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New ballroom dancing class brings merengue, rumba and more to local seniors

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The horns and drums of Latin American music filled the Lakefront Medical Center lobby on Thursday as a dozen senior-aged women shimmied and strutted across the floor.

“Give me attitude! When we rumba, it’s all about passion, all about emotion,” said dance instructor Roberto Muñoz from the front of the room. He snapped his arms upward and turned his head sharply from right to left in demonstration.

The women watched carefully, and attempted to mirror Muñoz’s fluid movements. This was the first class of ballroom dancing at Weiss. The nearby Alden Lakeland Rehabilitation and Health Care Center sponsors the free class, open to men and women.

“We’re trying to help the community out, get the seniors dancing and exercising out of the house,” said Muñoz, who works as head of marketing at Horizon Hospice and Palliative Care. He has taught dancing for the past five years at various seniors buildings throughout the city.

During the first class at Weiss, Muñoz taught participants moves from various dances including the merengue, paso doble and rumba. They stepped from side to side and marched back and forth, lifting their arms in arches over their heads.

“I want you ladies to feel this. Pretend like I’m the only man in your life,” Muñoz said, twirling one woman around in a slow, one-step spin. Hospital employees and visitors stopped to watch as they passed; some snapped photos or joined in the dancing.

After 15 minutes of practicing steps on their own, the dancers paired off for a first attempt at the merengue. Uptown resident Diane Gembala, in a pink striped shirt and dark pants, partnered with Weiss Senior Services Coordinator Abby Lochotzki. The two held their hands together and drew giant hearts in the air.

Watch our ballroom dancing video.

Gembala estimated that the last time she danced was four years ago, “but only for one dance.” She read about the class in the WISE Senior Center schedule and decided to come in for it, walking the four blocks from her home.

She also attends exercise, tai chi and other events at Weiss. “This was very good,” she said of the class. “The exercise is very good too.”

The hour-long class will occur on the second and fourth Thursday of every month. Lakefront Medical Center lobby, 10 a.m. The next session is Thursday, Dec. 30.

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