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ONE, two, three ... Spencer couple having a ball teaching dance classes at library.

Byline: Susan Shalhoub

SPENCER - A little imagination might be needed at times for the ballroom dance lessons at Richard Sugden library in Spencer.

"Well, it is carpeted," said instructor Nancy Nowak with a laugh. She has also been the library collections director for 18 years. "And we have to move some furniture."

But beyond that, it's like a movie set for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - if you pretend hard enough.

"I always joke that ballroom dancing is my opportunity to push my wife around," said Ms. Nowak's husband and co-instructor Bernie Nowak. "I always wanted to learn, I saw people dancing and it always looked like they were having fun - it's a big thrill for me."

Mr. Nowak said the best part of teaching dance is when classes have ended - seeing couples out dancing with big smiles, enjoying themselves.

Music is what initially brought Ms. and Mr. Nowak together. The two met at David Prouty High School; both were in the band. They now have grown daughters.

Dancing is a passion they both share, Mr. Nowak said. It was after attending dances at Sovittaja Park in Rutland - also known as Finn Park - that they were asked to teach a class there. That was in the summer of 2007; they have taught at Finn Park and the library ever since.

Ms. Nowak said the library classes are limited to nine or 10 couples, and run for seven weeks. The classes are geared for beginners and cover basic steps of the waltz, fox trot, swing, tango and rumba. Sometimes they will put on polka music just for fun. Most students are in their 30s, 40s or older, she said. "The most difficult part is coordinating your steps with your partner," she said. "We have to be careful because some people learn faster than others - we don't want to leave anyone behind." The final week of the class is for review.

The popularity of the show Dancing with the Stars has brought more awareness to the field of ballroom dancing. And it might be why younger people are signing up for the Nowaks' classes. But the teachers are not fans of the competitive dance arena. Ms. Nowak said she's seen the program a few times. "They know what the steps are, but it doesn't seem like they enjoy it," she said. Mr. Nowak agrees that ballroom dancing is better as a recreational activity.

Debbie Anderson of Spencer took lessons from the Nowaks about two-and-a-half years ago. She and her boyfriend Paul Thibeault of Worcester signed up on a lark. "It was an impulsive decision," Ms. Anderson admits. "We were so, so pleasantly surprised. (The Nowaks) were so encouraging and broke the steps down." Ms. Anderson said ballroom dancing is a whole different learning process which is more complex than it appears. Confident on the floor now, she and Mr. Thibeault regularly attend local dances.

Mr. Nowak said once a beginner learns the basics, such as the waltz and fox trot, they can learn variations or pick up what other people are doing. "We love to dance and we don't know a lot of fancy steps," he said.

Ms. Anderson says basic steps or not, the Nowaks dazzle the dance floor. "When you watch Bernie and Nancy dance -oh - they are so good!"



CUTLINE: (1) Regina and Matthew Shemeth, left, and Dan and Joyce Lee, all of Spencer, dance at the Richard Sugden Library in Spencer as instructor Nancy Nowak, in background, looks on. (2) At right, Nancy and Bernie Nowak of Spencer go through some dance moves during the beginning ballroom dance class they teach; Lisa and David Thurlow, also of Spencer, dance in the background. (3) Nancy and Bernie Nowak of Spencer show their beginning ballroom dance class how it's done. (4) Dan Lee spins his wife, Joyce. Both are from Spencer. (5) No cutline
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 14, 2011
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