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Bolero fever

As I stood out on the floor taking part in a bolero dance lesson, I felt a little silly. To say I dance poorly is kind. To say I dance not, is truthful. Just ask the unfortunate, but patient, woman who served as my partner for the lesson. It was ...

Dancing duo Chieko and Bob Pender

As I stood out on the floor taking part in a bolero dance lesson, I felt a little silly.

To say I dance poorly is kind. To say I dance not, is truthful. Just ask the unfortunate, but patient, woman who served as my partner for the lesson.

It was the fourth of four bolero lessons sponsored by Fargo-Moorhead's Northern Lights Community Ballroom Dance Club. In January, they'll begin a series of 10 lessons on the cha-cha, another Latin dance.

Ah, the irony. A blanket of snow rests on the ground outside, but Fargo-Moorhead residents are delving into the warmth of Latin culture.

What would their Viking ancestors think?

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The bolero is a Spanish dance with African influences, said Bob Pender, who along with his wife Chieko, taught the lesson.

It incorporates elements of the waltz in that the dancers physically rise and fall as they go through the dance steps. It has the hip movement of Latin dance. And, from the tango, it incorporates contrabody motion in which the dancer's body moves in one direction while his or her foot moves in the other.

"It's kind of slow and dreamy with a lot of stylized arm movement," said Pender, a retired Minnesota State University Moorhead English professor.

The dance was quite graceful as the Penders demonstrated the bolero's fast-then-slow cadence, the smoothness of its slide-step footwork and its dignified motion. And while I didn't fall down or hurt myself or anyone around me during the entire lesson, my own efforts were utterly graceless.

What is striking is how much more difficult good dancing is than it appears. Pender said it's supposed to look easy.

But it wasn't that I couldn't execute the moves. Okay, it was that, but it wasn't only that. I couldn't even remember the moves. And shame was my enemy. I just kept grinning with embarrassment at my own incompetence like a young boy at his first school dance. The instructors were, however, kind to me, the worst dancer in the room, and gave me some one-on-one assistance.

A dozen dancers took part in the lesson. Club members Ed and Joyce Westfall of Moorhead said there are usually more like 20 to 30 present.

Lisa and Scott Satermo of Fargo were at their first dance lesson with the club.

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"(We) thought it would be something fun to do together," Lisa said.

They both said they enjoyed it, and they signed up to become members of the club.

The Westfalls love dancing and are officers in the Northern Lights club.

"I like the camaraderie and the movement, and you can express yourself on the dance floor," Joyce said.

"We're younger than we look," said her husband Ed. "Dancing has kept us young."

I was a little offended by Bonnie and Bob Ames of Fargo. They danced nearby during the lesson, and they were good. They've been members of the club since its inception in the mid 1990s.

"It's a good way to get exercise with a partner and have fun doing it," Bob said.

Ed Beiswenger, the club's president, said they try to make things beginner-friendly. He said the point of the club is to introduce people to dance.

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"It's pretty intimidating the first time you do it," he said. "It gets easier."

It must. I certainly could get no worse.

Bolero

- What is it: Bolero is a smooth, sophisticated, sentimental love dance. The emphasis is on smoothness and graceful turns with much communication between partners.

- Roots of Bolero: Bolero has the same Afro-Cuban roots as the Rumba and is thought to have originated from Cuba or Spanish folk dances such as the Danzon and Beguine. The dance looks like a slow salsa, with a taste of tango.The music is frequently arranged with Spanish vocals and a subtle percussion effect, usually implemented with guitar, conga or bongos.

Source: www.salsasite.com

For more information

- On the Web: http://northernlightsballroom.org

- By phone: (218) 329-6393.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

Bolero fever J. Shane Mercer 20071203

Dancing duo Chieko and Bob Pender

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