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Queens Chronicle

Queens Theatre will teach you to cut a rug

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Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:30 am

In recent years, interest in ballroom dancing has reached heights not seen in decades, thanks in large part to shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Now, men and women of all ages can kick up their heels and take to the dance floor themselves as Queens Theatre kicks off a brand-new series of ballroom dance lessons — all for a nominal fee.

“Fernando came to me because he thought it would be nice to do a lecture. People really want to get up and try it themselves,” said the theater’s managing director Taryn Sacramone.

Fernando Blanco is the theater’s in-house manager and coordinator of volunteers, who said the idea for the series came out of a popular lecture series that the theater has been hosting over the past couple of years.

Blanco said he was inspired by suggestions from the volunteers — the ushers, envelope stuffers and others who help keep the theater spinning on a daily basis — many of whom liked the idea of an opportunity to not only hear about dancing but to get up and actually dance.

The series, which is open to the public, will focus on Latin dances, and will get underway with a free kickoff event on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.

Participants will gather in the theater’s lobby, where they will have an opportunity to meet the instructors and pick up information on the classes, and even get a sampling of what’s to come.

Sacramone said she is “hoping for a very mixed group. I think it will appeal to different people for different reasons.” It could be a “date night” for the younger set, she suggested.

Blanco began the lecture series, which has spotlighted a wide variety of arts-related topics, because “we thought it would be so good for the community.”

Among the individuals who led one of the lectures was Paul Ru Bao, a graduate of the Beijing Dance Academy University and a professional dance teacher and long-time worldwide dance competitor. He’s returning to the theater to lead the dance classes.

A Flushing resident, Ru Bao, who runs the Rudance Ballroom Dance school in the area, came to New York from China 14 years ago.

With participants coming armed with what is expected to be a wide level of skills, one might think Ru Bao would feel a special challenge.

A man of few words, he said, “No big challenge. This is my work. Twenty years.”

Which dance did he think would be the most difficult for his students to learn? “None are difficult,” he said. “Everybody can dance. People never know they can dance. Sometimes it’s on the inside.”

Sacramone is particularly pleased about the dances that have been chosen for the series. “Latin dance is so celebratory. When you see it, you want to do it. A lot of people are curious about it,” she said.

She admits she has “never taken a dance class in my life,” but she is “looking forward to this. We’re trying to party, have some fun with it.”

Blanco hopes to see the community get involved. “Dancing changes people’s attitudes,” he said. “It makes people happy. The arts enrich people.”

And, Sacramone said, the theater is trying to keep prices “as low as we possibly can.” She is hopeful the series will lead to similar events in the future.

“If this becomes a year-round program, we’d certainly pursue a sponsor,” she said. “It’s another way for us to reach people and for people to find a home at Queens Theatre.”

All classes for the next five weeks will begin at 7 p.m.

The first one, on March 6, will focus on the cha-cha. Subsequent Thursday nights will highlight the tango (March 13), samba (March 20), salsa (March 27) and merengue (April 3).

Anyone who participates in three or more classes will have the option to perform as part of a showcase that will be open to the public.

Single class tickets purchased in advance are $10. Drop-in rate for a single class is $15. The entire package is $45.

Anyone interested in just practicing or mixing and mingling can join in each week for an hour-long session beginning at 8 p.m. Admission is $5.

The theater is located indoors in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Call (718) 760-0064 for more information or to register.

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