First Cha Cha in Six Months

I was so sad over ABT season ending, I felt like I needed to pull myself out of my depression. And what better way to do that than by … taking a dance class! I returned to my very first studio, Paul Pellicoro’s DanceSport, where I began three and a half years ago with group classes before I’d transferred to Dance Times Square and started privates with Pasha. It all seems like such a long time ago now, but remarkably, I recognized so many faces — so many of my old friends were still there and I was reunited with four of them in a one-hour period! Passion for ballroom is something that just stays with you forever.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that prepared with my dance bag. I forgot to pack a pair of beige tights, so had to look like a bit of an ass with mismatched shoes.

I wanted to ease myself slowly back into it — it’s been six months since my last lesson at DTS — so I decided on a bronze (lowest-level) Cha Cha — always my easiest dance.

Ugh, not anymore! I remembered all the steps but forgot how hard it is to maintain proper technique when the teacher plays the music at full speed! Warm-up went well-ish, but when the actual partner dancing began, I was tripping all over myself in no time. Plus, I forgot how hard it is to dance, to function really, in those blasted high-heeled, open-toed shoes. I’m always sliding forward in them, leaving my heel unstable. I guess it helps if you normally wear similar street shoes, like high-heeled sandals, but I don’t.

Happily, whenever I felt or saw myself in the mirror reverting to a nasty habit — like rising up on my toes during the middle cha cha cha instead of staying grounded with my heel on the floor, or falling backward during an underarm turn because I forget to have my body weight forward — I’d hear Pasha’s voice (“no leaning back, Tonya”), or feel his hand lightly but firmly pushing down on my head (which he used to do to keep me from rising on the cha cha chas). So, even though bad habits die hard, the words of great teachers don’t 😀

So I made a lot of mistakes. But, eh, I’ll get back into it.

Interestingly, I met an old friend from my Swing team, Mark, in the lobby. He was heading to a Hustle class and asked me what I’d signed up for. When I told him the International Cha Cha, he told me he thought the teacher, Werner Figar (who is new since I was last at the studio), was a member of the modern dance group, Elisa Monte Dance. He told me he recognized his name from a recent New York Times article, which I looked up when I got home and is here. The guy in the picture does look like Werner (who was very good — both as a Latin dancer and teacher), but his name isn’t on the company’s website. It’s just so odd to me that someone dances both Latin Ballroom and Modern professionally. They are such different kinds of dance and usually a person isn’t good at both. But very cool if he is! I’ll have to ask him next class…

DanceSport has relocated since I was last there — used to be at Columbus Circle and is now on 34th Street right near the Empire State Building. Their new space is way the heck bigger than the last — really floored me.

So many rooms!

And here’s the new huge lobby, which even has a little cafe off to the side. Paul, the owner, taught Al Pacino to dance for “Scent of a Woman,” so that poster stays up always. 🙂


  1. Wow that studio looks amazing. My husband and I are starting a West Coast Swing class tomorrow. I’m not even sure what that is but it sounds fun. Hope we can keep up. I haven’t had my high heel dance shoes on for ages either. Funny what we’ll do when going thru ABT withdrawal 🙂

  2. Thanks Barbara — I’m so glad you understand about ABT withdrawal!!

    West Coast Swing is so much fun — that was the first ballroom / social dance I ever took, and my first experience competing was on a West Coast Swing team at DanceSport. It’s the same rhythm and many of the same steps as East Coast Swing / Lindy Hop (basic is triple step, triple step, rock step), but West Coast can be danced to basically anything, including a lot of current pop music, which is why it’s so much more popular than East Coast (which is really more historical and mainly danced to big band and bee-bop of the 40s and 50s, and some contemporary retro bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy — love them!) Anyway, have fun and let me know how you like it!

  3. oh wow that studio looks awesome! i will def. have to take classes there when i move to nyc. thanks for the info and yay for you taking class again!

  4. Ballet withdraw is the worst kind 🙁

    But, glad you were able to get back into a good Latin class. I know how frustrating it is going into a class that would’ve waaaaay too easy six months ago and then realizing that your skill level/technique has gone down. It’s horrible. That’s how it is with my tap classes right now. I suck right now yet the class is easy for me because I’ve always been good at picking up rhythms… I can figure out how to do it, just can’t make my feet do the step like I would’ve in January. Old habits are the worst.

    Rant over now.


  5. Oh Selly, how well I know. I’ve started taking ballet class again after too many years to even mention. Like you, all the steps are still in my muscle memory but oh boy, the body DOES NOT cooperate. It’s a lesson in humility. But I plug on. Tonya, the West Coast swing was good. It was slow of course since we’re all rank beginners but I can see that it will be more fun when we can string a few steps together to music. The instructor taught a step/step/triple/triple sequence using an imaginery track that the women moved along and the men move within. We learned a right pass with an underarm turn and a left pass without a turn. The guys steps were much more complicated than the women’s but my husband did very well considering he’s had no dance except a little ballroom with me a few years ago. Does this sound like West Coast Swing that you’ve had? I have no idea how good/experienced this instructor is. She came without her own partner so she couldn’t really give us a good demo of what it’s supposed to look like. I asked if she could bring a partner in sometime and she’s going to try.

  6. Yeah, that sounds exactly like WCS, Barbara! There’s a lot of “walking” involved for the lady; you keep going back and forth past the guy, and when you get to the higher levels you put more slides and spins this way and that and other things in. Also, once you get into it and get the steps down you can start to play with the styling a lot, which is one of the things I like about it. Please keep me updated!

    Selly, it can only get better right! Seriously, I figure if we have all this background, we should pick it back up soon. I’m just mad at myself for stopping… Emma, exciting that you’re moving to the city 🙂 There are bizillions of studios here, but that one’s my favorite for group classes; Dance Times Square for private lessons.

  7. Hey there. Its Werner Figar from Dancesport. Wanted to answer your question right away. It is me in the New York Times. I am not just a prof. ballroom dancer but also a prof. modern dancer. However I quit the company a month ago, thats why I am no longer at their homepage.

  8. Hey there. Its Werner Figar from Dancesport. Wanted to answer your question right away. It is me in the New York Times. I am not just a prof. ballroom dancer but also a prof. modern dancer. However I quit the company a month ago, thats why I am no longer at their homepage.

Comments are closed