“I was hooked:” Ballroom dance — both social and competitive — offers multiple health benefits

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BROOKFIELD -- Ballroom dance is enjoyed widely on stage, film and television -- but you don't have to be Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire to reap the benefits.

"You have your physical and cardiovascular health, because of just the fast-paced moving around. Ballroom dancing takes second place after swimming in the number of muscle groups that you utilize in order to execute it, so when you truly dance, your entire body is involved in the motion," Albina Habrle, owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Brookfield said.

Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Brookfield

Habrle said ballroom dancing -- both social and competitive -- can help those suffering from Alzheimer's.

"Through ballroom dancing, you create a lot of mentally stimulating activities, such as learning variations, learning different patterns. It's actually shown to slow down the development of that disease," Habrle said.

On National Senior Health and Fitness Day in May, 68-year-old Luane Konicke was among those who were sipping from the fountain of youth.

Luane Konicke

Luane Konicke

Three years ago, she would have been sitting this one out.

"I couldn't walk more than 25 feet. I went to Disney World in 2013 and I had to use an electric cart. It was too much for me," Konicke said.

That was before Konicke lost 98 pounds and started dancing.

"After you hit a certain age, you just do it. I mean, out of my comfort come? You betcha. Still out of my comfort zone? You betcha. They talk you into doing things. 'You can do this!' 'I don't know.' 'Well, we're putting you down and you're doing it.' 'Well OK -- I'll go along with it,'" Konicke said.

Ballroom dance

Konicke drives 45 minutes from Racine to Brookfield to dance at Fred Astaire.

Her motivation?

"There's really nowhere you can go and have fun with the 50s and 60s music, so my goal is to learn swing because my parents met that way back in the 40s and they were good dancers, so I thought, 'well, I'll try it,'" Konicke said.

Konicke says she has more confidence because of social dancing, and she's made new friends. Best of all, she's happy at Fred Astaire.

Ballroom dance

"Everybody here is fantastic. The people here, they make you part of their family," Konicke said.

"I was hooked, I think, the first time I tried it and I've been doing it ever since," Dave Brust said.

Brust is a competitive dancer. He saw his son have so much fun dancing that he thought 'why not me?'

"I started dance two years ago when I was 73. I hadn't danced in 50 years since school. I'm much more active. I've lost weight. I feel as competitive as I ever did when I was competing in college. I feel younger now than I did a couple years ago, and it's just fun to be with all the people that I've met here," Brust said.

Ballroom dance

Hearing what Brust and Konicke have to say makes the instructors at Fred Astaire, whose top priority is putting their pupils at east -- feel great.

"It's like your baby, for example. You see them grow as they dance, and you see them start from absolutely nothing and then you offer something that they never thought they could have done, and you give it to them. It's just the best feeling in the world," Alex Zarek, Fred Astaire dance instructor said.

Ballroom dance

Konicke pointed out one other benefit to ballroom dancing at Fred Astaire:

"There's a lot of hugging!" Konicke said.

Ballroom dance

Interested in trying ballroom dancing? CLICK HERE to learn more about Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Brookfield.