By Deborah Bostock-Kelley
In September, Easidance Ballroom is celebrating its twentieth anniversary in its Carrollwood location. Owners, husband and wife, Timothy and Michele Mason, are renowned in the professional dance circuit in both the United Kingdom and America.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Michele started dancing at the tender age of 4 and Timothy from 8.
“Our paths finally crossed in 1987, into 1988, where we were both looking for new dance partners. I was professional, and she was in the high amateur ranks. We got together and had a successful tryout for a month and took it to our coaches, who liked it. We then formed a professional partnership. We continued to train and study under our coaches in the U.K. and compete in the European circuit.”
In their early twenties, an opportunity arose for Timothy and Michele to embark on a four-and-a-half-year contract in New York City to work in one of the leading studios in Manhattan. They began competing in the American circuit as well as the European circuit.
By the time the couple retired from competitive dance, they had ranked second in the U.S. and eleventh in the world. A professional partnership and friendship turned to love, and the couple married in 1994 and moved to the Tampa Bay area.
In 1999, they retired from competing, though continued to travel, doing shows, coaching, judging, and lectures. As they wanted more control over their travel schedule, they decided to open a dance studio on Gunn Highway in Tampa, then settled into their permanent Carrollwood location four years later.
From six years old to millennials to business people, retirees, and professionals looking for trainers, Easidance Ballroom caters to ages and all experience levels. Timothy and Michele take pride that whether learning competitive dance, a choreographed first wedding dance, a dance to feel comfortable on the dance floor, or simply an opportunity to socialize with like-minded dance enthusiasts, everyone is treated like family.
Thirty-three five-star Google reviews attest to “top-notch instructors and an atmosphere second to none.”
“We teach all levels of dance – people who are wanting to have a new hobby, maybe a date night for some, and competitors. We offer it all at the studio,” he said. “There are so many benefits of dance, not just the joy that brings to people. Some people are dancing for fitness. They come to us and say, ‘I can’t do the treadmill thing and the bike. I love music, and I want your ballroom studio to be my gym.’”
Ballroom dancing is as physical as going to the gym; however, less stressful on the joints and muscles.
Dancing can also be healing in those who have dementia and has been prescribed as part of therapy. Because Ballroom dancing is mentally challenging as it requires listening and problem-solving, studies have found that this challenge to the mind 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 a dance partner into account, it is mentally stimulating.
“So many articles have come out proving how it is an effective form of exercise physically and also psychologically. Studies have come out showing how in later years it is successful in keeping seniors’ minds active with the thought of learning to dance, step patterns, and coordination – aside of the physical complements that it has.”
Ballroom dancing is not a solo experience. It requires communication and teamwork and helps build friendship bonds and a sense of community. Much like the owners themselves, romantic relationships have been born from holding hands and consciously listening and responding to the moves of your dance partner.
“There’s been many stories how dance changes people’s lives. Maybe someone has lost a loved one, and they’ve been for years set indoors, and they find the courage to go back out again. They walk into the studio, and it opens up a new lease on life both with a new set of friends and family and exercise, and a whole new social world that wasn’t available to them before.”
It isn’t just about the social aspect of dancing; Easidance is recognized as a place that trains champions to reach the highest level of competitive dancing.
“We’ve had some students taken from what, we consider, a bronze level, and they’ve gone on to be national champions in the ProAm level, where the student is dancing with their instructor. We train people not just looking at dance as a hobby, but a dynamic sport.”
Whether a student is seeking private lessons working one-on-one or in a group setting, Easidance has a class for all interests. These include Latin-flavored dance classes in Mambo/Salsa, Rumba, Merengue, Bachata, and Cha Cha, and timeless dance floor classics of Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Tango, Bolero, Quickstep, Paso Doble, Jive, Foxtrot, East Coast Swing, Country Two Step, Line Dances, and Hustle.
Timothy and Michele also host weekly social dances.
The couple finds joy in witnesses firsthand the transformation of someone learning to love to dance. Timothy relayed a story of how a young woman came to the studio and sat in her car in the parking lot numerous times before finally taking a deep breath, braving walking through the doors, and learning to gain self-confidence through dance.
With over two decades of touching lives, Timothy explained that there were many similar stories of introverted teens, adults, and senior citizens that came out of their shells and blossomed through the social community of dance. They discover self-confidence, grace, and poise, and the ability to communicate with others.
Easidance Ballroom’s mission is to create a safe, nonjudgmental place where anyone – no matter what the level of experience – can have a fun time learning to dance.
“We’ve three options: private, group, and social dances. Typically, students embark on all three. We hear stories from couples, ‘we go out to a lovely meal, and we sit there and watch other people dance. We don’t want to be the person anymore. Help us.’ It’s our goal to help them feel more confident on the dance floor.”
Easidance Ballroom is located at 5111 Ehrlich Road, Suite 140. Coming out of the pandemic, masks are optional from June 1st and will be worn by instructors if requested. Forty-minute private lessons are available on weekdays daily, morning, afternoon, and evening. Group lessons are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Social dances are Friday evenings. Call (813) 908-3340 and learn more at easidanceballroom.com.