Story and video by SHANNON O’CONNOR
Watch why people of all ages love to dance.
What does dance mean? Dance is a form of fitness that is fun, physical, mental, and social. Everyone should experience the local dance community because it is tight-knit and welcomes people of all ages, genders, races and body types.
“I started dancing in Utah because people are more open and nonjudgmental,” Myles Ozo said.
Ozo moved to Utah from Virginia. He thought the dance community there was intimidating and the people were snobby. But Ozo felt welcomed with open arms in Utah, and now enjoys the expression of dance.
Elite Dance Studio, located at 4026 S. 2700 East in Holladay, offers classes in jazz, hip-hop, ballet, silks, clogging and choreography. Lesley Smith is the founder and owner of Elite. Her fun-loving personality is shown through her purple, blue, and pink highlights in her hair. Smith is extremely hands-on and goes to the studio almost every day to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Due to Smith’s high involvement in the studio, her amount of family time suffers. “It has impacted my family’s life for the good and bad. I have missed out on a lot of my kids’ childhood … and I’m not home to help with homework or go to games or just hang out.” Even though Smith and her family have made a lot of sacrifices, she believes it has been worthwhile. “It has been a good place for my girls to call home and get to be a part of something special,” she said.
Elite is a special studio that is set apart by the relationship between the students and teachers. The unity at the studio is appealing for those wanting to dance and grow physically while having fun.
“We are a more reasonable dance studio so we have a large number of students,” Smith said. “The teachers care about the kids like their own and it is well known in this community that we are like a family.” The family factor is why Elite celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014. Everyone at the studio has gained relationships over the years that will last a lifetime.
A local studio that emphasizes fitness more than technique is Baile Dance Fitness Studio at 2030 S. 900 East.
“Get an infusion of fun in your fitness routine,” said owner Joni Chapa.
Baile opened in August 2013. Chapa and her instructors infuse fitness into a variety of dance styles such as pop, rock, ballet, hip-hop, Latin, Jamaican and samba.
“I see bodies changing and people getting better at moving,” Chapa said. She believes people are more inclined to exercise when they take a class where they are having fun while getting fit. Chapa has seen it with her own eyes. People evolve from being reserved to letting loose and enjoying dance.
Dancing is not for a specific type of person. Participants don’t have to be extremely flexible, have great musicality, or even have experience. Individuals can start at any age and level and have fun discovering new possibilities of movement.
Pam Ziebell started dancing when she was 50 and she feels better than ever. “It’s exhilarating and I don’t feel like I’m too old,” she said. “Everybody just goes in there and has a blast!”
Molly Buonforte, 25, started dancing when she was 19 and participates in local dance battles, shows and classes.
“I love to dance because I love getting to be someone I’m not,” she said. “I love getting to be a diva or feel like I own the world, when in reality I’m a huge nerd.” Buonforte said for her and almost every dancer, dancing is more than a physical sport. Dancing is about committing and being mentally in tune with your emotions.
Another form of dance that transforms individuals into someone else is pole fitness. It’s a way to gain strength, a solid core and confidence.
“Pole fitness will give you that hourglass shape that everyone wants,” said Kelley Mountford, owner of La Bombe Pole Fitness.
Mountford opened the studio on Feb. 2, 2012, at 1850 S. 300 West in Salt Lake City. Pole fitness is a form of dance that requires a partner. But instead of that partner being another person, it’s a pole. It “challenges you mentally and physically,” she said.
When thinking of someone pole dancing, it’s natural to picture a physically fit beautiful person. Mountford has been a teacher and a student for many years and says that’s not the case. “I’ve watched people come and go to the studio,” she said, “and their mentality changes to, ‘This is my body and I know what it can do whether it’s big or small!’” La Bombe Pole Fitness is a diverse place where people can let go and progress.
There are local dance studios in Utah for every type of person. Elite, Baile and La Bombe Pole Fitness offer different forms of dance fitness that could be the right fit for you.
“For [first-timers] there is a learning curve and they need to have a positive mentality and just have fun,” Baile owner Joni Chapa said in a phone interview.
Step outside of your house or gym and into a dance studio. Get physically fit by dancing and take a chance and dance!