by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
EDDINGTON — For the last 16 years, Sue and Chuck McKay, owners of Back Door Dance Studio in Eddington, have had a hand — and feet — in creating a slew of social dancers in the Bangor area. “In 2008, before the economy crashed, we had as many as 300 students every week,” Chuck said.
Those students learned what the McKays refer to as “social ballroom dancing.” It’s not about competition, and it’s not about performance. It’s about having fun and being comfortable on a dance floor in a social setting, the McKays said.
Their studio, the McKays said, is the only one in the Bangor to teach social ballroom dancing.
To appeal to dancers who want room to move into the swings and sways of all types of waltzes, foxtrots, swing, tango, merengue, salsa, cha-cha, samba and rumba dance, the McKays have launched the Bangor Area Ballroom Dance Club.
Club membership is $7 per person per month; three months cost of $18 per person; or six months at $30 per person. Member benefits include free admission to a monthly semi-formal dance and potluck supper, free monthly dance workshops and social activities such as out-of-town dance field trips. A club dance will be held 7:30-9:30 p.m. Friday, July 19. A tango workshop will be held 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, June 28. Both will take place at the studio’s Meadowbrook Dance Center in Eddington.
“There used to be a U.S. Amateur Ballroom Dance Association chapter in the Bangor area 15 to 20 years ago,” Chuck said. But after that organization dissolved, the question became, “Where do we go to dance?”
Their studio, the McKays said, often gets calls from out of town visitors wanting to know where in the Bangor area there is a place to ballroom dance. With the new club providing regular dances, that niche will be filled.
The club already has 12 members, said Sue McKay.
“We take each couple and work with them at their level: basics, styling, how to make it easier, to get it to flow better,” Sue said.
The story of how Chuck and Sue came to the world of social ballroom dancing is the stuff of local legend. Their children were grown, and they wanted to find a new interest, something they could do together.
Chuck wanted to bowl, Sue wanted to take dance lessons. Neither wanted to do what the other wanted.
So they flipped a coin. Heads, dance lessons. Tails, bowling. It was heads, but Chuck said, “No way.” After several more coin flips over the next few few weeks, which always came up heads, Chuck gave in, and he and Sue went off to learn to dance.
Sue picked up the steps quickly and easily, but for Chuck it was agony. “I failed. Bad,” he said. He kept failing. “I had no timing and no basic steps,” he said. But he kept on trying, and the couple went on take a ballroom dancing class at Thomas School of Dance in Bangor.
More failure for Chuck. At that point, Sue threw in the towel, thinking Chuck really wasn’t going to learn to dance. But Chuck persisted, partnering for classes with a woman whose husband, like Sue, was fed up with dancing lessons
It was during the next class session at Thomas School of Dance that things finally began to come together and make sense to Chuck. He practiced his new-found dance skill at home with Sue. And Chuck was hooked.
After that, he and Sue went out of state to learn more advanced dance steps, took workshops, watched how-to-dance videos and invented their own steps.
Their debut into teaching came when the McKays went to what they thought was an advanced ballroom dance class. The instructor ended up asking them to teach the class. “Within 10 minutes we were teaching a class every week,” Chuck recalled with a laugh.
“For me there’s the personal piece of dancing,” Sue said. “It’s the movement to music, a way to express myself. I’d rather be dancing than anything. I can’t sit still.
“Then there is the inter-personal piece, what happens between a couple [when they dance], communicating with your partner in a different way than speaking. In time [through dancing] we learn one another, we can read the partner. It adds to the dimension of a relationship,” she said.
So far, the McKays said, nine couples have met and married as a result of taking dance lessons from them at their studio, including their son.
“Teaching is what I enjoy most about dancing,” Chuck said. “I want everyone to know how to waltz. It’s important to pass that on to other generations.”
For information about the Bangor Area Ballroom Dance Club, call 356-1454, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to backdoordance.com.