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Posted March 28, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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In trading texting for twirling, area residents begin a local dance revolution

Beaulieu teaches a salsa class recently. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Participants in the Thursday night classes at the fitness center can come as couples or singles and pair up with different classmates to learn to dance. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Danielle Beaulieu, right, instructs Ann Hogshead through some dance steps. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Jeff Cappo is the Average Joe.

He likes watching TV. He's game for a challenge. Problem is, those two things cross paths on the dance floor, where, in typical Average Joe fashion, Michael Flatley he is not.

"I'm pretty bad," said Cappo, 48, of Woodstock. "I'm rigid. It's basically like teaching a gorilla to dance. I'm not smooth."

But one attribute he doesn't recognize that he possesses, or perhaps he underrates the importance of, is that he has a positive attitude, said Freddie Ciampi, who is teaching Cappo and others how to bust a move the right way at Woodstock Rehab and Fitness on Thursday nights.

"It doesn't matter how good he is," said Ciampi, who owns Social Graces in Berryville. "A dancing partner wants a nice attitude in dance rather than you have a proficiency in dance. [Jeff] is a nice guy. He's going to be fine."

Woodstock Rehab owner Dave Reichley started going to Ciampi's dance studio last year and quickly decided that Shenandoah County residents could benefit from having dance available to them as a social outlet. The fitness center, through award-winning instructor Lee Santos, has had dance lessons before, but Reichley wanted to offer them more regularly.

Earlier this month, Ciampi, who has four instructors at his studio, started teaching classes at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursdays, with introduction to Latin dances, salsa and rumba, at the earlier session and introduction to ballroom dancing, the waltz and fox trot, at the later one. Santos, meanwhile, began a swing class at 7 p.m. Tuesdays this past week.

"My philosophy on dance is that it's a social glue that keeps people together," Ciampi said. "In the world of TV, cell phones, iPods, dance forces people to deal with each other face to face."

It was television, in fact, that got Cappo interested in trying to learn how to dance. He said he became a fan of "Dancing with the Stars" and wanted to try it out himself.

"It looks fun on TV," Cappo said.

Naturally, though, not all men display such an interest. Ciampi said the problem lies in a man's mistake of thinking of dance as a finished product.

"I'm not going to teach you to dance the first time," he said. "You will learn how to move your feet, then your arms. Then it will start to feel like something. It will be mechanical in the beginning. It does take time.

"This is a cross-generational thing. We easily could have a 9-year-old dance with an 84-year-old. ... This is a no-limitations environment. If you have two left feet, we'll partner you with someone who has two right feet, and we'll work it out."

The idea of the class, however, is not to produce top-notch dancers as much as it is to serve a social and health benefit, Reichley said. By mid-May or early June, Woodstock Rehab will hold Saturday night dances on a monthly basis for anyone who is interested.

"There's a whole ballroom culture out there, and it's growing," Reichley said. "It's a great way to have fun, meet people and get a little exercise."

Specifically, dancing can stave off Alzheimer's disease for men because, like chess, it deals with spatial relations and planning your next move, Ciampi said. Also, it's a de-stresser, which can lead to better sleep, he said.

Reichley endorses dancing for health benefits because it improves your cardiovascular health, coordination and balance.

"You shift weight from one side to the other. The body adapts and learns. The more you do it, the better you get," he said. "You're giving yourself a sense of mental well being. There's nothing better than completing a dance move. There's no feeling in the world like it."

An important feature of the classes is that bringing a partner is unnecessary. You will be matched with someone during the class, and partners rotate anyway. On a recent Thursday night, the early class consisted of partners dancing slowly to Sting's "Fields of Gold" to moving to a more upbeat salsa dance.

Mt. Jackson friends Hannah Gibson, 21, and Jessica O'Connell, 18, attended this early Thursday class. Neither had much background in formal dance classes, but they didn't let that stop them from enjoying the experience, which was O'Connell's second class.

As the friends left Woodstock Rehab, it was evident they were looking forward to progressing in their dance careers.

"I can't wait to go faster," Gibson said to O'Connell.

Cappo said he is not sure if he is ready to up the pace just yet. But that's what Ciampi is for, and the instructor is ready to take on all comers.

"They think they are in there learning dance," he said outside of the dance room on that recent Thursday night. "They are in there enriching their lives. [Dance] is what I want to be the next Facebook, the next MySpace."

The Thursday classes cost $70 per person and $130 per couple for a five-week session. The drop-in rate is $20 per person. For more information on the Tuesday and Thursday classes, call 459-7772.

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