He knows he can

2011-09-03 00:00

PASSION for dancing seems to ooze from every pore of Ben Brandon’s body and given enough time he’ll be twisting your arm to get up and strut your stuff.

Brandon, who runs Ben’s Dance Studio in Pietermaritzburg, is one of around 100 dancers taking part in this year’s Shall We Dance, the annual ballroom and Latin American showcase, which takes place at the Playhouse Opera Theatre in Durban from September 9 to 17.

“I’ll be part of the Marc Wilson formation team and am one of three professionals on the team, but just about everyone who is taking part is a competitive dancer,” he says during a brief hiatus from teaching classes at the Scout Hall in Howick Road.

“We’ll be doing a cha cha and a jive, and will be involved in the opening and closing numbers for the show. It’s the first time that I’m dancing­ in the show, although I’ve watched it loads of times. I jumped at the chance to dance when it was offered because I don’t get to dance all that often.”

Brandon was introduced to social ballroom and Latin American dancing by a friend while he was a pupil at Maritzburg College. He soon discovered that he had both a talent and passion for dancing and went on to dance at championship level in both ballroom and Latin classes.

“I competed for quite awhile with my partner, Bianca McKelvey, but when she went overseas I decided to turn pro. That was in 2004,” he said.

Another plus was that while his school friends were out on the sportsfield, he was in a dance class with female students. “Initially my friends thought I was crazy, but later on they realised that I was the lucky one,” he said with a grin.

Brandon now teaches everything from Latin American to ballroom and line dancing — in both open classes and private lessons — and even offers classes in modern dancing and Dance-fit, and says he feels lucky to be able to earn an income doing something he loves.

“I don’t actually teach the modern myself, Sarah McLoughlin does it for me, and Dance Fit is a bit like Zumba,” he says.

“We use a Latin American style for Dance Fit — it’s a fusion between samba, salsa and line dancing — and we use light weights. You don’t need a partner to do it and everyone seems to have a ball. Dancing is a full body workout — you have to use your body and your brain and it helps to keep you fit, to tone and with balance.”

Brandon also believes that no one ever stops learning. “Dancing is so dynamic, it changes all the time. I’m not teaching the same things that I learnt when I was 15, so it’s really important to keep learning new things. I go down to Durban and do lessons with Pat Dougal. She’s 83, the highest qualified teacher in KwaZulu-Natal, and still going strong.”

Asked if he thought shows like Shall We Dance and television programmes like Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance had made more people interested in learning to dance, he said: “Definitely. Especially men, because they can see it’s not something soppy. Sportsmen take part in those shows,” Brandon said.

On a more personal level he’s seen men who are dragged to dance classes by their wives and girlfriends discover that it’s actually a lot of fun and some of these students become even more enthusiastic than their partners.

Looking ahead, Brandon would love to have a purpose-built dance studio which offers all kinds of dance classes, but right now he’s happy to use the Scout Hall. “I’ve always wanted to have a studio and teach, and so far my school has been more successful than I ever dreamt,” he added.

For more information about Ben’s Dance Studio phone 084 595 2090 or log on to www.bensdance studio.com

THE Shall We Dance ballroom and Latin American showcase will take place in the Playhouse Opera Theatre in Durban from Septem-ber 9 to 17.

The featured couples this year are Latin specialists, Darren Hammond and Kaylee Brown, from Gauteng, and ballroom specialists, Devon Snell and Meagan Lottering, from Cape Town.

On the programme is ballroom and Latin American dancing; belly dancing, hip-hop; Irish, modern; ballet; tap; line dancing; Spanish; and American smooth.

The MC is Damon Beard and the guest artist is illusionist, Ricki Gray.

Seats are available downstairs and in the loge of the Playhouse Opera only. Tickets are R100 (R60 pensioners and students) at Computicket.

Show times: 7.30 pm on September 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 and 3 pm on September 10, 11 and 17.

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