Dancers of all ages hit the floor

ENCINITAS — While some people spend their weekend anticipating “Dancing with the Stars” on Monday night, others have taken matters into their own hands by learning how to dance like the pros themselves.
New York City has the Roseland Ballroom, and Encinitas has Dance North County, which attracts hoofers from Southern California and beyond who simply “gotta dance.”
In the mid-1990s David Tomko came up with an idea for a facility where he could rent studio space to dance schools that were struggling to keeping their doors open. He and fellow dancer Melissa Dexter opened Dance North County in 1995 with one dance floor. Today there are three rooms to accommodate the demand.
“When ‘Dancing with the Stars’ came out in 2005, business grew by 20 percent,” he said. “It dropped off last year because of the recession, but seems to be slowly increasing as the economy improves.”
According to Tomko, Americans were considered poor dancers by the rest of the world until the 1980s when both ballroom dancing and competitions became popular.
“Back then there were four competitions a year in the United States,” he said. “Now there is one or two every week.”
Today, 20 dance schools and 40 instructors operate out of Dance North County offering everything from dance lessons for toddlers and their moms to social dances for seniors.
In between there is tap, hula, belly, pole, hip hop, jazz, swing, lindy hop, country two-step, nightclub two-step, Argentine tango, salsa, ballroom dancing and instruction in just about every other dance form. Private lessons are also available for couples who want to choreograph their wedding dance.
Mary Nierman had no interest in learning how to dance until she accompanied a friend to Dance North County three years ago and saw instructor Daniel Vasco at work. Since then Nierman has become a competitive dancer herself who, with Vasco as her partner, has participated in the San Diego Dance Sport 2008, California Open 2009, Hollywood Dance Sport 2009 and various showcase events. 
“Dancing has given me confidence and a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “Now that my children are more independent, I have time to pursue my hidden passion. My husband doesn’t dance but he thinks it’s wonderful.”
On Friday and Saturday nights Dance North County is transformed into a nightclub venue for dance parties that attract people from throughout San Diego and Orange counties. Admission ranges from $7 to $12 for the evening, which includes instruction and nonalcoholic refreshments.
The second Saturday of the month the San Diego Hustle Club rents the studio from 8 p.m. to midnight. A beginner lesson from 8 to 8:30 p.m. is included with admission.
Dancers in their 70s and as young as college age gather to do the hustle as well as salsa, cha-cha, night club two-step and the West Coast swing.
Dancer Naida Malchiodi, an English teacher at Sunset High School, is not surprised.
“Young people who were hip hop dancing wanted to try something new so they took the West Coast swing and added their own spin,” she explained.
Tomko says that dance classes are usually evenly divided between men and women. Sometimes there are even more men.
 “Guys finally figured out that women like to dance,” he said. “If you’re a guy and like to dance, you’ll meet more women.”
Mary and Ken McArthur, charter members of the San Diego Hustle Club, met at a studio dance a few years ago. Mary says dancing also provides a rigorous workout while having fun.
“If you dance two to four dances, that’s 10 minutes,” she said. “It gets my heart rate up.”
Dance North County is located at 535 Encinitas Blvd., Suite 100, Encinitas. For class schedules and more information visit dancenorthcounty.com or call (760) 942-6362.

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