- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Dean Meloney, an engineer by day, methodically instructs a room of 19 people about ballroom dance at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on a recent Saturday night, with the help of his wife, Cori.
Dean guides the men to stand in a row on one side of the dance floor and the women to line up on the other side.
“And 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3,” he says over the microphone as he demonstrates steps for the waltz in the center of the room.
“Now, grab a partner and try it,” he exclaims after he has finished his demonstration.
Dancers pair up, putting their newly acquired moves to use on the dance floor. Dean walks around the room helping beginners out if they're having trouble getting the steps down.
Cori and Dean, who met one night dancing when they were in college, have been teaching dance lessons in Southern Maryland for the past 10 years.
The couple had been searching for ballroom dances in Southern Maryland to attend when they relocated to the area from Albany, N.Y., but couldn't find any nearby and had to drive to Washington, D.C. They thought the area needed a dance closer by and wanted to start one on their own.
“If you throw a dance and five people show up, it’s not much of a dance. Then you get known for having dances that nobody shows up to and you can’t get it started,” Dean said.
He decided he needed to teach his friends to dance.
Dean taught his first class in 2002 in his apartment with some friends as an experiment to see if he could actually do it. It was a success. He began teaching people to dance at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
The couple then began instructing dance lessons at Gracie's Guys and Gals studio and at the Energy Zone at Pax River.
Greg and Kim Silvernagel, who attend dances regularly to this day, are two of the Meloneys’ first students. When the Meloneys decided to begin their first organized dance at Little Eva’s, a bar at Pax River, the Silvernagels were two of the first people to show up.
The dances at Little Eva’s started out with only six people, Dean said.
“We got smart one day and pushed tables together, because we realized if we were gonna do this, people had to know each other,” Cori said. “It kind of started to build because people got to know each other. They weren't just coming to dance, they were coming to see friends.”
Now the dances normally draw a group of 30 regulars as well as beginners.
Some people come for the dance lesson, which lasts an hour before the dance starts, while others come later for the dance.
Jennifer Bicknell, 16, attended the dance for the first time last month with her brother, Matthew, 14, and her mother, Sarah Bicknell.
“We thought it might be fun,” Jennifer said. “My mom is always saying she wants to learn how to dance.”
Bonnie Sinsel of La Plata and her significant other, Ed Shanahan of Fredericksburg, Va., who took lessons with Dean Meloney a few years ago, come regularly to the dances that are usually held in Lexington Park.
“There aren't many places in the area where you can dance,” Sinsel said.
Don’t be scared to learn some new moves
A Halloween costume party ballroom and swing dance will be held Saturday, Oct. 20, at Little Flower School on Route 5 in Great Mills. A ballroom dance lesson will be offered from 7 to 8 p.m.; the dance to all kinds of music will run from 8 to 11 p.m. Cost is $8 per person; $15 per couple and $5 for seniors and students.
This month’s dance will also include a costume contest, so participants are encouraged to be creative. No experience is required, and singles are always welcome. Participants are asked to bring a snack to share; water and soda will be provided.
The dance is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus of Holy Face Catholic Church. For more information, call 301-645-8509 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dances are generally held the third Saturday of each month at churches throughout the area and are co-hosted by the Knights of Columbus of Holy Face Church. Proceeds go to the Little Flower School for need-based scholarships.
To be added to Cori and Dean Meloney’s mailing list, email email@example.com. You can also join their Google group for more information, which is at groups.google.com/group/somddancenews.