Who Says Exercise Has to Be Boring? Dancers at Fred Astaire Studio Have Fun Getting in Shape while Making New Friends

Sasha Tsyhankov takes a stand behind a student, lifts her arms up and twirls her around as a peppy cover of “My Heart Will Go On” plays on the sound system.

“One, two, three, one, two, three,” he calls out as he guides her across the dance floor.

All around them, fellow dancers demonstrate various degrees of fluidity—some creaky, some smooth as velvet, all having a good time.

Friday brings out a small crowd at Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Greensboro. People who could probably compete with the best on Dancing with the Stars, to folks who are beginners and those who are just looking to get into shape.

“This is something that involves all parts of the body,” says Sasha, co-owner of the studio. “This gives you a lot of positive action for your body, your soul. And you get to listen to a lot of beautiful music while doing it.”

The studio, part of a chain of dance schools founded by legendary dancer Fred Astaire in 1947, offers lessons in salsa, tango, foxtrot and other forms of ballroom dance. Sasha and his business partner, Alosha Anatoliy, both from Ukraine, opened the Greensboro location in 2007. Students range in age from 10 to 95.

“Most people are here for the social part of it, and they want to learn to dance maybe for a wedding or a special occasion,” manager Dasha Chube says. “About 10 percent are very serious, competitive students, actually compete internationally. We have couples and singles.”

The studio also annually hosts a fundraiser for Operation Smile, a nonprofit organization which provides surgeries for children in developing countries who have cleft palates and lips. This year’s event, Dancing with the Carolina Stars, will take place Feb. 9 at the Greensboro Marriott Downtown.

Regardless of skill level, students at the studio get a good workout. A typical lesson might entail 10,000 steps.

“You work your joint and muscles, but you do it to music and a special routine, and you get maximum activity without realizing how much you’re doing,” Alosha says. “An hour of Latin dance is more physical than an hour of football training, but because it’s all to music, a lot of people feel like they’re not exercising that much. It’s fun, and it makes the time go by fast.”

Tony Owens of Asheboro says he always gets a good workout when he comes to the studio.

“Friday nights, we have a party. You don’t sit down much,” he says. “You’re on your feet and legs most of the night, working a lot more muscles than you really think. It’s good for your confidence and to relieve stress.”

Angela Fuller of Greensboro, who has been taking lessons at Fred Astaire for six years, says dancing helped her recover from a stroke she suffered as result of a blood clot in her brain.

“It took some time to recover from that,” she says. “But the neurologist said the dance played a huge role in overcoming the effects of the stroke. It had to do with the parts of the brain it uses, how you have to process information. A lot of people who do this are thinking in terms of losing weight, but it really changes your brain.”

1500 Mill St., Suite 105, Greensboro, FredAstaire.com/greensboro