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SwingTime Ballroom gets people of all ages on their feet

Instructor Froilan Mate, right, practices a competition routine with student Gina Kazimir during a ballroom dancing lesson at SwingTime Ballroom in Fallston.
Instructor Froilan Mate, right, practices a competition routine with student Gina Kazimir during a ballroom dancing lesson at SwingTime Ballroom in Fallston. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Ever since television's "Dancing With the Stars" revived interest in ballroom dance, people of all ages have been putting on their dancing shoes and discovering their inner Fred or Ginger. If you'd like to learn a few smooth moves, SwingTime Ballroom in Fallston can help.

"I enjoy ballroom dance a lot," says Lauren Miller, an 18-year-old student at SwingTime. Lauren and her mother, Laurie Smith, have taken lessons with owner Scott Layfield on and off for several years. They've even persuaded Laurie's husband, Byron, to join them, making the activity a family affair.

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Layfield certainly understands how persuasive wives can be.

"My wife, Denise, wanted to compete in ballroom dancing," he says, explaining how he came to open the dance studio. "After a while, it seemed cheaper to open a studio than to keep paying for lessons."

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Clearly, both Layfields know what they're doing. SwingTime Ballroom dancers were awarded more than 75 first-place finishes at DanceSport competitions this year.

"The instructors here are top-notch," says Smith, who has danced competitively in the past.

Corinne Michocki agrees. "It's the best place I've ever danced," she says. "No one ever makes you feel like you did anything wrong."

Layfield says many of his private students work in the health care field and dance because they're aware of its benefits. He says some of his students have reported losing as much as 35 pounds as a result of regular dance classes.

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The benefits aren't just physical. A 21-year study by the National Institute on Aging indicated that dancing was the only physical activity studied that seemed to protect against dementia. Dancing involves frequent quick decisions (as in which step to use and which direction to move), and the theory is that this mental exertion helps keep the mind sharper than activities that only require speed or repetition do.

"Ballroom dance is very therapeutic, and it's adjustable to your pace," says Layfield. "We have students from their teens to their 80s. You can be as active as you need to be."

And don't worry if you don't have a dance partner. Singles are welcome at SwingTime.

Michocki's husband doesn't enjoy ballroom dance, but she's never lacked a dancing companion at SwingTime. "Even if you're by yourself, they'll make sure you get a chance to dance with a partner," she says.

And if one dance style isn't to your liking, just be patient.

"We roll through six different dances in eight weeks," says Layfield. "So if you're going to a wedding or party, you'll be able to do something when you get there."

The beginners' class costs $80 and includes dances like the waltz, tango and fox-trot. Advanced classes and private lessons are also available.

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