[Updated May, 2018]
I'm leaving this post up as historical documentation, but be aware that many things I've described are no longer accurate due to the inevitability of change as time passes. Since I no longer live in West Texas, I don't think I'm qualified to keep all of this up-to-date. Reader/dancer beware!
[Updated January, 2014]
Based on the number of questions Debbie and I get about ballroom dancing, I've decided to create a rare thing: a Content Filled post providing some basic information about dance lessons and venues in the Midland/Odessa area. This is by no means a comprehensive treatise but I hope it will provide some useful tips for those who are new to ballroom or who are new to the area.
Lessons/StudiosThere are a large number of dance studios in Midland/Odessa, but most cater to children. I'm familiar with two that offer ballroom lessons for adults.
In Odessa, the Love to Dance studio opened in 2005 and is the go-to place for lessons. Ray and Ronnie Reynosa are the owners and instructors, and they teach all forms of ballroom and Latin dances. Their pricing and lesson options are shown on their website. The Reynosas are also great ambassadors for dancing throughout West Texas as they travel to some of the smaller outlying towns to give lessons.
In Midland, Bernadette Lindsey's Dance Design studio (no website) is the most well-established ballroom studio in the area. Dance Design is located in the Imperial Shopping Center (3211 W. Wadley, Suite 11B; phone 432.352.8866). Bernadette offers private lessons (group lessons have been discontinued, except those through Midland College) and teaches country as well as ballroom steps. She also periodically offers an introduction to ballroom dance class through Midland College's Continuing Education curriculum; you can find the current CE schedule here.
If you're an absolute beginner I strongly recommend the Midland College class. It's a great way to learn the basics of six common dances (Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Rumba, Cha-Cha and Meringue) in a low-stress environment, and you can quickly decide if ballroom is something you want to pursue further.
The newest dance studio in Midland is Elegance Ballroom, which opened in January, 2013. It's located in the Colonnade Polo Park shopping center, at the northeast corner of Garfield and Loop 250 (4610 Garfield St, Suite B1, to be exact; phone 432.242.1823). This is a full-service studio, offering private and group lessons in ballroom, Latin, country, and swing, for adults and children. They generally sponsor a social dance each Saturday evening.
In the interest of full disclosure, Debbie and I have taken and continue to take private lessons from Bernadette.
Dance ClubsOf course, knowing how to dance doesn't do you a lot of good if you have no place to use that skill. Our area is fortunate to have two active organizations that promote ballroom dancing.
The Ballroom Dance Society (BDS) is the older of the two, having been in existence since 1990. It current has about 100 members, most of whom are in Midland, Odessa, and Big Spring. Membership is open to anyone, but requires a recommendation from a current member. The annual membership fee is $45/person; dances are $35/person and are generally held at the Gloria Denman Ballroom (see below). The dress code for BDS is semi-formal to formal; men are required to wear coats and ties and you'll see more than a few tuxes at a given dance, and ladies don evening wear. The exceptions are the summer dances where casual dress is permitted. Dances are always accompanied by a buffet dinner. Dances are generally scheduled on Friday evenings, one per month.
The current BDS schedule, showing dates and bands, is available here.
More full disclosure: Debbie and I have served on the BDS board.
Club Dance was formed in 2007 by some members of BDS who wanted to expand the opportunities for dancing in the area. It's a bit larger than BDS, with perhaps 200 members. Club Dance differentiates itself from BDS in several ways. First, it's a little less expensive; annual membership fee is $40/couple or $25/individual; dances are $25/person. Second, the dress code is more casual; coats and ties are rarely required. Third, the Club dances have a wider variety of music, with a couple of dances each year featuring country music. And finally, the normal venue for their dances is the Gloria Denman Ballroom, a wonderful facility that's described in more detail below. Dances are accompanied by a buffet dinner provided by a variety of local caterers. Dances are generally scheduled on Saturday evenings, one per month.
It's logical to presume that the two clubs compete with each other, but that's not the case. With a few exceptions, most dancers are members of both clubs, and the organizations work together to ensure that their schedules don't conflict. Several of the board members of one group also serve on the board of the other. There are several benefits to having two such groups, primarily in the areas of providing alternatives for levels of formality, and exposure to different types of music and dance venues.
All dances for both clubs feature live bands and orchestras. The challenges involved in locating and booking bands that do a good job of ballroom music and that are affordable are not insignificant. While there are a few bands in the Midland/Odessa area, groups are also booked from Lubbock, Abilene, San Angelo, and even Dallas or Austin. Musical quality can vary, but it's all danceable. [It apparently borders on blasphemy to suggest using a DJ, but given some of the rather inexpert musicianship we've experienced over the years, I'd be perfectly happy to dance to prerecorded music that has a steady beat and on-pitch vocalists. But, that's just me. Update: BDS periodically - i.e. once a year - uses pre-recorded music for a dance with great success.]
VenuesThe showcase venue in West Texas is the Gloria Denman Ballroom (GDB) located at St. Stephens Catholic Church (located on Neely, west of Midland Drive). This beautiful facility is named for the generous benefactor who funded its construction; Gloria and her husband Doug continue to be active in both clubs and are wonderful people. The GDB is massive (7,000 square feet); it will easily accommodate 100 couples plus tabled seating. Its permanent floor is smooth and comfortable. This is truly a showcase venue for local dancers.
There is actually a second venue that can be used for dancing and that's the Petroleum Club in downtown Midland. At one time, this was the venue of choice for the BDS until the oil and gas boom heated up competition for space and the club looked for an easier-to-book location. One of the area's country dance clubs (Just Dance Country) uses the Petroleum Club as its regular venue, but its dances are general on Thursday evenings. In any event, this venue remains an excellent choice when available, albeit with a floor area that's quite a bit smaller than GDB.
Why Join?You certainly don't have to be a member of a dance club to be a ballroom dancer in West Texas, but you'll find your opportunities to dance to be severely limited if you choose to go it on your own. The aforementioned venues host no open-to-the-public dances, and there simply aren't any other public venues for ballroom dancing in Midland/Odessa. (It's quite another story if you want to stick with country music, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Here's more information in that regard.)
In addition to gaining access to great venues, the clubs also offer the opportunity to get to know a group of people who you might not otherwise encounter. Debbie and I have been pleasantly surprised - blessed, even - by the friends and acquaintances we've made over the past few years. We hear this a lot: we got into it for the dancing, but we've stayed with it for the people. Perhaps it's the basic etiquette that comes with ballroom training, but you meet some of the nicest folks at the dances.
Of course, many (most?) people feel a bit intimidated by dancing with a new group, especially if they're beginners. It's hard not to feel like you're being judged. We certainly felt that way at our first few dances. But we soon learned the simple truth: nobody else cares how you dance. They like it that you're trying. And we're all too concerned with our own steps to judge someone else's.
That's not to say that people don't watch you, because not everyone dances every dance and part of the fun is watching other dancers. If that's intimidating, here's a tip that's guaranteed to mitigate the problem. Find the best dancers on the floor and stick close to them. No one will even notice you. (Hmm. That could explain why we're often alone on the floor!)
If you're a ballroom dancer in West Texas and you have additional information, corrections and/or clarifications regarding anything I've written here, please feel free to share them in the comments and I'll update this post accordingly.