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Leesburg dance business moves into massive new space to do the waltz

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 12/2/2019 Rosemarie Dowell
a woman standing in front of a microphone © Stephen M. Dowell

LEESBURG — Chris McCain and his bevy of instructors at Dancin’ Ballroom have a lot more wiggle room to teach students the cha-cha, East Coast swing, tango and the highly popular waltz now that the dance studio has moved to bigger digs.

The Leesburg studio’s new location in the Shoppes of Lake Village at 10601 U.S. Highway 441 features 8,200 square feet of space, including a massive 6,500-square-foot dance floor perfect for both young and old dancers alike. It’s in a spot that used to house a Goodwill store.

“We now have the largest ballroom dance studio and the largest dance floor in Central Florida,” said McCain, who purchased the studio in 2015 from Ronald Williams, who with siblings Rema and Alan became known as the first family of American Ballroom Dancing in the mid-1970s.

“We’re also able to host wedding receptions, birthday parties and corporate events now,” he said. “We can easily fit up to 250 people including tables and chairs.”

McCain’s love and talent for ballroom dancing first bloomed in 2010 when he was looking for a way to relieve stress and have a positive social outlet while going through a painful divorce. A non-drinker, bars and restaurant lounges didn’t interest him, but dancing did.

“I’d never really danced before, so I taught myself some moves first,” he said. “Then I started taking lessons, got hooked and then I fell in love with ballroom dancing.”

He eventually began working at Dancin’ Ballroom under the tutelage and guidance of Williams, who died two years ago, and longtime employees David Whittaker and Phillip Hollifield.

“It’s good, clean fun and great for your health too,” McCain said.

The studio was originally located in Lake Square Mall, but McCain moved it to a more visible spot on U.S. Highway 441 near Steak n’ Shake several years ago.

The newest location fills the need for more space for the dance studio, which is trying to keep up with the demand from new students yearning to learn the waltz, and others dances like the mambo and tango.

“The waltz is the biggest one people want to learn,” he said. “They also want to learn the jitterbug, which is actually the East Coast Swing.”

The father of three found love again on, you guessed it, the dance floor when Nicole Green, a registered nurse and new divorcee, signed up for group dance lessons with McCain five years ago.

They soon bonded over the foxtrot and love waltzed in soon after. Now married for three years, the couple dance in Pro-Am competitions and live in Minneola.

“It’s not just dancing — it’s a community,” Nicole McCain said. “We have a lot of retirees and widows who come in every week.”

Joan Sanfilippo, a former mortgage underwriter, found new purpose when she started taking dance lessons eight years ago following the loss of both her mother and husband. She now serves as the studio’s administrative assistant but still dances as much as she can.

“Dancing gave me my life back,” she said. “There’s no downside to dancing.”

McCain said anyone can learn to dance — it just takes patience and a lot of practice. The studio offers both private and group lessons for newbies.

“A lot of people are afraid to just go out and dance,” he said. “It takes time to learn and get past the awkwardness stage, but once you do, you get addicted to it.”

One thing McCain wishes he’d see more of at the studio is men. Females far outnumber males at lessons and dances.

“If men only knew how many women they could have fun dancing with all night long,” he said. “If they only knew.”

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