With the cha-cha, tango, samba and more, members of the Venetian Ballroom Dance Club of Tyler will celebrate the club’s 100th dinner dance this week.
Members come to the club’s formal dances not only from the Tyler area, but also from the surrounding areas of Jacksonville, Athens, Longview and Greenville.
The club regularly conducts its dinner dance six times a year at Willow Brook, with one every other month in September, November, January, March, May and July. A different band from the Dallas area, Houston, Greenville or the Tyler area plays each night. The dancing usually extends to about 10:30 p.m. Men dress in optional tuxedo or coat and tie with women attired in after-five or cocktail dresses.
Music starts while club members have dinner provided by Willow Brook and after eating, members engage in many styles of ballroom dancing, including rumbas, waltzes, fox trots, east coast swing, west coast swing, cha-cha, zumba, samba, Latin dances, the tango and others.
Susan Brock, president since the club began, said, “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be dressed up and come out for a wonderful meal and dance to big-band music and ballroom dance music in a safe, nonsmoking atmosphere. It’s like having a high school prom or something similar to that every other month.”
Each dinner dance has a theme illustrated with table decorations. The theme for September is the 100th dance. Other themes are City of Love, Full Moon Rising, South of the Border, Sizzling Summer, Red and Gold.
Brock said she and a friend had been members of a dance club that had dances at different locations, but they wanted to start the Venetian Ballroom Dance Club that would conduct its dinner dances only at Willow Brook. It has “a fabulous dance floor in a large room and the best dancing area in Tyler with a country club atmosphere,” Brock said.
“I personally thought that Willow Brook provided the best opportunity for a first-class place for people to come if they wanted to go to a formal dance,” Brock said. “We had enough people that wanted to do the same thing (start the new club).”
Brock named it the Venetian Ballroom Dance Club because she thought the word “venetian” sounded exotic.
Richard East, who helped Brock form the club, said, “There’s a lot of interest in ballroom dancing and we decided a dinner dance would work out good for everybody. It’s a lot of fun to do. Everyone really enjoys the friendly crowd and dancing.”
Brock said, “The main purpose of our club is to enjoy the classic elegance of ballroom dancing in a first class, country club type atmosphere. The second purpose is to have a good time.”
Members are couples and singles from many walks of life, from beauticians to pastors, from airline pilots to a former mayor, all of whom have in common a love of ballroom dancing. They have ranged in age from 15 to the 90s. About 85 people belong to the club.
As the years passed, some members dropped out on account of aging, declining health or moved away, so now the club is seeking new members and visitors.
“We are thrilled to have anyone come who wants to come and enjoy ballroom dance music,” Brock said.
East added, “We have openings now for new members. If anyone is interested, we would love to have them.”
Brock said the dinner dances are an opportunity to have a great time out with friends, for fellowship and dancing to good music.
Suzanne Handley and her husband, Richard, have been members for 17 years.
They took up ballroom dancing as a hobby after her husband, who had a phobia about dancing, decided to face his Goliath. They took lessons and now they not only attend dinner dances of the Venetian Ballroom Dance Club, they teach ballroom dance lessons in the Green Acres Baptist Church recreation department.
Suzanne Handley pointed out that ballroom dancing is something couples can do together and that research has proven it is good for dancers physically and socially as well as it stimulates their brain because they are always memorizing new dance patterns.
If anyone is interested in trying ballroom dancing, Brock said, the club can connect them with dance instructors and places that offer group lessons and private lessons.
“One of the best things that I ever chose to do in my life was to learn how to ballroom dance. At the age of 35, I had never danced a step. After two lessons, I was absolutely hooked,” Brock said. “It transforms you. It raises your self esteem. It brings you alive. It makes you thrive instead of just surviving.”