Ballroom dance instructor Rae Lyons has dreamed of opening her own dance studio for years. She has danced most of her life and started teaching eight years ago when one of her instructors recommended that she attend a teacher training program.
“I was working as a psychometrician by day, but my teacher thought I would be good at it, so I decided to give it a try,” Lyons said. “I ended up being very busy and made it my full-time job.”
Lyons and her dance and business partner, Benjamin Welch, recently made their dream come true by establishing the North Shore Ballroom dance studio in the Kenwood Village building. The team celebrates its grand opening Friday and Saturday with free introductory lessons and a Halloween-themed dance party.
“We want to grow the dance community and give people something fun to do,” Lyons said. “Dancing is an outlet to get moving, which I think people need, especially after a long COVID year. I think people really crave social interaction and it’s a fun way to do it.”
The studio primarily focuses on ballroom and Latin dance styles such as waltz, rhumba, foxtrot, cha-cha, swing, tango and disco. Lessons are available privately with the instructors as well as through group classes and practice nights each week.
“Private lessons are the primary way people learn ballroom dancing,” Lyons said. “But we also want to give people the chance to dance with others in a fun and safe environment.”
One particular group class Lyon has enjoyed teaching is “Baby Ballroom.” This course is for caregivers and their toddlers. In the classroom, caregivers learn the steps of various ballroom dances while holding their babies and dancing.
“I had my first baby in February of this year, so we wanted to find a way to dance with her a bit more. She’s already been dancing with me for nine months, so it’s still going that way,” Lyons said. “At the moment it’s mostly mums, but it’s open to all caregivers. And I have to say: we’ve never had a difficult baby so far. In fact, the movement seems to calm them down and sometimes put them to sleep.”
Lyons has been teaching dance in the Duluth area since 2016. Her dance partner, Welch, also taught in the area for eight years, starting at the University of Minnesota Duluth Ballroom Dance Club and growing from the. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, instructors found themselves with a lot more downtime. Lyons said that was when they decided to open their studio.
“We did a lot of soul-searching and reflection when we weren’t working as much,” Lyons said. “We thought about what we wanted our future to look like. We wanted to own and start building our dreams. It gave us time to think about what we wanted in life. It’s setting people’s souls on fire with dancing. That’s what we try to do every day.”
The studio’s opening weekend begins Friday with a Halloween-themed dance party from 7 to 9 p.m., then continues with group lessons for beginners from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday. There will be group classes every hour during Saturday’s event, as well as prizes, a costume contest and more. Opening lessons are free to the public.