Bellevue youths hit the dance floor — and sweep the competition
Dressed in a button-down shirt and a black tie, the boy gently lifted his partner's hand and led her onto the ballroom floor. Moving with the ease...
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
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Call 425-746-6600 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Impulse Ballroom is located at 2273 140th Ave. N.E. in Bellevue. Youth classes start at $75 a month for beginners, and include two classes a week.
April 26: Impulse Party. Free lesson at 7:30 p.m. followed by open dance at 8:15 p.m. $10.
May 10: Spring Fling. Student showcase. Doors open at 7 p.m. $20 adults; $15 under 21.
Dressed in a button-down shirt and a black tie, the boy gently lifted his partner's hand and led her onto the ballroom floor. Moving with the ease of walking, they showed off the technical footwork of the traditional dance.
Such was the scene last week when Elijah Clayton and Hannah Shinsato, both 11, practiced with other 11- to- 14-year-olds at Bellevue's Impulse Ballroom.
The dance partners took first place in the preteens event at the U.S. Amateur National Dancesport Championships in Utah last month. They were among eight couples age 18 or younger to compete from Impulse Ballroom, including two who tied for first place in the junior division for dancers age 12-15.
"There has been an increase in our number of youth competitors really in the past 10 years," said Claudia Hill, an associate dance lecturer at Brigham Young University, which hosts the annual competition.
Cora Lyn Uczekaj opened Impulse Ballroom with her husband, Stephen, about four years ago, with the goal of creating more opportunities for kids to learn ballroom dancing. They started with just four kids; two were their daughters. Today, about a third of their students are younger than 18. The 80 participants include children as young as 5.
Uczekaj credits much of the rising interest among youth to such TV shows as "Dancing with the Stars." The show is what first enticed Hannah Shinsato.
"The costumes are really neat," she said, speaking of the colorful dresses worn during competitions.
"All of us want to grow up doing something we love to do," said Natasha Zrazhevskaya, 12, who tied for first in the junior event. It also creates an opportunity to someday teach dance, she said.
Girls dominate the youth classes. Dressed in loose, colorful skirts and high heels, they flutter about the dance floor like butterflies in a whirlwind.
The ballroom is tucked away in a strip mall. Purple curtains adorn yellow walls and the owner's two dogs bark and scratch at the office windows. Before the teenagers start to dance, 5-year-olds twirl about the dance floor, following the rhythm of their instructor's step.
To those who compete, ballroom dancing isn't just recreation; it's a competitive sport that requires physical endurance as well as skill. Competitors attend classes four or five times a week, sometimes taking private lessons on weekends.
"Kids are very competition-oriented. It's why they get interested in so many sports," Uczekaj said. Impulse Ballroom hosts the largest youth program for competitive ballroom dancing in the Pacific Northwest, called Collegiate Youth Dancesport.
Dancing also teaches young people how to work together, she said.
The footwork Elijah learns from dancing improves his abilities as a football player, said his father, Eric Clayton.
"He plays positions where he's got to get around big men," he said.
Elijah's mother, Kim Clayton, sees another plus: "I don't think most other sports teach etiquette."
Sabrina Hargis, 12, who tied for first in the junior event, agreed.
"It teaches you how to be a lady and a gentleman, and how to be kind."
Celeste Flint: 206-464-3192 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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