the name "Barn Colony" and met regularly in the barn for the next 30 years.

In 1969, the Barn Colony Artists invited the newly-established (1968) Decatur Area Arts Council to be a partner in producing the art fair.

In 1983, the Downtown Decatur Council took over the planning and producing of the Downtown Art Fair and continued with the third weekend in September.  There was no jurying and an average of 100 artists showed their work for sale in Central Park and on the streets of downtown Decatur. 

Wanting a higher quality show, Barn Colony and the Decatur Area Arts Council got together and decided to start a separate juried fine arts fair on the grounds of the Millikin Homestead.  To avoid interfering with the Downtown Decatur Council’s art fair, it would be held in the spring. 

In 1991, Art on Main became the new spring juried fine art fair on the grounds of the Millikin Homestead which was created and produced by the Decatur Area Arts Council and Barn Colony.  In 1992, the Barn Colony decided not to continue and Gallery 510 Arts Guild stepped up to partner with DAAC.   Art on Main was held from 1991-1994.

Gallery 510 Arts Guild, Ltd., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was established in May 1991 by a group of artists from Central Illinois. This professional art guild was established to “nourish an interest in the visual fine arts as a public service, to act as a progressive source of cultural and educational enrichment and to serve as a venue for professional and emerging artists.”

Nova Framing is also located at 160 East Main Street and is wholly owned by the non-profit, Gallery 510 Arts Guild, Ltd.  Profits from Nova Framing are used by Gallery 510 for visual arts programming and support.

With changes in personnel and the desire for a strong “arts” fair, Downtown Decatur Council, Decatur Area Arts Council and Gallery 510 negotiated to hold one juried fine arts fair in Central Park on the third weekend in September.  In 1995 Arts in Central Park was born.
Although the event was and is primarily a visual art fair, it was decided to use the word “arts” in the name instead of “art” with the goal to present other art forms during the weekend. 

When the Downtown Decatur Council was dissolved in 2010, Arts in Central Park became a collaboration of the Decatur Area Arts Council and Gallery 510.  That relationship continues today.

Minor changes have occurred with Arts in Central Park since 1995 but the basic premise has not changed and is still going strong today.  We feel proud of the collaboration that has occurred with the different organizations over the years and honored to present to the community a quality fine arts fair.