Dancing With The Stars has inspired many people to dance again or even start dancing. The show is also helping one struggling Evansville dance club keep ballroom dancing alive. But that's not all.
Life is a dance with many steps along the way. But for Linda Tooley, she wasn't allowed to take those steps when she was younger. She says her mother was against dancing, so she started to sneak out.
"I did, I learned how to Jitterbug on Saturday afternoons by going to the American Legion, and I just recently told my 93-year-old father that I used to do that and he said, 'you did?' and I said 'yes, I did.' I wanted to dance so badly," Linda Tooley said.
Today, Tooley is the president of the Coterie Dance Club of Evansville. She says it's the oldest formal dance club in America in continuous existence. They have five dances a year with live big band dance music. They do the rumba, waltz, cha cha, and salsa. They dress in their formal best, and dance the night away. Coterie members have to be at least 21-years-old, but many members are in their 80's. Sandy Feltz has been in the club for a year and takes dance lessons on the side. She says dancing makes you feel young again, and she's seen the proof. Feltz remembers seeing a man walk in to a Coterie dance with a cane, and then he put it down for the rest of the night.
"The first time that I watched that man with a cane and he got up, I thought, 'oh this is gonna be scary and I watched him and he twirled the woman and she twirled and spinning can be hard when you ballroom dance. You can lose your balance, they didn't miss a step. I looked at my husband and said, 'someday I want to be them when I grow up' and he said 'me too', and so it is magical," Sandy Feltz said.
Right now there are around 180 members in the Coterie, but at one time there were up to 300, and a two year waiting list.
"We're fighting to survive, because in the last few years a lot of our older members have passed and just letting people know in Evansville that we actually exist," Tooley said.
As membership has diminished over the years, there has been a shining star that is bringing dancing to people's attention. With top-notch performances and sparkly formal dresses, the show Dancing With The Stars is doing more than just entertaining. For some people like Tooley, it was the spark that pushed them onto the dance floor.
"It's achieved a lot for the world of dancing, it really has. We wouldn't be dancing if the show hadn't come on," Tooley said.
She says the show is helping the club. As people watch the professionals and the stars float across the floor, more people are wanting to give ballroom dancing and other types of dancing a try.
Steve and Wendy Casey are members of the club. They say when they're dancing, they're in a different place.
"We bicker all the time, just ask our kids. But we love each other and when we dance that's what we feel like so. And you forget that stuff, who has time when you're dancing to think about, well he made me mad because he didn't do this, just doesn't work. I mean how can you listen to music and not be happy. Exactly," Steve & Wendy Casey said.
They dance with their feet and their heart. The Casey's are volunteer dance teachers at Riverbend Academy in Henderson, a non-profit school of the arts. For the past three years, they've helped participants in the Henderson Dancing With The Stars fundraiser. So far, they've raised about $93,000. The money is used to teach ballroom and line dancing to these students at Central Learning Center in Henderson. But on this day, they're performing the Wabble for their families.
The Casey's say they appreciate each step they've been able to teach these students. It's just another way Dancing With The Stars has made a difference. It's helping these young kids learn about dance, fitness, confidence, and respect.
Steve Casey says if you can walk, you can dance. Just walk to the beat of the music. The Coterie's next dance is June 3rd at the Scottish Rite in Evansville. A year membership costs $130 per couple. Coterie members say it's like going to the prom five times a year, for $13 a person. For more information, go to www.coterie.info or you can call 812-490-1553.