Ramar Jones dances with Ebony High during an urban dance and ballroom workshop at the University of Toledo's Student Union Ingman Room. Calling the instructions is Edwin Rhodes.
THE BLADE/LORI KING
He’s not quite ready for Dancing with the Stars, but Toledo’s Rineil Rayford proved a quick study when it came to learning urban contemporary ballroom dancing.
Mr. Rayford, 35, was among a handful of community residents and University of Toledo students who turned out for an urban dance and ballroom workshop held in the Student Union on Monday.
The event is one of several activities being held on campus to celebrate Black History Month, which is recognized nationwide in February.
“I’ve never done this before,” Mr. Rayford admitted, during a quick break between dance lessons. “But, it’s easy to learn, if you can walk and count to four.”
The workshop was led by Edwin Rhodes, who operates Toledo’s Fancy Footwork Dance Productions. Mr. Rhodes, 41, has been teaching urban ballroom dance for about 13 years.
Based on four-count stepping, urban ballroom dance originated in the 1950s, but has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to popular contemporary rhythm and blues singers such as R. Kelly, who have featured the dance style in several music videos, Mr. Rhodes said.
“It is similar to what you see on Dancing with the Stars, Mr. Rhodes said. “You will see some of the same moves, only without the Hollywood flash.”
Monday’s event got off to a later-than-expected start because of a scheduling error. But that didn’t deter the enthusiasm of their instructors.
Instructor Tanisha Elliott grabbed arriving students by the hand and quickly led them onto the dance floor area where they were taught basic steps.
“This is a fun, relaxing workout,” Ms. Elliott explained to nervous participants as they began.
The resurgence of urban ballroom dance began in Detroit in the mid-70s, Mr. Rhodes said. Various incarnations of it have cropped up in Chicago, Cleveland, and other large cities since then.
Based on the kind of ballroom dance often associated with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, urban ballroom dance includes a more soulful flavor, he said.
This dance takes two partners executing steps derived from the cha-cha, and includes turns, spins and dips, he said.
Joan Easler, diversity-resource specialist for the university’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Community Engagement, said organizers try to offer a variety of activities that are fun and educational. Ballroom dancing is something that can be useful if students want to partiicpate in a more formal function some day.
“We want students to be exposed to professional social activities,” said Ms. Easler. “Anyone can do hip-hop, and it’s fun. But, they are here to get an education.”
At least three local clubs hold weekly urban ballroom dancing events: Elks Club on Junction, Infinity Lounge, and Club Evolution.
Other upcoming Black History Month events, include:
● 7 p.m. Tuesday, Student Union, Room 2591, “A Night with the Legends” when several African-American women in the community will be honored for their achievements.
● 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Student Union, Ingman Room, “Heritage Night,” a celebration of African-American heritage events from the 20th and 21st centuries.
● 7 p.m. Friday, Black Student Union fashion show, Student Union auditorium, Tickets: $12, $15 for runway seats.
● 7 p.m. Feb. 26, poetry readings and jazz, Student Union, Ingman Room, Poet Xplicit and flutist Galen Abdur-Razzaq will perform.
Other events have included a soul food luncheon and an ongoing lecture series.
Contact Federico Martinez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.