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Dance Fever

Area dance classes are filling up, thanks to a popular TV show.

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"Whenever you see dance in the media, people see that and they want to do it," says Eleanor Robertson, owner of Rigby's Jig on West Broad Street. "The show's popularity has increased business tremendously," she says. And that sentiment is echoed at dance studios across town. Dance Masters on the North Side and Diane Hale School of Dance in Ashland have also seen an increase in business.

"Whether the show is a success or not, the dance business will continue regardless," says Hale School owner Diane Hale, "It's not just on television; its everywhere you go." Hale says many people use dance as a form of exercise. "It's a great way to lose weight, and to meet people." All three dance studios agreed that the most popular dances Richmonders want to learn are the tango, salsa and swing.

The Richmond Symphony has even cut in on the trend. Their second annual "Tango & Temptation" Valentine's Day fund-raiser was spawned by the TV show and, with the help of the Latin Ballet, this year attracted 250 people to Saks for a demonstration and dancing. "This is what Richmonders want," said Phillip J. Melita, symphony communications manager. "Tango is passionate, and hot, and with the success of the television show, we knew people would want to come and dance." But Melita believes the show has simply capitalized on an interest that was already there.

Professional dancers and instructors at the local schools point out some of the other benefits of dancing that has kept it popular: an enhanced appreciation of music and its rhythms, an increased sense of balance, and a more fluid movement in walking and running.

"It's motivating to learn new steps, share what we've learned, and of course show off on the dance floor," said a couple from Henrico taking a tango class at Rigby's Jig. "Latin dancing has opened up a new way to meet friends, dress up for events, and get some exceptional exercise."

"I started dancing because I wanted to learn the type of dance shown on the show 'Dancing With the Stars,'" said a woman from Richmond at Dance Masters. "I wanted to get as good as they are, and get a good workout while having fun."

On Feb. 26 Richmonders can see if they've got rhythm at the "Day of Dance for Heart Health" at Richmond International Raceway. "Day of Dance," sponsored by Bon Secours Richmond Health System and the American Heart Association, will feature demonstrations and lessons, and is part of a national effort to promote the benefits of dance and exercise in the prevention of heart disease.

"Dancing is coming back," said Judy Heilman marketing manager for Bon Secours Health System. "People, especially women, are finding it fun to do, healthy, you burn calories, and you can do it alone, at home or with a group of friends." S

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