As the season of love and romance returns, it can be tempting to dust off some cha-cha heels and step out onto the dance floor. For those itching to live out their Strictly Ballroom fantasies to absolute beginners, American Classic Ballroom in Victoria is able to help aspiring dancers become comfortable with a variety of styles, including the foxtrot, salsa and swing.
“It’s the best gift you can give yourself,” says Paul Botes, the co-owner of American Classic Ballroom. Together with his wife, Natalie, the two run the dance school, teaching both private and group lessons for singles and couples alike. “[Dancing] is much more than memorizing the moves. It’s about getting closer to your partner, working together.”
Natalie and Paul Botes
The ballroom opened in 2009, relocating to Victoria after Botes had operated a studio out of Plymouth. After a decorated career as a competitive ballroom dancer (including competing across the pond in England), Botes made the transition to teaching, seeing the reward in sharing his love for dance with others. Both Botes and Natalie teach students of all kinds, including those who have followed in their competitive footsteps. Several of their students have become national champions in their respective style divisions. “It’s satisfying,” Botes says. “It’s something they’re able to do because [I’ve] taught them.”
However, despite those who go on to strut their stuff for judges across the nation, there are plenty of students who take classes simply out of their love of the art of dance. While Botes primarily offers private lessons, there are group classes that are taught at the studio. And while American Classic Ballroom isn’t offering any special Valentine’s Day events, it doesn’t mean that sparks can’t fly on the dance floor. Laurie Hearst, a student of Botes’s for 10 years, met her husband while taking a dance class.
“It feels so chivalrous and elegant,” Hearst says. “I don’t know of any other thing like it.” Hearst met her husband, CJ, after signing up for classes as a way to meet people and get involved in the community following her move to Minnesota from California. After her now-husband asked her to be his dance partner, the rest is history. They now compete across the country together. “Competing wasn’t something I was planning on doing,” Hearst says, noting that she had only picked up dancing as a hobby. “But my husband would never just dabble in something. He’s all or nothing.” The couple has danced competitively in Louisiana, California and Illinois. Hearst cites Botes’s skill as an instructor as a major contributor to their success.
“It’s a great way to get to know each other,” Hearst says of dancing with her husband. “You get to play a role that the rest of life won’t demand. It’s challenging, but to get to do that with your spouse is rewarding.”
With classes nearly every night of the week and open floor dances on Friday nights, American Classic Ballroom has something for everyone. “We do it for the love of dance,” Botes says. “There’s no other reason to do it.”