Sapphire Ballroom
Sapphire Ballroom News - August, 2019
Sapphire Stories, Part 1

Hello JuneThe fourth Saturday of July in 2004, Sapphire Ballroom & Dance Center hosted its first Dance Party - our “Grand Opening.”

In writing the newsletter for this month, looking for ways to honor Sapphire’s 15th Anniversary, I had to ask - what are we celebrating? The ever-increasing number of dances and classes we offer? Our unique, low-pressure, non-contract studio? Our very inclusive environment? Well, yes all of that, but mostly we are celebrating the people who make up our extremely wonderful, couldn’t-replace-it community.

So I reached out to several people and asked them to write a few paragraphs about Sapphire and what dancing here has meant to them. And I got back way more than I thought possible! I asked them all the same questions, and their answers came back as different as they are. It’s just another great thing about the people here. I’m including a few of them here and will continue to feature a few more every newsletter until I run out. I’m also going to create a Sapphire Stories webpage so that new people, wanting to know what dancing at Sapphire is like will have a chance to see our best feature - you guys!

Even saving some of the stories for later, this newsletter is a little longer than usual, and we’re skipping the music section, just for this month. It’s truly all about the people who make up Sapphire. Feel free to skip around, leave it and come back later. And, if you have a story that you’d like to share, please send it to me!

Stories in this issue:
Dennis's Story
Dave's Story
John & Deana's Story
Anne's Story

Skip to Upcoming classes, workshops, and parties for August.

Dennis’s Story

Linda, Dennis, Debbi, and occasionally Dail were the original teaching staff at Sapphire. Dennis’s smile and energy can light up a room, making him a long-time favorite at Dirty Dancing Weekends. If you see a picture of dancers from Mountain Lake on the Good Morning America website, Dennis will be front and center.

It all began in September of 2002 when Linda Stancil invited me to take a Ballroom Dance class at Blacksburg Parks & Rec center. One class led to two, two classes led to four and within months I was taking several classes, learning and helping out fellow classmates. I'll always remember when Linda approached me after one class and asked if I was interested in becoming an apprentice instructor...who me? I was humbled and excited....ummm Yes! And so my instructor training began, learning the basics of multiple dances.

Weeks turned into months and months turned into years of training, laughter, teaching, CBM, classes, friendships, repetition, workshops, and wonderful themed dance parties!

I have soooo many memories… but one that suddenly came to mind is an Upper Level 3-Ct Hustle Workshop about 4 years ago when there were about 6 to 8 men (leaders) and 3 follows (women) - a problem that only Sapphire seems to have. So I agreed to follow, which I did the entire class. Obviously this was great instructor training for me, but it was also interesting troubleshooting from the follow's perspective. It was fun executing wrap turns (push turns, boy that’s a lot of spin!) and more. I’ve heard that other studios don’t make their male instructors learn to follow. They are missing out. There’s nothing like channeling my inner Denise!

So many memories I treasure - so many learning opportunities. The most important thing Sapphire Ballroom instilled within me is not how much knowledge or training I received but rather how to apply that knowledge in various ways and techniques with students from all walks of life!

Today, I'm employed full time at the largest Insurance Agency/brokerage firm in Knoxville, TN. I continue to teach in Tennessee: private lessons, choreographing 1st dances for Wedding couples, miscellaneous dance projects, and then traveling back to Virginia for Dirty Dancing weekends. I've also expanded my acting career to include local commercials and smaller roles on TV crime shows. Dancing has always been a vital part of my life, a part that Sapphire helped to shape and enhance.

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Dave’s Story

I remember when Pat and Dave started, beginners like the rest of us, and now Dave is a major figure in the dance community through his role in Blacksburg Tango.

In reflecting on experiences at Sapphire Dance, I’ll begin with our very first class, probably 14 years ago. My wife, Pat, and I saw a swing dance class at the Blacksburg Community Center advertised in the Blacksburg “About Town” publication. When we went to the first class, we met our instructor, Debbi, along with others enrolled in the class. After completing this level 1 class, we decided to continue with lessons. I can’t recall if we took a level 2 swing class next or if we did level 1 in smooth dances and later in Latin dances. In any case, at some point we mustered up the courage to attend a social dance at Sapphire and to attend the CTAM workshops at the studio.

Over the years, we took several levels of classes in all of the dance styles offered by Sapphire and began to attend the upper level workshops at the studio. These experiences led us to try some of the “routine” classes and perform at a social dance at the studio at the end of the class. One that sticks in my mind was a Nightclub 2-Step routine to “Incomplete”. We also took private lessons with Debbi, Linda, Lane, Jae, and Eric at various times and did some demos during the dances. If my memory serves me correctly, one of them was a Viennese Waltz to a song from “Pirates of the Caribbean”, with Pat wearing a pirate hat during the performance.

Dancing at Sapphire widened our social circle, and we still see friends who we met during our early years of dancing. As I broadened my exposure to dance, I decided to narrow my focus so that now I dance almost exclusively Argentine Tango. Through Sapphire we’ve had tango professionals visit the area for workshops and private lessons. Now I also travel to cities such as Charlotte, Richmond, Durham, Louisville, and Knoxville for tango workshops, festivals, and marathons. As I think back, I’ve come a long way since those initial steps in swing, but with dance, there is always more to learn. I’m enjoying this adventure and will never forget that I got my start at Sapphire.

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John and Deana’s Story

John and Deana are both warm and gracious members of our community. Both will go out their way to welcome newcomers to Sapphire and encourage anyone struggling that it takes time and practice.

Thanks to a student demo, luck, and a chance encounter, John and Deana Kelsey were led to a long-term relationship of dancing, love, and marriage.

First introduced to Sapphire at a group demonstration at Steppin’ Out in 2008, John decided to attend a Friday Night Beginner Workshop. Before the class started, he seized the chance to sit down next to another sometime student, Deana, while she was changing her shoes. The two talked before the class started, and again during the partner rotation in the class. And once more after the class ended. As fate would have it, the next evening was one of Sapphire’s Dance Parties - a social event, perfect for getting to know fellow dancers - and the two met up once again.

From that time on, through several phases of their relationship from meeting to dating to married, John and Deana have continued dancing together. They dance socially, in lessons, and as performers. John used to be nervous about performing until one Sapphire instructor pointed out - they aren’t looking at you anyway, not when you’re dancing with Deana. You can find John and Deana at the studio for almost every dance party and on Friday for their weekly private lesson and date night.

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Anne’s Story

Anne is a recent addition to the Sapphire community, so she writes about what it’s like to be new here, to face those first intimidating steps, and emerge victorious. I'm sorry I don't have a better picture of Anne, yet. I'm sure I'll get some soon!

What I appreciate most about Sapphire Ballroom is who and what I get to be there.

Who I get to be at Sapphire is a person.

As my first-ever lesson began, I felt sad that I was by myself and afraid that I wouldn’t be able to learn the steps. Our female instructor explained that, traditionally, men serve as “leads” and women as “follows,” but we could choose however we wanted. A man said, “I love to follow,” and got in line beside me.

I was going to write, “The man got in the line with me and the other women.” But it’s unjust to assign identities to people based on perceptions of their appearances. The staff at Sapphire Ballroom walks the talk—and dances it!—of this egalitarian principle.

I had no idea how many identities had been assigned to me, or I had adopted for myself, until I had none. I’ve taken lessons for two months now and have observed over and over again that the experienced dancers step up to fill gaps in leads and follows. Everybody dances! Inclusion is practiced so kindly. Frankly, my 60th year has been a hard one. At Sapphire Ballroom, I am genderless and ageless, freed from diplomas from the school of hard knocks. I am just myself.

What I get to be at Sapphire Ballroom is a dancer!

At my first-ever lesson, I scanned the faces of my classmates and saw unease. I joined in the awkward stumbling as we got started. With enthusiasm and precision, the instructor shaped our steps, then added a turn. One hour later, we were spinning and laughing like real dancers! In one hour! I’ve never before witnessed such a skilled and joyful transformation.

Creating a you-make-it-look-easy experience for beginners requires extraordinary effort, thought, intention, and integrity. I’ll join the standing ovation to the founder and staff of Sapphire Ballroom for giving all of us such a humane, wondrous experience.

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Calendar Graphic

Coming Events:

Events are hosted at the Sapphire Studio on Main Street in Christiansburg unless otherwise specified.


Friday Night Beginner Workshops (CTAM) - every Friday this month except 8/30 (Labor Day Weekend), 7:00pm
A great way to spend your Friday evening! Learn the basics of some of our most popular dances without any commitment. No partner or previous experience needed.

Dance Party

Crystal Anniversary Celebration (Dance Party & Pot Luck) - Saturday, 8/10, 5:00pm
Celebrate our 15th Anniversary with us! Pot Luck at 5:00 and dancing at 7:30.

Upper Level

Nightclub 2-Step Workshop: Alternative Timing - Monday, 8/12, 7:00pm
Taking a look at a whole new rhythm in Nightclub 2-Step, and learning a cool new move on the way. Prerequisite: Level 2 NC2

Upper Level

Level 5 Tango - Wednesdays, starting 8/14, 6:15pm
This class keeps climbing the Mt Tango. Feel free to talk to an instructor if you want to join the fun. Taught at the Blacksburg Community Center.

Upper Level

Dips and Tricks in Waltz - Wednesdays, starting 8/14, 7:15pm
Learn to add some magic to this enchanting dance. Previous Level 2 Waltz required. Taught at the Blacksburg Community Center.

Upper Level

Level 1 Rumba - Wednesdays, starting 8/14, 8:15pm
Easy and fun for new dancers! Rumba is the perfect slow dance for so many occasions. Taught at the Blacksburg Community Center.

Upper Level

Tango Workshop: Spins - Thursday, 8/15, 7:00pm
From simple to sensational, these spins will add sweeping spice to your dance. Prerequisite: Level 2 Tango

Upper Level

Single Time Swing Workshop: Swing Styling - Monday, 8/19, 7:00pm
And now you've got swing style, and you've got swing style, and you've got... You get the point?
Prerequisite: Level 2 Swing

Upper Level

Cha Cha Workshop: Guapacha - Monday, 8/19, 8:00pm
Pronounced WAH-pa-cha. You get extra credit if you can say it without making Kung Fu noises. Prerequisite: Level 2 Cha Cha

Upper Level

Level 1 Fox Trot - Tuesdays, starting 8/20, 6:15pm
Smooth and sophisticated, this ballroom classic will have you stepping out with your lady in no time. Taught at the Blacksburg Community Center.

Upper Level

Level 2 Swing - Tuesdays, starting 8/20, 7:15pm
Moving on to the next level in these hip happy styles. Taught at the Blacksburg Community Center.

Upper Level

Rumba Workshop: Extra Drama On The Side - Monday, 8/26, 7:00pm
Adding a new level of drama to an overloaded dance. Prerequisite: Level 2 Rumba

Upper Level

Class-By-Request Workshop: What do you want to dance? - Monday, 8/26, 8:00pm

Upper Level

Labor Day - No Monday Night Workshops - Monday, 9/2


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Thanks for reading; we hope you found something you liked. Until we see you again, happy dancing!

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Sapphire Ballroom & Dance Center

30 W Main Street, Suite C, Christiansburg, VA  24073 - 540-382-8782