The Speakeasy of Dancing: A. Rhythmic Time Hosts Its Second-Annual Swing-Dance Workshop Weekend Print
News/Features - Dance
Written by Mike Schulz   
Friday, 07 May 2010 06:00

A. Rhythmic Time's Brenda and Rick ThamesA note for future first-time visitors to the A. Rhythmic Time dance studio: If you find yourself nearing your destination but are pretty sure you're lost, don't panic. You're probably right where you're supposed to be.

"When we got this place," says Rick Thames, who co-owns the Moline studio (at 5447 Third Avenue) with wife Brenda, "we finished renovations in the winter [of 2008], when it was too cold to paint the outside of the building. And, you know, it's an industrial area, and you have to come down an alley, and there's a dumpster outside ... . So we'd just tell people, 'Look for the blue door.'"

Yet when you do find that blue door to the Thameses' converted-warehouse space, don't be afraid to walk in: Despite the venue's somewhat off-putting exterior, inside you'll find a lovingly designed, 35-foot-by-100-foot, honest-to-goodness ballroom.

"That's the best part," says Rick. "When people first come through the door. Because all of a sudden their faces are like, 'I can't believe this is here.'"

"People call it 'The Speakeasy of Dancing,'" adds Brenda with a laugh. "Because from the outside ... !"

Like when A. Rhythmic Time was located in Rock Island (from 2006 to 2008), the main focus for the more-spacious Moline venue was, says Rick, "dance lessons, but we also wanted to host bigger events." And the studio's biggest annual event will take place over the May 21-23 weekend, when the Thameses host their second workshop weekend, "That Spring Swing Thing," geared to both novice and experienced swing dancers.

Brenda, who teaches nightly studio classes alongside instructor Jaxon Boyd, says the idea for a weekend devoted entirely to swing steps was one the Thameses had long considered. "They do them in a lot of big cities - Iowa City just had theirs - and the Quad Cities didn't have anything like that. We have the blues fest and the jazz fest, but those are geared toward music, and there was nothing, necessarily, that celebrated dance. So that's what we decided to do. Celebrate all the generations of swing dancing."

Plus all the different styles of swing dancing. "A lot of people think of swing dancing as a dance," Brenda continues, "when it's actually a genre of dance."

"And it can be done to all sorts of artists," adds Rick. "Glen Miller, Michael Bublé, Christina Aguilera, the Backstreet Boys ... . Whoever."

the A. Rhythmic Time dance studio"There's at least 15 to 17 types of swing dancing," says Brenda, "and whichever type is most common depends on what region you're in. If you go out west and say, 'We're gonna go swing dancing,' people know you're going to do West Coast."

As for participants at A. Rhythmic Time's swing-dance weekend, they'll be given an introduction to West Coast swing, and East Coast swing, and all manner of Lindy and Charleston variations, Balboas, Low & Slows, leans, hops, drops, pretzels ... .

"People show up Friday night," says Rick of the schedule, "and we have a couple lessons and then a [social] dance. On Saturday, we start at 10 a.m., take a lunch break, come back, keep going, take a dinner break, come back, and dance again 'til 11."

Then, on Sunday, "there are a couple more lessons and another dance, the difference being that the Friday and Saturday dances are exclusively swing, and Sunday's includes Latin and ballroom dancing."

With roughly 20 hours of lessons and social dances scheduled over the three days, it's a jam-packed syllabus, to be sure. But as Brenda insists, "It's not like work. It's a very playful weekend."

It's also a weekend that, if last year's turnout is an indicator, should appeal to dancers from a wide range of locales - 2009's 100-plus attendees included visitors from Des Moines, St. Louis, and Kansas City - and of wildly varied ages. "Most of our dancers are 40-plus," says Rick, "and we have one couple that's, I think, ninety-something. But at the swing weekend, we had way more 17-to-35-year-olds than anything else.

"But I like that, no matter the age, [swing weekend] seemed to open people's minds up," he adds. "Maybe they'd been afraid to try dancing, or had said 'I'm too old ... ' or whatever. But all of a sudden they'd see someone else doing it, and their eyes would light up ... . It's a neat feeling to be a part of."


For more information about A. Rhythmic Time's "That Spring Swing Thing" workshop weekend and the studio's course schedule, call (309)786-4800 or visit ARhythmicTime.com.