By John Davis
Special to Hottytoddy.com
Oxford Park Commission
Passionate is a word that barely describes how Rubye Del Harden feels about dancing.
There is intense power associated with dancing for Harden, the owner of The Dance Studio in Tupelo. Ever since the spring of 2001, Harden has been dancing and using the art form to bring people closer together.
Harden has partnered up with Oxford Park Commission to offer a new class called Intro to Social Dance. The Foxtrot and the Swing will be taught in the class that is slated to begin on Oct. 29 in the old activity center.
“It takes you out of the ordinary, it allows you to escape your regular life for a little while. It’s just a lot of fun and a great way to get exercise while you’re having fun,” Harden said adding that participants don’t need a partner to sign up for the new class. “There are a lot of people that come as singles in the class and you can dance with each other. So it’s very social as well.”
There have been studies conducted that show the positive influence of dance for the aging population. It has shown to help slow down the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s also shown the ability to help back up the negative effects of Parkinson’s.
“It’s all about coordination and all about coordinating and communicating with another person,” Harden said. “The other way it helps with young folks is if they want to play sports, it helps them with hand-eye coordination, agility and it helps everybody with balance. It’s a great thing to do if you are having balance issues.”
Harden was unable to really engage in dancing growing up. It wasn’t until she was in her 60s when she finally pursued something that has been close to her heart for so long. The final decision was made at her mother’s 80th birthday party.
“Something came up about dancing and I said ‘I know, I never got over the fact I couldn’t take dance lessons.’ Well, my friend said why don’t you stop complaining about it and sign up to dance,” Harden said. “I said that was a great idea and I signed up. But I didn’t know what to take until my mother suggested I take up ballroom dancing. I started looking around for ballroom classes. There was a man who was teaching at our wellness center in Tupelo, but the classes were completed. I left my name there and asked if he would contact me if they ever saw him again. Well, about six weeks later, I got a phone call and it was from this man. He asked if I was still interested in ballroom dancing and asked when I could start. I told him as soon as he could start me because I wanted to learn.”
Those initial lessons led to Harden even treating herself to a ballroom lesson out in Las Vegas while on a business trip.
“I was totally hooked. I came back here and I had some friends who wanted to take the class, so we started the ballroom dance club,” said Harden, who even flew in her instructor from Vegas to help teach others in the beginning. “We would start having our monthly meetings, fly our teacher out and he would teach us private lessons and then have a dance party. It just began to grow and grow and grow. That’s how we got started. That’s the other thing I love about dancing. You can go to a party by yourself but your friends will be there once you get there. It’s very familiar friendly. We have moms and dads that come and dance together and they will bring their kids, so you don’t even have to have a babysitter.”
Harden’s influence has reached Oxford with classes and the Ole Miss Ballroom Dance Club, and she has enlisted Andrew Davis to teach the upcoming class that will run through Dec. 10th.
“Andrew Davis is a fully certified ballroom dance instructor through the DVIDA program. He started dancing about 10 years ago and when he first started, he was an amateur competitor at the youth division,” Harden said. “He said he liked going to dances because there were so many pretty girls there. The way he tells it is really cute. He felt like this would be a fabulous profession. He’s a real people person, a very kind person, who loves helping people how to dance. He felt like this would be a great job even though he was a biology major in college. He is very, very good at it. He is one of those people that just have a natural grasp of how it all works. He became a professional Ballroom dance company at Rocket City Dance Company in Hunstville. When our senior instructor left for the Coast, a friend of mine told him about our opening and how it was a great opportunity for him because he was going to be the senior instructor here.”
Registration for the Intro to Social Dance class is available online. The cost to take part is $60. Class will be held each week from 10:30 until 11:20 a.m. and is open for people 18 and older.