Tom and Isabelle are pictured on the dance floor. Courtesy Photo

Dancing the night away

RUSSELL – Since 2015, Tom Manley and Isabelle Masson have operated Ballroom for Fun, a local small business that provides people with the opportunity to learn ballroom dancing in a fun and accessible manner.

Social dancing falls into two principal categories: freestyle dancing and ballroom dancing. Manley described freestyle dancing, as dancing alone without a partner and can be “accompanied by one or more other people in proximity on the dance floor.” On the other hand, ballroom dancing is performed by two people connected and synchronized together, enabling “any two people to dance together if they are familiar with the dance style.” Ballroom dancing encompasses many different dance styles.  “There is a dance style for every music style, and a music style for every dance style,” said Manley. Manley explains that he and Masson met over 30 years ago and discovered a mutual passion for dancing. They took ballroom dance lessons in Cornwall about 22 years ago and fell in love with the sport. When the couple “reached the limit of that particular program,” Tom then assisted the teacher in developing new dancers.” Tom and Isabelle later moved on and opened Ballroom for Fun in 2015.

The business was launched to provide the chance for people to dance and learn ballroom dancing in rural Eastern Ontario and as well, to “enjoy dancing and teaching a great physical and mental exercise, having fun and enjoying a leisure activity as a couple.”

Lessons are held on Wednesday evenings at the Russell Community Centre, the Zudio Studio in Vankleek Hill every second Saturday afternoon and on Monday evenings at the Benson Centre in Cornwall. There was a fall ballroom dance event that began in mid-September, a winter session in mid-January and a spring session in early April, with each session lasting for one hour per week for 10 weeks.

The couple teaches the Rumba, Cha Cha, Mambo, Bachata, Samba, and Triple Swing, which are described as being Latin rhythmic dances, while also teaching “the smooth styles of Waltz, Viennese Waltz, American Tango, and Foxtrot.” Manley noted the classes are open to couples as well as single dancers. “Isabelle and Tom practice with the single dancers, invite other dancers to rotate partners with the single dancers, and allow the single dancers to practice the movements on their own.”

Tom and Isabelle have developed their ballroom dancing techniques and skill in a variety of ways including online instruction and from four different local teachers. He noted that one of the challenges faced by dance teachers is adapting to the different learning styles of students, as people learn in a variety of ways. These include watching demonstrations, listening to explanations, repeating drills, and practicing movements. Tom explained they have “progressively integrated all these learning needs into their teaching methods.”

“A second challenge is to match the learning capacity of each student. Some pick up the dancing movements more easily than others or come to the program with prior experience at other dance schools,” said Tom. The lesson plan and cadence are adapted to the couple and the group to enable them to learn at their own pace.

Dancing is meant to be a fun activity with Tom and Isabelle designing their classes to balance the technical aspects, with the variety of movements and step, so students can enjoy learning ballroom dancing. Tom continued that the couple derives “great satisfaction when the students, young and older, develop their proficiency, feel a sense of accomplishment, and have fun dancing as a couple.”

Tom mentioned that ballroom dancing is also taught by Dennis Taylor at the Chesterville Community Hall located a 1 Mill Street. Bi-weekly dance events happen on Saturday evenings in Chesterville, with the couple attending these events on a regular basis.

More information on Ballroom for Fun can be found at

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