This isn’t your typical ballroom |

This isn’t your typical ballroom

Courtesy photoA couple rehearses in the ballroom at Sierra Dance Center in the Russell Valley, just outside of Truckee.

On a dance floor in the woods outside Truckee, a dozen bodies step and sway fluidly to the rhythm of Frank Sinatra.

Some of the dancers are men, some are women. There are teens and seniors, couples and individuals. They drove from as far as Silicon Valley and Virginia City to convene at the Sierra Dance Center to attend a ballroom dance camp.

Thanks to the reality television craze that is “Dancing with the Stars,” a top-rated show on ABC that pits celebrities against one another in a sort of ballroom boot camp, local dance teacher Jeffrey Lynn says she is seeing more interest than ever, particularly from young people.

“We went from making this an older retirement activity, to dance sport,” Lynn says. “With that, we have had this surge of young people involved and an awareness from the public.”

Lynn, a U.S. ballroom dance champion who has been instructing for more than 35 years, has hosted weekend ballroom camps at her personal studio, a glass-walled solarium surrounded by forest in Russell Valley, for two and a half years.

She has regular attendees from all over the map ” Texas, Los Angeles, Wisconsin ” but few, if any, from Truckee.

“You can go do dinner, you can go to a movie, or you can show up at a ballroom and dance with a variety of partners, meet cool people, and go home with no obligation,” Lynn says. “I would like to see more of that in Truckee because there is a whole community here that has nothing to do in the evening besides go to dinner and bars.”

So why is it that everyone else has caught on? The reasons are as different as the dancers.

“You get to have interaction with a partner ” it’s fun to flirt and dance,” says Susan Mowers, a resident of Sparks who has been dancing with Lynn since September.

“You get to meet women,” says Bryant Mantiply, a sports enthusiast from Mountain View who decided to take up ballroom dancing as a way to stay in shape between soccer games and windsurfing. “I can’t think of a better way to spend my free time.”

And the list goes on and on. Veterans and newcomers alike are raving about the physicality of the sport, the no-strings-attached social interaction, and the easy-going dance community that has developed in the area.

“You meet a lot of people, and now it is unusual that I go out and don’t see someone I know,” says Rus Welborn, a resident of Reno who also attends Lynn’s camps. “It’s a wonderful way to stop being a bystander.”

In a weekend at Sierra Dance Center, camp participants learn not only to cha-cha, rhumba and waltz, but they also learn about anatomy, proper body alignment, and the dynamics of movement.

“Ballroom dancing affects how you walk, and stand, and present yourself,” says camp participant Diane Dunn. “There is a self-awareness.”

And to spread and encourage that awareness to locals, Lynn will soon begin offering after-school dance classes for children and evening classes for adults.

“I see adults that have an activity that they can do together with their kids and family, and something they can do separately,” Lynn says.

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