“I am seeing more young couples,” she said. “Young men want to please their women, and they’re realizing as long as they can twirl her, she’s happy.”
Marie owns Ballroom in Motion, where she teaches singles and couples classes of all levels. In the past 32 years, she has seen her clientele shift from older women who have to drag their unhappy male partners to class to one in which about 70 percent of interested callers are men.
Ballroom dancing in pop culture has helped spur the change, Marie said. Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice, both former professional football players, appeared on Dancing With the Stars. That persuaded even “manly” men that dancing is not unmanly.
Emilie Tobias, the owner of The Ballroom Dance Center, has also seen a large shift. She now has more men than women.
“Guys relate to it because they realize it’s just repetition,” she said. “Just like any other sport they do, you can get good by continuing.”
Tobias said she thinks there was kind of a lost generation for ballroom dancing. There are older people who grew up thinking it was a good way to meet people, and that mentality is coming back.
“It’s a wholesome way to meet somebody,” she said. “It’s a social outlet that isn’t a nightclub or bar.”
For Victoria and Pete Franz, who recently became empty nesters, ballroom dancing seemed like a good way to spend some quality time together.
“We wanted to rekindle our marriage,” Victoria Franz said, “and have some fun together.”
Pete Franz is retired military, but the stigma of ballroom dancing as an activity for women didn’t keep him from enthusiastically signing them up.
“It’s a way to see my wife in a different perspective,” he said.
Marie said couples who no longer have kids at home or find extra time on their hands for other reasons make up a large part of her clientele. Dancing is a form of connection, she said. The music gets the blood and endorphins pumping.
Lori and John Tippett decided to join Marie’s shag class in October as a fun date night.
“It’s a great way to get out and meet new people,” Lori said. “We decided to sign up on a whim. It’s been really entertaining.”
The Tippetts say Marie’s personality and liveliness make the classes more fun. That’s a big reason why they signed up for November’s “Party Survival Course,” which teaches the dances most likely to be seen at holiday parties.
Although Marie said business declined when the economy was hit a few years ago, she is not surprised that many people decide to spend the discretionary income they have on her classes.
“We do well because people need something fun to do,” she said. “When the music is playing, you wave all the baggage away.”