Shall we dance?

Juneau couple teach the steps

Posted: Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ballroom dance teachers Pat Belec and Frank Bergstrom are pleased to see the success of the ABC program "Dancing With the Stars."

It's meant more people want to dance like Jerry Rice and Stacy Keibler, two of the 20 professional and celebrity dancers in the second season of the program.

"Things come and go in popularity, and it seems like ballroom dancing is coming back," Bergstrom said.

That's good news for the couple, who taught dance at the Juneau Racquet Club and Juneau Dance Unlimited from 1983 until they left town in 2000 for stints in Montana and Anchorage. They moved back in October, and they've just opened The Dance Loft, a sunny, 530-square-foot hardwood maple dance studio on the second-floor, A-frame-shaped loft of a workshop adjacent to their Glacier Highway home.

Belec and Bergstrom plan to teach an assortment of dances in their private studio. They've started with two six-week, 90-minute Friday night Argentine tango courses and a six-week, 90-minute Monday night Rhumba class. Call 523-1995 for more information.

who: pat belec and frank bergstrom

what: the dance loft

where: adjacent to their home, off glacier highway

currently teaching: argentine tango, 6-7:30 p.m. and 8-9:30 p.m. fridays, six-week series started march 3. rhumba dance classes, 7-8:30 p.m. mondays, six-week series started march 6. call 523-1995 for more information.

"This was the ideal opportunity to open our own dance studio, which has always been a dream of mine," Belec said. "We want to provide people with an intimate setting and the opportunity to feel comfortable at their own speed. Once you get out on a dance floor, it's a whole different culture, and this will provide them with skills and just the enjoyment of learning dance."

"We can all hold down a chair pretty well," Bergstrom said. "We're trying to get people off that chair in a social atmosphere. In ballroom dancing, you have to learn yourself and your space, but also in relation to your partner. That's a challenge, but it's also part of the enjoyment of doing it with someone."

Belec and Bergstrom came back to Juneau to start a different business, the Alaska Cheese Co.

Belec began dabbling in ballroom dancing in 1977, when she was in music school in New York. Two years later, she began teaching in a Colorado dance studio. She moved to Juneau in 1982, and she and Bergstrom began dancing together in 1990.

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At the JRC and JDU, they taught country, polka and various ballroom styles. They led a massive salsa class on the eve of Tito Puentes' performance at Centennial Hall. Both still teach at JRC.

While in Anchorage, Belec studied with Percell Rivere St. Thomass and earned her bronze-level national certification from the United States Independent Dance Council, one of a handful of national governing dance bodies around the world. The process included intensive study in a seires of dances, including the waltz, the fox trot, quickstep, East coast swing, West Coast swing, cha cha, Rhumba, meringue, mambo, bolero, hustle, the nightclub two-step and the American and Argentine tango.

The USIDC promotes a different concept of body movement.

"What I like about it is that you learn body movement, and you learn that just by the way you move, you have three or four or five steps that you can do," Belec said. "You can do more with less, and that was a new concept for me. I've always stepped, the man leads and the lady follows. And that's still absolutely true, but this is a different way of leading. This is not push and pull here. You turn the lady, you know what you do, and she'll automatically follow your body movement. It's liberating."

"It's the difference between driving an automatic and a standard," Bergstrom said. "Standard you have to grind the clutch and the gears. The automatic, you want to go someplace, the car gets there."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com



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