Dance brings joy.

Mastery of dance brings pride.

Yet, regardless of skill, the very act of attempting a dance has a multitude of benefits.

That is why Cecil College offers a variety of dance classes to its students, ages 16 and up.

“Dance is very healthy for you,” says Tammy Rapposelli, program coordinator of lifelong learning at the college. “We’re always looking for new instructors and health & wellness options.”

The current classes range from traditional ballet and tap, to the more unusual bellydance and folk, to the high-energy fun of Latin and swing.

Instructor Ruth McConnell is teaching both of the latter and is eager to help students excel.

She describes herself as a very laid-back instructor, but “I am heavy on technique because I insist on creating good dancers.”

Despite this, she says students with little to no experience should not be afraid to try her classes.

“If you can walk in the room without falling, I’m confident. If you don’t trip over yourself, I’m good.”

Ruth has been a dance instructor for 10 years — after deciding a career in psychobiology was not for her — and currently owns Elevations.Studio in Wilmington, Del.

She has a unique stature, in that she is the only West Coast swing instructor in the state of Delaware.

She describes the style as being more smooth and versatile than East Coast swing, and she loves it.

“If I could do only one dance for the rest of my life, it would probably be West Coast swing.”

Once you’ve committed to giving dance a try, she says, it can help people of all ages.

“This can be most beneficial for anyone with mobility complications. I have a number of students with MS or with Parkinson’s and their symptoms significantly decrease with consistent dancing. … Any sort of physical activity, any movement therapy, improves your cardiovascular system.”

Some other physical benefits include improved posture, core strength and balance.

There are mental pluses: “Cognitively, just to remember all of the steps can help with a lot of mental fatigue and things like that because you are focusing on something else.”

And dance can also lessen social anxiety. “You only need to dance with one person at a time. … It boosts your ability to go out there.”

She says her classes can even make for an easy date night.

But not to worry, attendance with a partner is not required.

“Social dancing is the whole key, so you dance with everybody. If we’re uneven — the leaders and followers — you dance with me.”

She says stereotypical ballroom has always been a male lead and female follow, but just this year, competitive ballroom has approved same-sex partnerships or switch roles — where you might have a lady leading and a man following, something not so unusual in more laidback dances like West Coast swing.

And Ruth takes it one step further: “To be a thorough dancer, I highly encourage every dancer to learn both lead and follow. … It makes you a better lead if you can follow. It makes you a better follower if you learn how to lead.”

Once you’ve taken a class with Ruth and honed your skills, she says opportunities to try out these newly learned dances are abundant, and suggests a simple search online for social dances near you.

If you are interested in giving dance a try, her next classes — Latin Dance I, Swing Dance I and II — begin Feb. 6 at Elkton Station. She caps her classes at 16 students to fit the space.

Learn more about all of the dance options at cecil.edu when you click on Lifelong Learning, then open the online version of the Career & Community Education booklet.

Cecil College also offers some great fitness options like yoga and pilates, and health help with Living Well courses.

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