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Beginners give dance a whirl

Hundreds are eager to get into the swing of a variety of dance styles at a Music Center event. After all, lessons are only $1 a session.

March 25, 2007|Martha Groves | Times Staff Writer

Amateur hoofers turned out by the hundreds Saturday at Music Center plaza for a daylong program aimed at getting people off their duffs and onto the dance floor.

Under a cloudy sky, youngsters from Culver City, college students from Claremont and grandmothers from Los Angeles clogged, tapped, hustled and jitterbugged their way through A Taste of Dance, a Music Center event celebrating diverse ways of moving by offering dance lessons at $1 for a 20-minute session.

Awkward types with two left feet were well in evidence, but so were budding Freds and Gingers.

Yvonne Dowd, 61, a grandmother of three from Hyde Park, and her aunt, June Kimble, also 61, got their grooves on in a modern jazz session taught by Robert Gilliam, a well-regarded Los Angeles dancer and choreographer. They wore jeans and comfortable shoes, the better to glide across the floor and shake their, um, stuff.

"I had come before and had such a great time, so I brought my aunt," Dowd said. "We want to enjoy life. Any time there's an opportunity to do something different, we take it."

"It's good to keep the ol' body moving," Kimble said.

As country music vied for air space with Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" and Native American drum music, professional dancers taught the basics of a dozen dance forms, including the Texas two-step and steppin', popularized -- in much more raucous form -- by the movie "Stomp the Yard."

Leza Williams, 10, and her sister, Nia, 8, of Culver City glowed as they hip-hopped from floor to floor. "It was fun," Nia said.

"You have to have some strength and be flowy," she added, raising her arm gracefully to demonstrate a jazz move.

Hilary Lowe, 21, a senior at Scripps College in Claremont, invited three friends to join her for a dance day in the city. One, Katie Tutwiler, 22, also a Scripps senior, said the two-step lesson reminded her of the Cajun dancing she grew up doing in Louisiana.

Occasionally, tripping the light fantastic took on a literal meaning as children and adults tried out moves better suited to, say, Savion Glover.

A Taste of Dance is part of a year-round Music Center program called Active Arts, which includes Saturday morning drumming sessions and Friday night sing-alongs.

The events, held through December, are designed to get everyday people "singing, dancing, playing their instruments again and telling their stories," said Josephine Ramirez, vice president of programming. "Participatory art-making activities are a way to engage people in civic life."

David Goldstein, 51, whose dance-loving mother accompanied him from Chatsworth, couldn't have agreed more. Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, he displayed a great deal of enthusiasm, if not always swanlike grace.

"I like the variety of dancers and the smiling faces," he said. "It is wonderful. And for $1 a lesson, you just can't beat it."

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martha.groves@latimes.com

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