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Strictly Ballroom

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Atlantic County Magazine – GACCA Article

Print Date 2.26.2021

By Judy Brenna

If you haven’t seen the movie, Strictly Ballroom, you have severely deprived yourself 2 hours of pure, unadulterated joy. To catch you up to speed, the movie, Strictly Ballroom, was a 1992 Australian romantic comedy, directed and co-written by Baz Luhrmann, in his feature directorial début. The film is the first in his "Red Curtain Trilogy" of theatre-motif-related films; it was followed by 1996's Romeo + Juliet ((cue the swoons from every girl who grew up in the 90’s and had posters of Leonardo diCarpio adorning their bedroom walls)) and 2001's Moulin Rouge! It was a hugely accepted instant-cult-classic amongst us theatre kids and the majority of my teenage years consisted of quoting poignant lines from the movie while continuously pounding my heels into the ground (if you’ve seen it you’ll understand why) as well as trying to learn the pasodoble, which is a lot harder without a teacher than it sounds. If you haven’t seen the movie, rent it or stream it, it’s uh-mazing. In fact, one of the biggest lessons I ever learned in life I learned from this film, “to live a life in fear is a life half-lived!”. And of course the line "one bad egg will rot the whole barrel” and lastly ((in a strong Latin-flaired accent)), “listen to the rhythm, don’t be scared” but that last one will make very little sense to you; those informed will get a chuckle. This movie was what helped me develop my deep love and appreciation for ballroom dance.

And quite honestly, if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s ok, there are a ton of other pop culture references out there to inspire you. Hello, Dancing with The Stars? Show of hands, who secretly wished they were a washed-up celebrity or an Olympic gymnast JUST so they could be a contestant on that show? ((awkward silence)) So, you can imagine my excitement when the Greater Atlantic City Concierge Association was invited by owner, Al Henry, to The Academy of Ballroom Dancing, in Northfield, to experience a demonstration. Naturally after hearing this I went right into the back of my closet to dig out my old dance skirt, character shoes and Spanish shawl (just in case). In my head I imagined rolling up in there with my fiancé and after an hour of learning what they’re all about Mike becomes obsessed with the art of dance and we agree to commit all of our downtime to learning the craft and then, of course, entering amateur competitions from time to time, gaining recognition, maybe some awards here and there, and then before we know it we’re flying to Australia to compete in the Pan Pacific, complete with sparkly spandex and furiously awesome headdresses. ((fade back to reality)) But when I asked, “hey Mike, do you want to go?” He just shrugged, while still looking at his phone and said “sure”. Not the fireworks-response I was hoping, but… it was something ((rubbing hands)).

I find it important to explain something, because of what we have been enduring this last year. Dancing has wide appeal for many older adults, yes, because of their positive memories and experiences at a younger age. Dancing bolsters physical and mental health by helping to prevent falls, improve posture and flexibility, lift mood and ease anxiety. It’s also a fun activity that sharpens the mind, increases aerobic power and strength, builds social bonds, and can reduce pain and stiffness. But another important fact, that people tend to overlook, is how important dance is for children, and how it helps them with the logistics behind mathematics. Case in point, rhythm… ((striking a Bob Fosse pose)) and 5-6-7-8! ((hitch kick)). And it has been definitively proven that dance can improve and help restore joy and stability in troubled lives and ease the tensions in schools that are disrupted by violence and bullying. Which is specifically why I feel the need to go a bit on and on about this. We all kind of need an outlet like this right now, don’t we? Covid’s taken enough from us.

Fun fact, when most people hear the term “ballroom dance” they instantly think the waltz, but ballroom dancing is SO much more than that. At Academy of Ballroom Dance they specialize in the Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Viennese Waltz, Swing, and the Jive. In addition also specialize in all Latin rhythms including Argentine Tango, Merengue, Salsa, Rumba, Cha Cha, Mambo, and ((cue the gasps)) Pasodoble. Pan Pacific, here I come!

Another thing I totally appreciate about this dance studio is the measures they have taken to procure safety for their clients. They take this pandemic very seriously. They plan every event now with your safety in mind. All of this pandemic rigmarole has definitely made its impact. As opposed to their normal schedule of hosting group dance lessons 8 times a week, dance socials every week and quarterly dinner-dances with live music, they have reduced their capacity to only 35 people per group session, with the group sessions held only once a week, and dance socials (with limited capacity) every other week. But even with safety protocols in place, the fun is still in full force!

And then I started thinking what an advantage a dance studio near Atlantic City truly is. If you really think about it, it’s perfect for destination weddings. Wedding party dance lessons a day or two before the big day, or last-minute rehearsed dance for the bride and groom. Or what about a company hosting their business seminar in Atlantic City? This place would be an excellent icebreaker activity or even group exercise in trust and teamwork, especially if you’re paired off. I see nothing but opportunity and potential here.

I genuinely cannot wait for our session. My feet haven’t stopped twitching since I found out we were going. I plan on talking more about it next week, so stay tuned! In the meantime, check Academy of Ballroom Dance on Facebook, email the owner, Al Henry, at, or visit their website at Who knows, maybe this time next week I’ll be writing this blog on a plane to Australia, struggling to fit in my seat because my Samba outfit keeps spilling into the aisle. Until next week… #stayjerseystrong

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