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Carolyn Wolfe, a retired fifth-grade Springfield Public Schools teacher, is a third-year ballroom dancer. She enjoys the health benefits dancing provides.
Carolyn Wolfe, a retired fifth-grade Springfield Public Schools teacher, is a third-year ballroom dancer. She enjoys the health benefits dancing provides.

After 5: Pick up your feet, move to the beat

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Growing older? Maybe. Growing up? Not necessarily. Getting healthier? Definitely.

Ballroom dancing for young and old is gaining popularity as an enjoyable activity with healthy benefits. Ozarks dancers got a chance to cut a rug Dec. 4 at Oxford HealthCare’s second annual Snow Ball at CoxHealth’s Meyer Center.

More people, young and old, are using ballroom dancing for exercise to stay fit, happy and connected, says Dr. Roy Holand of Ferrell-Duncan Clinic and a member of the inaugural Snow Ball’s advisory board.

Holand says ballroom dancing has several health benefits including keeping seniors from becoming lonely.

But for others, it’s just a fun activity.

“I would say probably a third of (Snow Ball) attendees are somewhere between able to drink and up. They’re younger because ballroom dancing is so popular,” says Julie Vanvig Burnell,
Oxford’s community outreach coordinator. “It certainly has an appeal to the older set and obviously being Oxford, we work with a lot of those folks. But it’s a younger crowd than what you might expect.”

All dressed up
The idea for last year’s inaugural event came from feedback from senior citizen patients of Oxford HealthCare.

“Initially, we were looking at community events that would promote healthy living where there was kind of a gap,” Vanvig Burnell says. “One of the things that we got a lot of feedback from, especially from the seniors, was that they wanted more dances. That used to be what you did on Friday and Saturday night is get dressed up and go dancing.”

Often, though, people found that the places they could go to dance charged.

“We had the opportunity by working with sponsors to create an event that did not have an admission charge,” Vanvig Burnell says, pointing to this year’s presenting sponsors Klingner-Cope Family Funeral Home and Springfield Hearing Center.

Vanvig Burnell says 400 dancers attended last year’s Snow Ball, which featured an 11-piece orchestra.

Retiring Missouri Sen. Norma Champion serves on the Snow Ball advisory board at the encouragement of her daughter, Brooke Dizmang of Wannenmacher Advertising, who enjoys ballroom dancing. Champion says the December event was projected to attract 600 dancers.

A healthy two-step
Along with the social aspect, dancing also provides a cardiovascular workout, improving weight loss, blood pressure and blood sugar levels for diabetics, says Andy Walls, co-owner of Dance With Me LLC, which offers lessons at Savoy Ballroom, 224 E. Commercial St.

“It’s more along the lines of riding a bike while playing chess, because it’s a physical and a mental exercise,” Walls says. “It’s one of the few activities that’s been shown to prevent and delay the onset of things like dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

Holand agrees.

“Ballroom dancing really does challenge every part of your system, from your hearing, vision, mental alertness to coordination and your cardiovascular system,” Holand says.  

Retired fifth-grade teacher Carolyn Wolfe is a third-year ballroom dancer, whose daughter encouraged her to take lessons.

“I was needing some things to do,” Wolfe says. “When I was younger, I took ballet and tap, and I’ve always loved dancing.”  

Originally, she signed up for ballroom dance lessons with Walls as a hobby, but she now appreciates the health benefits.

“After I get through, I feel so good,” Wolfe says. “But I also love the music that we dance to. It’s probably a combination of the exercising and the music, too.”

Walls says many of his clients are pleasantly surprised after a few lessons, which run $5 to $15 per hour for group lessons and $45 to $75 per hour for private lessons.

“It’s one of those activities that you do because it’s enjoyable,” he says. “You actually don’t realize the amount of exercise that you’re getting.”[[In-content Ad]]

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