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home : features : around the canyon August 28, 2014


3/16/2010 3:01:00 PM
On the Ball
Ballroom dancing swings into Grand Canyon
Patrick Whitehurst/WGCN
Dance instructor Bonnie Shanks instructs her new class at the Grand Canyon Recreation Center March 9.

Patrick Whitehurst/WGCN
Dance instructor Bonnie Shanks instructs her new class at the Grand Canyon Recreation Center March 9.
Patrick Whitehurst/WGCN
Instructor Bonnie Shanks and one of her students put on the moves.

Patrick Whitehurst/WGCN
Instructor Bonnie Shanks and one of her students put on the moves.

Patrick Whitehurst
Associate Grand Canyon News Editor


GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Snow drifted from the dark night, heavy at times, and the roads were icy and desolate. This was the scene within the Grand Canyon National Park March 9. A cold night, the sort where most stay home with a good movie and hot cocoa. But there was dancing, too, something a little cold and snow can't stop.

A number of dancers came out for the first night of ballroom dancing lessons, held at the Grand Canyon Recreation Center March 9. If instructor Bonnie Shanks had fears that the weather would keep people away, those fears were soon put to rest as couple after couple came in the door.

Shanks, who works for the National Park Service at the South Park Entrance, plans to teach 11 ballroom dances, mostly Spanish and English dances.

"I may throw in some extra bolero, maybe I can get an extra line dance instructor to come in, (and) I will maybe throw in some Koombaya," Shanks said. "It's open to the public. Nobody has to sign up or anything. After about an hour we kind of work up a sweat. I may ask for donations for the rec center, but they don't have to do even that."

Classes at the center will include merenque, foxtrot, rhumba, tango and more. The group meets every other Tuesday night. Classes end Nov. 1 of next year. For more information on the classes, contact the rec center at (928) 638-3389. Shanks said classes will be repeated four times for those who may not be able to attend every session.

"It's fun. I have been dancing all my life. In my early twenties, when I lived up in Portland, Oregon, I was trained by Fred Astaire's dance studio, and then I went down to southern California, where I have a home now and I was dancing for Aurthur Murray. I went through their training. They have a little bit of a different way of doing things," Shanks said.

In her classes, Shanks will often take on both the male role and the female role to instruct her students.

"Usually I break it down. I do the man's step, I do the woman's step and then I pair them up together," Shanks said. "If they seem to be having a hard time, then I separate them and take on the woman's part - or the man's part. I'll teach both. That's what these two studios have trained me to do, the man and woman's part."

Shanks added that ballroom dancing is not terribly difficult to learn.

"I had one law enforcement officer in here, when I did this three years ago, that was doing west coast. That's one of the hardest things there is to do. West coast and Viennese waltz are probably the hardest of all of them, but they're all great. This is all basic, like bronze level, that I am teaching."

She added that recent interest has been high for her dancing classes.

"I know that ballroom is kind of a craze right now," Shanks said. "Another reason why I teach is that I am at the age where I do things for charity."

Besides her work as a dance instructor, Shanks also works with the Daughters of the American Revolution group and the Civil Air Patrol, where she teaches cadets to fly. Among her many talents, Shanks is also a pilot. Dancing, however, remains her core activity.

"I'm always dancing in between cars at the entrance when nobody is there, dancing my feet off and working out," Shanks said.




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