ABC WTAE-TV, By Jack Kelly
A lovely way to improve both your health and your relationship with your significant other is ballroom dancing, thinks psychologist Nancy Mramor.
“Because ballroom dancing is a great form of aerobic exercise, it offers a wealth of health benefits that can help prevent disease and manage a variety of chronic health conditions,” said Ms. Mramor, the on-air psychologist for KDKA TV/radio.
Ms. Mramor began taking ballroom dancing lessons when she was looking for an exercise program to help rehabilitate an injury to her back.
“Swing dancing and the fox trot helped relieve some of the pain and keep me more flexible,” she said. “It’s proven to be a great form of exercise for me.”
Most of those who regularly attend with Ms. Mramor the group dance lessons Tuesday nights at the Night and Day Dance Studio on Babcock boulevard share her opinion.
“[Ballroom dancing] is very good for your health,” said Al Tung, 62, an anesthesiologist who lives in O’Hara. “It trains your memory — you have to learn the steps — and the exercise is good.”
“I had a massive heart attack in 2000,” said Frank Fazio, 59, of McCandless. “I would not have made the recovery I did if it wasn’t for dance.”
“I think it’s more mental health than physical health,” said Linda McKee, proprietor of the Night and Day Dance Studio. “I’ve seen peoples’ lives changed through dancing.”
Ms. McKee has been teaching ballroom dancing since 1975.
“I started with Arthur Murray in Youngstown,” she said. “I went through their training program. I’ve been in love with it ever since.”
You may not have thought of ballroom dancing as a form of exercise, but the International Olympic Committee has. It has given ballroom dancing provisional recognition as a true athletic activity.
Ballroom dancers can burn between 250 and 400 calories an hour, depending on the step. That’s about the same as a brisk half-hour walk on the treadmill. More demanding dances such as salsa, samba or the cha cha burn more.
Dancing also sharpens balance and coordination.
“You don’t get that from walking on a treadmill,” Dr. Ferdinand Venditti, chief of medicine at Albany Medical College and a spokesman for the American Heart Association, told the Associated Press.
For most who take dancing lessons, the exercise is a fringe benefit.
Ron and Nancy Corsello of Wexford have been taking lessons at the Night and Day studio for four weeks.
“We’re getting ready for the Glass Slipper Ball,” said Nancy, who has long been active in charity work. “I went last year, and I didn’t know how to dance. They had a big band and we just watched the dancing.”
The Glass Slipper Ball will be held this year at the Four Points Sheraton in Mars Feb. 24. The black tie event raises money for Zonta International, a group devoted to advancing women’s rights around the globe.
Tom and Deborah Hattrup of Franklin Park would go to weddings, but wouldn’t dance, because Tom didn’t know how.
“My husband always wanted to learn to dance, but he was shy,” Deborah said. “So we decided to do it together.”
They’ve been taking dance lessons for two years.
“We try to come as often as we possibly can,” Deborah said. “It’s a lot of fun. We have a great time.”
Ralph Progar of Sewickley liked to dance, but wife Sherri didn’t. But once Ralph persuaded her to take a few lessons, Sherri’s attitude changed.
“Dance is very structured,” she said. “I’m very analytical. It was a perfect match.”
Like many parents, Frank and Mary Ann Fazio had led lives that centered on their children and their activities. When the kids went off to college, there was a void, Frank said.
“I was coming home from work each night, eating dinner, and watching TV,” Frank said. “One day I said to my wife, ‘We’ve got to do something.’ ”
When Frank suggested ballroom dancing, Mary Ann responded: “No way.”
“I was reluctant to dance with men other than my husband,” she said. “I wasn’t confident in my abilities to learn dancing.”
Mary Ann’s concerns swiftly were dispelled by the instructors at Night and Day, and by her fellow students during group lessons. During these lessons, students are required frequently to change partners.
The group lessons last for an hour, during which two dances are practiced. Most who take the group lessons take them as a supplement to private lessons.
“The biggest thing [about ballroom dancing] is you meet the nicest people from all walks of life,” said Frank, echoing a sentiment expressed by nearly all the dancers at the studio the night the Post-Gazette visited.
The Night and Day Dance Studio is at 3312 Babcock Blvd. The telephone number is: 724-934-3655. Many other studios in the area offer ballroom dancing instruction. A list of them can be found at pittsburgh.net. Other forms of dance, such as square dancing, offer equivalent health benefits.