By June Mathews
Homewood’s answer to the ballroom dance craze returns to The Exceptional Foundation on Oct. 27-29.
The 14th annual Ballroom Dance Marathon, an event that attracts dancers of all ages and abilities from across the Southeast, promises to be a weekend loaded with learning, lots of movement and fun.
“We have high school and college kids dancing alongside adults, ages 50 to 90,” said event organizer Wendy Johnson. “It’s a wonderful thing seeing several generations of people all enjoying the same activity.”
The Ballroom Dance Marathon originated as a celebration of National Ballroom Dance Week and a way of earning money to buy a new dance floor for the Homewood Senior Center.
“Initially, the idea came about from Barbara Pilato, and she had help from the Birmingham Ballroom Dance Association,” Johnson said. “Enough money was raised within the first two years to put in a wonderful floor, which was enjoyed by dancers from all over the Birmingham area.”
As the event grew, the organizing committee sought a larger cause. The Exceptional Foundation already had been offering its gym as additional space for the event, so it was natural that its role as a partner evolve into a beneficiary role.
A non-profit organization offering programs for special needs individuals, The Exceptional Foundation uses a variety of sports, games, field trips, arts, crafts and other activities to build confidence and help its participants attain a greater level of independence.
“The Exceptional Foundation is a worthy recipient of our Dance Marathon dollars,” said Johnson, who has been working with the event for 11 of its 14 years of existence.
A certified ballroom dance instructor, Johnson teaches community classes with husband Curt, who also helps with the marathon.
“He and Barb work with the Exceptional Foundation participants to put together a dance exhibition each year by giving them free dance lessons for five weeks leading up to the event,” she said. “It is so heartwarming to see them do their exhibition each year and to see their joy. Their enthusiasm and smiles are certain to remind you of what dancing is truly all about.”
This year’s Ballroom Dance Marathon will begin Friday evening, Oct. 27, with a dance at The Exceptional Foundation featuring popular Birmingham dance band The Classics. The evening will also include the special exhibition by the Exceptional Dancing Stars.
Saturday begins with six hours of workshops – 18 classes in all – taught on three dance floors by nine top-notch instructors from across the Southeast who volunteer their time. Extra dance space for the workshops will be provided by Our Lady of Sorrows school and family life center.
Classes will range from beginning to advanced and include standard favorites such as fox trot, waltz and swing, as well as the Latin-inspired rumba, mambo, cha cha, bolero and tango, American and Argentine style.
A Saturday evening semi-formal dance will take place at The Exceptional Foundation with music provided by another popular Birmingham dance band favorite, Tradewinds. More exhibitions and plenty of food will round out the evening.
“Our newest addition to the Dance Marathon, a Jack-and-Jill competition with general dancing in between, will be Sunday, Oct. 29, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.,” said Johnson. “This will be a friendly competition open to all levels of dancers and will give seasoned competitors a place to strut your stuff and gain more experience.”
The competition is free to spectators and $15 per heat for competitors. Vendor booths will offer dance related items, and a consignment shop will allow dancers to buy or sell gently used dance merchandise all weekend.
A la carte prices for dance classes and competitions are available, but dancers may purchase a weekend pass for $90. For questions or requests for Ballroom Dance Marathon brochures with registration forms, contact Wendy Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s going to be a wonderful weekend full of dance,” said Johnson, “and we hope you will choose to get involved!” ❖