A! Magazine for the Arts

Ashby Dickerson teaches a class at Emory & Henry College. (Photo courtesy of Kaylan Brickey, Emory & Henry College)

Ashby Dickerson teaches a class at Emory & Henry College. (Photo courtesy of Kaylan Brickey, Emory & Henry College)

Attorney shares his passion for ballroom dancing

January 1, 2014

Ashby Dickerson started dancing as a teenager with a one yearlong weekly class "where I probably did not learn much." He took a number of casual classes over many years "where I also did not learn much, but enough to not be afraid to hit the dance floor. I began to take ballroom dance as a real hobby about 16 years ago, and then took a lot of classes from several different instructors and attended workshops in Florida, Virginia Beach and Las Vegas, and started watching videos and reading books and syllabi. I really began to learn when I started teaching dance to others."

Dickerson teaches at Emory & Henry College and Virginia Highlands Community College during the school year. He offers weekly classes at the Abingdon Senior Center, Abingdon, Va., and monthly classes at Bristol Ballet, Bristol, Tenn. He teaches at the Coomes Center and the College for Older Adults at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, both in Abingdon, Va., and teaches groups who are holding fundraising events. His classes also act as mini-fundraisers themselves, because he donates the fee students pay to the location where the dances are held. All his teaching is done in his spare time – time away from his day job as an attorney. All his teaching is done in his spare time – time away from his day job as an attorney.

"It is just fun to teach, and I get to meet a lot of interesting people of all ages, plus I get to practice myself."

He teaches a variety of ages and says, "There isn't much difference between younger and older students. Some in both categories are more motivated to learn than others. College students are sometimes primarily interested in a grade, and some older people are mostly interested in the social aspect of dancing. It is harder to get both of those types to practice between classes."

While some of his college students may be interested in a good grade in their physical education class, others just enjoy it. Kaitlyn Phibbs, a senior at Emory & Henry College, told the college newspaper, "The ballroom dancing class was a great way to meet and become acquainted with classmates, and the teacher is great. He is so nice and really has a love for the class. It's an excellent way for students to reach outside their comfort zone, while also learning new forms of physical activity."

While Phibbs hasn't come to believe that ballroom dance is an art, Dickerson says that isn't an uncommon attitude. "Not many of my students see ballroom dance as an art, even though it certainly is," he says. "I try to stress that it is a great activity, which combines exercise, social activity and stretching the brain a little bit."

He primarily teaches the most popular ballroom dances: swing, foxtrot, cha-cha, waltz, tango and rumba, and occasionally mambo and merengue.

Dickerson loves to share his passion for ballroom dancing. If you attend an event and he's there and there's music, then you'll most likely see him dancing with someone – even as he is cheerfully teaching them the steps.

He says that what he'd like people to know the most is that "No matter where you live in the Tri-Cities area, there are many excellent instructors of ballroom and Latin dance and many opportunities to learn and practice ballroom and Latin dance."

Dickerson puts out a monthly e-mail of where he's teaching in the Abingdon area. He suggests that readers sign up for the Tri-City Dance newsletter put out by Laverne Olney and the Kingsport Seniors Dance Committee of the Kingsport Senior Center. One can subscribe to the free newsletter at http://kptseniors.org/lists/?p=subscribe. Dickerson can be reached at hdickerson@pennstuart.com.

>> Ballroom dancing helps Parkinson's patients