Ballroom dancing winning young fans

Joking around with a few friends before drama class was what got Lauren Bezzina interested in ballroom dancing.

The Farmborough Heights university student, now 20, had only a year of primary school jazz under her belt when she and two friends decided to learn ballroom.

"One of my friends from high school, we used to pretend we could ballroom dance a lot in our drama room, and so he said we should actually give it a go and go to lessons," she says.

"We had no idea about ballroom dancing when we started. The three of us were so unco-ordinated it was unbelievable."

Now, after almost two years of weekly lessons, Bezzina says she is confident with most of the dances, citing the waltz and the tango as her favourites.

Twirling around a mirrored room for an hour and a half every Monday is a world away from the rest of her day spent studying maths and science, but she says social dancing is a great way to relax, learn new skills and meet people.

"I've got enough connections there now that I feel completely comfortable with anyone there. Even if you have a new person in the class, you're willing to have a go and show them something."

Ballroom dancing is no longer just a pastime for older people.

An influx of television shows and films portraying ballroom as exciting and funky over the past few years have helped boost its popularity, as has showcasing it as a fun way to get fit.

According to DanceSport Australia, there are two groups of ballroom dances - the standard dances of the modern and Viennese waltzes, quickstep, foxtrot and tango and the Latin dances of rumba, cha cha cha, samba, jive and paso doble.

Steven Grinbergs, 23, has been dancing since he was 10 and is now an internationally recognised ballroom dancer, along with his partner and girlfriend Rachelle Plaass.

He teaches the beginners class at Wollongong's DanceSpace 383 and says more people around his age are interested in ballroom.

He says what his students find surprising is they are able to get the hang of the steps quite easily.

"I think that's half the battle; that most people write themselves off straight away and think they can't dance, but I think if you can walk, you can pretty much dance," he laughs.

DanceSpace 383 principal teacher and owner Donna Shingler says many international students take ballroom classes at the studio to make new friends.

She thinks part of its popularity is that it gives young people an opportunity to interact in a setting that doesn't involve alcohol.

"Social skills these days are lacking, everything's iPhones, texts, emails. To actually sit down and talk to somebody, ballroom dancing offers that," she says.

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