Ballroom Dance Teaches Life Lessons

Ballroom Dance Teaches Life Lessons

Richard and Kim Allerton with daughters Paige (left) and Meghan( right) fill their weekends with ballroom dancing.  Son, Owen, Marketing Manager for Research In Motion in Waterloo, is absent.  Click to enlarge.

Paige Allerton of Chatsworth is only 14 years old but she is already an accomplished ballroom dancer. In fact, the entire family dances.

It all started when parents, Kim and Richard Allerton, decided to take ballroom dance lessons.  "Actually," says Kim Allerton, "it was my husband who first wanted to do it.  He had taken ballroom dance while he was at university and so we began taking lessons with Robert Dodgson, a former teacher at West Hill Secondary School." 

"It's unfortunate," adds Richard, "that funding cuts resulted in the ballroom dance activity being cut at the school. School boards just don't seem to realize the value that arts programs play in the lives of young people and they are always the first things to be slashed when it comes to money. In my opinion, they are every bit as important as any other subject."

Son, Owen, felt so strongly about it that he tried to start ballroom dancing at his high school, O.S.C.V.I. in Owen Sound. When the posting went up, students clamoured to sign up. Nevertheless, the class was cancelled again, due to funding cuts.

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When the Richards learned to dance, they say that it changed their lives. "Our entire focus changed and we've been dancing now for 15 years. We firmly believe that dance has brought us closer together as a family," says Richard."

Both parents feel that their children, Owen, Meghan and Paige, have developed self-confidence and esteem through dance. "They are comfortable being around people of all ages," says Kim. "When we started dancing, we went to places where the whole family could go so began taking them with us at a very early age. Ballroom dancing is a tool for teaching young people valuable life lessons."

According to the Allertons, boys in particular often feel self-conscious when it comes to dancing until they start. "They don't realize at first," Kim points out, "that being in a leading situation teaches respect and trust for both partners. They also learn an element of etiquette and social skills that will be invaluable later in life."

Paige at just 14 agrees, "Dancing with a partner does teach respect and tolerance for others. Some of my friends think it's weird that I like to dance with my Dad but that's their problem. It's also a parallel to other things we do like talking to our parents and having parents who interact with us. Our learning to dance is in every aspect of our lives. I've learned Latin dances that are all about acting and the dances from the 40s are fantastically high-energy. Do I think it should be taught in schools? Absolutely!"

For the Allertons, almost every weekend is filled with music and dance as they travel far and wide to pursue their passion. "One of our favourite spots is the Chantry Centre in Southampton," says Kim Allerton. "When the Centenaires are playing, people go there for one reason only and that's to dance. It's wonderful. Hardly anyone sits down the entire night."

Judging by the popularity of shows like Dancing with the Stars, and more locally the annual "Big Band Weekend" held in Saugeen Shores, ballroom dancing is a trend that's growing by leaps and bounds.

"I'm living proof that anybody can learn to dance," laughs Richard, "it took me two years of lessons before I could dance and talk at the same time! We only wish that everyone could be inspired to get out there and trip the light fantastic!"