More waltzing into dance class

By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

Steve and Denice Bergerson of Enumclaw hired a swing band for their daughter's upcoming wedding, but they couldn't dance. Well, at least not as well as they wanted.

So for the past five Wednesday nights, the two have been twisting and turning across the Thunder Mountain Middle School commons floor with nearly 30 other beginning dancers in Tom Clifton's Green River Community College East Coast Swing class.

“We wanted to make sure we could dance,” Steve said. Joining the Bergersons each week were the bride-to-be's aunt and uncle Mark and Karen Sargent of Lake Tapps.

“This was a fun environment, everyone was very nice,” Karen said.

Learning to dance for a big event was just one of the reasons that brought dancers into Clifton's class. Exercise was another reason. Meeting people was also on the list. One woman said she had been waiting 30 years to take dance lessons with her husband.

And others like Aaron Mayer and Candice Culver said they just want to look good on the dance floor.

“It's fun,” they said. “More people should do it.”

According to Green River Community College's Enumclaw campus Director Diane Anderson and Clifton, more people are doing it.

Anderson said dance class numbers have soared.

“The numbers have exploded lately,” said Clifton, who has also seen increases in his Kirkland, Seattle and Auburn classes. “We've had to turn people away.”

Television's “Dancing with the Stars” hasn't hurt.

“A lot of people see the dance stuff on TV and say, ‘I wonder if I can do that?'”

The answer, Clifton says, is “yes.”

“Actually, it's amazing what we learned in five classes, five hours,” Denice Bergerson said.

Clifton's Introduction to Ballroom class, for example, covers foxtrot, tango, waltz and maybe a rumba.

“They'll learn three to five patterns of each dance,” Clifton said. “Enough to make you dangerous on the dance floor.”

It's just a sampling.

“They learn the basics,” Clifton said. “And I encourage them to get out. If you don't use it you tend to lose it.”

He said there are plenty of dance clubs in the area, and all Clifton's students will get an opportunity to show off their moves locally, if they choose, at a public fund raiser hosted by the Plateau Community Orchestra and Enumclaw High jazz band May 13 in the EHS commons.

Clifton, who started with country dancing as a way to meet people after a liver transplant and divorce, said dance lessons are just as much a social event as putting together a series of steps.

“It goes beyond relating to an era,” said Clifton, whose classes bring in singles and couples ranging in age from early 20s to well into the Boomer generation. “A lot of people are looking for an outlet, something to do together. Single people are looking to meet other people.”

And it doesn't have to be ballroom or East Coast swing. Clifton can teach the gamut - country, Latin, West coast swing. He's also a member of The Seattle Hustle Club.

He said there are even new crazes coming out like swango, a combination of swing and tango.

“The class doesn't cost and arm and a leg and it's not intimidating,” Clifton said.

The next group of Green River Enumclaw classes - country, West Coast swing and ballroom - begin April 19. For information contact the campus at 253-833-9111.

The city of Enumclaw Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Program also offers a ballroom dance class, although organizer Michelle Larsen said it hasn't been as popular as Green River's, “but we've had a lot of inquiries.”

She said former dance studio owner Dee Owens teaches the beginning and intermediate ballroom classes at the Enumclaw Senior Activity Center. The next series of weekly offerings begins April 5 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and 8 to 9:30 p.m. Students will learn the foxtrot, waltz, swing, cha cha, rumba, mambo, tango and samba.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at

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