By Deborah Bostock-Kelley

Dance Excellence Ballroom owners Stefan and Traci Dobrev’s goal is to get people off of the couch watching Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and World of Dance and into their ballroom to experience the magic first-hand.

“Instead of watching what other people are doing and saying oh, I wish I could do that, we want to teach them how to do it,” said Stefan. “People think with ballroom dancing, you have to compete but actually only ten to 20% of students in the dance studio compete. The majority do dance for fun, health, and exercise. It teaches you how to communicate with a partner and shows you how to work together.”

Stefan, a dancer since the age of 7 and a Bulgarian National Dance Champion, and Traci, a ballet dancer since age 5 and competitive gymnast since middle school, pride themselves on having a studio both students and instructors enjoy coming to.

Opened in November 2014, the Dobrevs are pleased to have created a fun, safe place where people can meet, form friendships, and find people with similar interests. “It’s so inspirational and that’s what I wanted to create – a place where people wanted to come to – teachers and students,” said Stefan.

At Dance Excellence Ballroom, students can learn both International and American Style Ballroom dances, including Salsa, Cha Cha, Rumba, Jive, Samba, Tango, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep, and Swing. Lessons are available privately or in a group class setting and isn’t necessary to bring a partner, unless you want to, though many couples participate as part of a date night.

Eleven full-time instructors and two receptionists are part of the Dance Excellence family.

And that immediate sense of “family” is a very important part of the Dance Excellence philosophy as soon as you enter the expansive studio. Certified instructors aren’t transient, rather they are hired as employees of the studio, with comprehensive benefits and continuing education requirements.

“We are selective of who we hire. They have to be great dancers, but they also have to be team players who want to excel,” explained Stefan.

A misconception about ballroom dancing is that it is only for retirees.

Dance Excellence Ballroom students range from age 4 to senior citizen and through a structured program, can check their progress, right along with their instructor, to know where they stand. The Dobrevs confirm that students are getting everything they wanted out of their lessons.

The Dobrevs are confident a person does not exist that Dance Excellence Ballroom can’t teach to dance, no matter if the dancer considers himself with “two left feet.”

“Everyone can learn how to dance, but it depends on the level that they want to learn and how much time that they want to invest, and how good they want to be,” said Stefan. “We love having fun and building community, but we also have a structure.”

Their Beginner Program provides instruction of the basics of four or five popular social dances. The Foundation Program expands those basics to variations of popular social dances. At the next level, students move into the Bronze 1-4 Program. After completing this program, Stefan said that students will be able to go to any social event and dance all the popular social dances with confidence and with any partner, to any type of music. The highest program of social dancing instruction they offer is the Silver Program.

Besides looking skilled on any dance floor, the benefits of ballroom dancing come in four main categories: mental, physical, social, and emotional.

Ballroom dancing is mentally stimulating, necessitating listening, planning, sequential learning and problem-solving. Multiple studies have proven dancing challenges the mind and may prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s in older adults. Because ballroom dancing involves precise physical activity, listening to the beats in music, remembering dance steps, and taking your partner into account, it is mentally challenging.

Ballroom dancing is as physical as going to the gym to work out; however, less stressful on the body.

“When people engage in dance, it’s good because it’s not only the physical, but you have to connect timing and get down to a coordinated sequence of steps. There’s a lot of mental of processing that goes along with the physical movements,” explained Traci. “It helps with the aging of the brain because it’s working the brain in so many different ways. For kids, it helps with the development of the brain.”

Ballroom dancing is a social experience as ‘partner dancing’ requires communication, teamwork, and helps create friendships and community. Even some romantic relationships have been born from holding hands and consciously listening and responding to the moves of your dance partner.

“Learning how to listen and talk to your partner is key,” said Traci.

Emotionally, ballroom dance helps build confidence and poise and can help people overcome shyness.

“Especially for children, ballroom dance teaches them manners, how to treat one another and teaches them teamwork,” said Stefan.

The first Friday night of the month, Dance Excellence Ballroom hosts a couples-only party, while social parties happen on Thursday evenings. On Saturday, the ballroom host classes for children with special needs. “Our goal is to have these incredible students in competition next year,” said Traci.

Stefan stressed, “No matter whether you want to compete or just learn to dance socially, ballroom is for everyone. Our biggest goal is to create a community.”

Dance Excellence Ballroom is located in the Oldsmar Plaza at 3730 Tampa Road, Suite 7. They are open Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information about group or private lessons or dance parties, visit www.DanceExcellenceBallroom.com or call (813) 814-0099.