By Carla Christiano
Maybe you don’t know a box step from a two-step or a swing dance from a salsa. Or, maybe you’ve been
dancing for years and just want to find somewhere nearby to hone your skills. Although the Prince William area is not exactly known for its dance spots, there are a few places to go if you want to learn a new step or try out a different style of dance. Here are some local places we have found to “bust a move” or even “cut a rug.”
Center for the Arts
Most people know the Center for the Arts in Manassas for its art classes or theatre programs, but if you want to learn the cha-cha or foxtrot, you have come to the right place. On Thursday evenings, Barbara “Bobbie” Brennan teaches beginning ballroom and intermediate ballroom dance classes. For those who want to practice or just to dance, the Center for the Arts offers lessons on a specific dance style and open dancing one Sunday a month.
On Tuesday nights, the Center for the Arts changes it up, depending on customer requests, said Candace Penders, education director for the center. “People would like to take salsa more often, but there’s only so much we can get into and still have time for the other specialty steps.” Last summer the center did East Coast Swing, and in the fall, a five-week tango class was offered. At the end of February, the center offered wedding prep classes so “that people can build their confidence for wedding or prom, but anyone can come for even an overview,” Penders said.
Dianne Hewitt of Manassas enrolled in Tuesday’s “Salsa, Merengue, Batchata!” class taught by Cookie Bell “on a whim.” She had done line dancing, stepping and hand dance before, but this was her first time trying merengue or salsa. She had to learn a different way of counting, but she enjoys “trying new things.”
Rebecca Shell of Manassas decided to take a beginning ballroom dance class at the Center for the Arts because she had taken digital photography classes there and had a good experience. She found it convenient, and the rates were reasonable. “I found out you don’t need a partner” and decided to give it a try, Shell said. She went to a Sunday dance to learn the merengue and try out some new steps: “I finally decided a couple of years ago to take care of myself. I lost 72 pounds. Now that I’ve gotten myself
in better shape, I thought I’d try something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Upcoming Sunday dances: May 20 and June 10
Lesson and dance are $15. Dance only is $10. Pay at the door.
More information: center-for-the-arts.org/programs/danceprograms.
Dance classes: Rates for dance classes vary, but members receive a discount. Registration is required. More information: center-for-the-arts.org/classes/dance.
Prince William County Parks and Recreation
Ballroom Dance Class at Sharron Baucom Dale City Recreation Center
In room 101, where tiny Angelina dancers learn fundamentals and teenagers learn hip hop moves, five couples practice waltz steps around the wood floor to the song “My Kind of Woman/My Kind of Man.” Husband and wife team Jodi and Charlie Marcus have taught ballroom dancing at the rec center since
1988. They oversee the dancers, correcting a hand position here and demonstrating a box step there.
“The instructors make it a fun environment to learn,” said Andy Richers of Woodbridge, who took the Ballroom I class. He and his wife, Rina Cabiera, came to this class because “there were not a lot of choices,” but they love attending because the location and time of the class are convenient. This was Cabiera’s first time ballroom dancing, and she wanted to learn to waltz and chacha. According to Richers, it was not hard to learn because they practice at home.
The Recreation Center offers 10-week Ballroom I and Ballroom II classes on Wednesday nights. Cost is $160 per couple.
More information: See the latest issue of Leisure magazine at pwcgov.org/government/dept/park/Pages/Leisure-Magazine.aspx
Line Dancing at Chinn Aquatics and Fitness Center
For those who don’t have partners or want to try something different, line dancing on Tuesdays afternoons and Thursday evenings may be an option. Instructor Susan Scott has been teaching both classes since 2014. Classes are open to everyone, and Chinn membership is not required. Class sizes average around 10, and drop-ins are always welcome. The classes tend to appeal to an older audience, but she had a teenager who recently attended to meet her home schooling physical education requirements.
Scott teaches a variety of line dances and focuses on requests. “I want to focus on the needs of the participants,” she said. Although line dancing, like all dancing, has many health benefits, according to Scott, “the socialization is one benefit that I least expected, but it makes it more fun. It creates warmth
Robin and George Grotheer of Lake Ridge started attending Scott’s class about two years ago to prepare for their daughter’s wedding, and they are always looking for places to dance because after all, they met dancing. They both have noticed the health benefits, and Robin added, “Sometimes I don’t think I remember, but then the music clicks on, and the muscles remember.”
Classes are for four weeks and cost $28. A free beginner class is held one Tuesday afternoon and one Wednesday evening at the end of the month.
More information: See the latest issue of Leisure magazine at
Now on Thursday nights at Uptown Alley, the location of a former Target in the Manassas Mall, about 30-40 people gather at 7:30 to learn line dances from Kelli, a LineDance4You instructor. Some dancers are regulars there, but others like Kim of Prince William County had never been line dancing before, and her friends convinced her to try. On stage with microphone in hand, Kelli breaks down the steps for the dancers. When the music starts, almost everyone is on the dance floor trying out the steps, including Kim.
Since September 2017, LineDance4You has provided free beginner line dance lessons to Uptown Alley patrons from 7:30-8:30 p. m., said Danielle Schill, owner of LineDance4You. Dancers can try out their steps in open line dancing. Kelli stays on the floor to help dancers during the open dance. “We want to make sure everyone feels welcome,” Schill said.
Line dancing has many health benefits, and it’s also communal. “Everybody encourages each other…Friendships have formed between 30-year-olds and 60-year-olds” that have continued beyond line dancing, according to Schill.
Etta and Gary Wilson started coming to Uptown Alley last year. Although Gary prefers swing dancing, Etta enjoyed learning the line dances and thought it was good for her brain to learn something new. Both have danced all over the country and really enjoy dancing at the Center for the Arts and the Harris Pavilion in Manassas, too.
More Information: linedance4you.com or facebook.com/UptownAlleyMVA.
Carla Christiano ([email protected]) is a native of Prince William County, an admitted history geek and a technical writer for Unisys.