With men in one line and women in another, Santrena Hammonds stood between the two to demonstrate the basics of the waltz.
Hammonds, of Fusion Ballroom Dance, showed the simple box step, which most of the dancers had already mastered. After the couples demonstrated how they could glide with ease across the floor to the sounds of Dan Fogelberg’s “Run for the Roses,” Hammonds decided to add a few moves to give the dance an elegant and more difficult twist.
Each month, members of USA Dance Chapter 6074 meet at the American Legion Richmond Post 63 on Milledge Road to celebrate their love of ballroom dance and cultivate friendships.
“USA Dance is a national, social, ballroom dance association,” said Kay Cooke, president of the local chapter. “There’s a sport division and competitions. Here, this chapter is purely social.”
About 40-50 people attend the dances, which are held on third Saturdays. Members bring food to share and some then take the dance lesson offered early in the event program, while others simply wait for the dance floor to open. There’s a playlist on each of the tables with a suggestion of the type of dance that would be appropriate for the song.
On the May 20 playlist, there was a mix of styles and music from different eras. Dancers could swing to Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Backfield in Motion, waltz to the Circle of Life, line dance to the Cupid Shuffle, rumba to Kokomo, fox trot to Cheek to Cheek, salsa to Tequila or hustle to Disco Inferno, among the two-plus hours of music choices.
Cooke and her husband, Randy, sought out the group when the military moved them to the area. They started dancing together while students at Florida State University and have tried to find an outlet wherever they’ve lived.
While there are couples who attend the monthly dances together, many single people attend as well, and finding a partner is not a problem, said Cooke.
“We have a lot of single women, and the men will make sure they get to dance. Plus it’s perfectly appropriate for women to ask the men to dance,” she said.
If there’s a shortage of men, some of the women step up to fill the lead spot. Sung Soon Eberz and her husband, Bill, have been members for about eight years.
“She’s probably one of the best dancers here,” Bill Eberz said.
She knows both how to lead and how to follow in ballroom dance, he said. So if a woman doesn’t have a partner, Sung Soon Eberz or group treasurer Vickie Cason has no problem stepping in.
“They know all the men’s steps,” Bill Eberz said.
Going solo to the monthly dances doesn’t bother Bobbie Williams at all. She’s been part of the group at least 15 years. Her husband never danced, and it wasn’t until after he died that she started.
She began coming with a friend who had recently lost her husband.
“Her doctor told her to take up dance as part of her grief recovery,” she said.
At 86, Williams was probably the oldest dancer on the floor on May 20. She said it’s good for her.
“I have two new hips, and my orthopedic surgeon said ‘don’t stop dancing.’”
Not only is it good physically, Williams said the monthly dances are good for her in other ways.
“My husband died 30 years ago this month. This is my family. I really, really look forward to this each month.”
That sense of camaraderie and family is the main reason people stick with USA Dance Chapter 6074.
Nita and Bill Swift have been attending for about four years. She said the group is welcoming, and that helps people to get to know each other.
“This group encourages people to bring food to share. Bringing something and sharing it fosters fellowship. The love of dance binds us together,” she said. “During a dance evening, we enjoy dancing and do not pay attention to any differences.”
To learn more about the organization and see a schedule of events, visit the website at www.augustadancing.org.