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Big bands, big fun

John Hart
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Ballroom dancing and the big-band sounds of the 1940s are all the rage at the Grass Valley Senior Center.

“There’s quite a lot of dancing going on,” said 76-year-old Bob Cowan of Penn Valley.



Ballroom dancing, Cowan said, is a lifelong pastime you can never outgrow or get too old for.




“You can keep dancing for years. I started at 16, and at 76, I’m still dancing,” he said. “And you don’t need any equipment, just a good pair of dancing shoes.”

But for Cowan and his partners at the senior center, dancing is more than just a favorite pastime.

“To me, it’s the best thing,” Cowan said. “I just feel good when I dance and don’t have time to worry about the cares in the world. … Dancing is good for whatever ails you.”

Every Tuesday, Cowan and a close-knit group of big-band-era revelers gather at the senior center for ballroom dance class – to brush up on the waltz or fox trot or learn a new step or two.

“Nice and tall, nice and tall posture,” urged instructor Dick Livingston as he took a dozen couples or so through the steps of the waltz last month.

Lois Lemoine’s favorite dance is the swing.

“Because in the ’40s, that’s what we did,” she said. “We had the big-band era, and we did a lot of swing in those years. … I guess kids nowadays call it fast dancing.”

In addition to the dancing and learning, the camaraderie keeps Lemoine coming back. She has been dancing at the center for four years.

“We’re just a great group of friends,” she said.

Sheila Baran likes the rumba best.

“It’s the nice, smooth, sexy dance,” said Baran, who will be 75 in March.

“If a man is a good lead, he makes you a better dancer. So it’s important to have a good partner,” said Baran, who’s been dancing with her husband at the center 11 years.

Though people have come and gone over the years, Baran said there’s a core group of dancers at the senior center that’s kept very close.

“And when new people come into the group, we make them feel welcome,” Baran said. “They say you need a hug a day. Well, if you come to dance class, you’ll get several hugs.”

To give the dancers a chance to strut what they’ve learned in class, the center puts on a ballroom dinner dance accompanied by a band once a month.

Singles, couples and dancers of all ages and abilities are welcome. For more information, call the Grass Valley Senior Center at 273-4961.


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