hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

March 17, 2010

FANCY FOOTWORK: Couples ready for prime time after ballroom dance lessons

Couples ready for prime time after ballroom dance lessons

By Cara Spilsbury

At George's Restaurant in Haverhill, guests can get the usual essentials for a night out, like dinner, drinks and live music.

But lately, they can get something a little different: A free ballroom dance lesson.

Upstairs at George's, in Mal's Lounge, Len Krasinski of Bradford and Sainah Rahardja of Salem, N.H., competitive ballroom dancers, lead dancers of all levels in a different dance style each Thursday at 8 p.m.

The class was born when patrons at Mal's noticed Krasinski and Rahardja's smooth moves on the dance floor.

"Everyone was asking how they could learn to dance like Len," said Fred Habeeb, owner of George's.

Each week, it's Ballroom Dancing 101. Krasinski begins with the very basics of a new dance style, then gradually builds up the difficulty. Often, the class can bring out about 15 couples.

He focuses on all the details, like foot placement, a dancer's carriage of the upper body, hips, and hands.

The class is geared to all levels. Beginners can keep working on the basics they have learned while Krasinski adds more complicated moves for the more advanced couples.

Once Krasinski has finished his lesson, which usually lasts about 45 minutes, the live music at Mal's takes the stage. Many of the students stay later into the evening, practicing their new steps and honing their other dance moves to the band's beats.

The series concludes April 3, with a special Saturday event.

One pair of dancers who will be sad to see the classes end is Cathy Howe and Richard Marcotte. They have been at the class each Thursday, even though they have danced together for decades.

"It's just fun," said Marcotte, 65. "We love to dance."

"I think everyone should try it," said Howe, 70. "Dancing is the best thing in the world."

"And it's great exercise too, added Marcotte. "It keeps the joints moving."

Krasinski and Rahardja hope their students will have a lot of fun, but also take away many other positive results from the lessons.

"It's really good for you," said Rahardja. "It's very healthy. It's a really good work out."

And the dancers said that learning to cha cha and swing with a partner is a great way to promote a healthy relationship as well.

"It's definitely something fun for couples to do," said Krasinski."It really helps bond the relationship, because you're working together. And it's something really nice for men to do for their women."

But Krasinski and Rahardja said dance lessons are even fun, and useful, for singles.

"Especially for a single guy, it will make him a hot item," said Rahardja.

"At ballroom events, women are always asking the men to dance," said Krasinski, who added that women often outnumber men three to one. "The guys don't have a chance to sit down. Guys never leave the floor."