By Heidi Simmons
Want a great way to meet new people, get into shape and learn a skill that is envied and admired? How about dancing? But if twerking or freaking is too aerobic and you rather look at your partner and hold him or her when you dance, maybe the Salsa, Fox Trot or the Swing would suit you. After all, ballroom dancing has been around for centuries and it never goes out of style.
“Ballroom dancing is about being in sync with your partner and enjoying the music,” said David Himmler, ballroom dance instructor at the Palm Desert Community Center. “It’s a great way to build self confidence and social interaction skills.”
Growing up in Chicago, David was interested in girls but not interested in football, so his mother suggested he take dance lessons. It worked. He had more dates than the quarterback and he’s been dancing ever since. At age 15, David studied dance at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio learning and mastering every dance they taught.
Besides being a certified professional dance instructor, David has a doctorate degree in ancient languages. After he retired from a career in education, he came to the CV and went back to his love of dance. He’s been teaching dance here for 15 years — 11 of those years at College of the Desert. “Dancing is a great way to keep active. It’s good for you physically and mentally. It’s low impact and it keeps you agile,” said David.
His classes often have couples preparing for their wedding day. “When they take the dance floor at their reception, they want to look good and feel good,” said David. In partner dancing one must lead and one must follow. For David, that is the only rule. It does not matter to him if it’s traditional, as in the male leads and the female follows, as long as the couple can agree who will do which. “It is always interesting to see partners learn together. Couples can really find out a lot about themselves through dancing.” David offers a private lesson package for the bride and groom and their wedding party.
Whether teaching in the community center or privately, David carefully breaks down the steps for each dance and both parts. He teaches mostly beginners but can teach all levels. Classes usually have more women to men and ages vary from 20s to 70s. He starts each session teaching one dance and generally lets the class choose the second dance. “Classes develop personalities and often become friends and go out dancing together,” said David.
Mellissa Ballard took David’s ballroom dance class at College of the Desert eight years ago. Mainly a Hip Hop dancer, she wanted to learn something new. “I wanted to take ballroom for the discipline and structure,” said Mellissa. “David is a very patient teacher. He jokes around with you to break down any barriers and makes you feel comfortable. He is very easy going.”
Today Mellissa is a Special Education teacher at John Glenn Middle School and is a part time professional model and dancer. She loves Salsa dancing and has competed in Interpretive Ballroom dance. She still pops in for a class with David now and then, and has substituted for him over the years. Mellissa has noticed an increase in young males taking the class, noting that there is no stigma for guys taking dance these days.
For David, he hasn’t a favorite dance. Whatever he is dancing at the time becomes his favorite. He loves to get into each dance and feel the music and the energy in the moment. He explains, “It is about letting go, enjoying your partner and feeling the music.” Music is important to David. Growing up in house where his father was a professional classical musician and his mother loved pop, he uses a mix of contemporary music as well as Oldies injecting the class with fun rhythms and energy.
The class starting October 22 will begin with the Rumba. David teaches two new dances every session. Classes are every Tuesday from 7:00 to 8:45 pm for six weeks. The cost is $65 per person. Lessons are taught at the Palm Desert Community Center located at 43900 San Pablo in Palm Desert. For more information or to enroll, call 760 329 7727.