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Outdoor dance series kicks off

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Put on your dancing shoes and head over to Ojibway Park for the weekly Summer Dance Series.

The series, sponsored by Tropical Ballroom and Woodbury Parks and Recreation Department, teaches participants a 30-minute dance lesson before providing two hours of live music.

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The first session, Latin Night, was held July 3 and featured the Pizzazz Jazz Band and cha-cha lessons. The five-week series will be every Tuesday with 30-minute dance lessons from 6:30-7 p.m. and live music from 7-9 p.m.

Tropical Ballroom co-owner Tricia Wood said she came up with the idea for the Summer Dance Series after she heard of a similar weekly program occurring downtown St. Paul at the Landmark Plaza sponsored by the Ordway Center.

"I had the idea because I did not want to have to go downtown to provide our service," she said, "I wanted to keep it local."

Wood went to work brainstorming the different theme nights, dance styles and bands she could feature.

She chose bands that she had worked with previously at Tropical Ballroom and styles that she thought would be the most practical.

"I've picked an appropriate lesson type and picked a band that plays that style," Wood said. "I picked them based on what I thought were the most useful dances."

Once Wood had the series down on paper, she went to the city's Parks and Recreation Department to see if it was something they wanted to offer.

"I put the whole entire thing together on paper and took it to park and rec," she said. "I had every single thing the way I wanted it to be."

Wood said the Parks and Recreation Department was very receptive to her program idea.

"They were like, 'Wow, we've never done anything for adults, really,'" she said. "Nothing in Woodbury is ever geared towards adults - it's all families and kids.'"

Once Wood had the Parks and Recreation Department's seal of approval, she had to quickly contact the bands and put the finishing touches on the program since the Parks and Recreation summer catalogue was going to print in two days.

Wood said the Summer Dance Series was a little bit of a hard sell for the bands since she was working from a very limited budget and most of the bands have much higher fees.

"I explained to them that what works for dancers and musicians is when they're actually seen--it's great advertisement," Wood said. "They're fabulous bands to work with."

Eventually, Wood secured all of her bands.

"I put this whole entire thing together in 48 hours," she said, "and we've had to make no changes to our original plan - timing is everything."

The Summer Dance Series will include a ballroom night on July 17 where participants will learn the foxtrot and dance to Tim Patrick and His Blue Eyes Band; July 24 will be country night where participants will learn the country two-step while dancing to the Dixie Hicks Band; the series will culminate July 31 with swing night, where participants will swing dance, to the Red Rock Swing Band.

The July 10 session, which occurred after the Bulletin went to press, was "old-time night" and featured polka and the Hank Thunander Band.

Wood said she is anticipating a good crowd for every session with their ballroom students, those who are preparing to dance at weddings and just those who want to enjoy dancing outdoors to live music - for free.

"I'm super excited," she said. "I think every single week should draw a really nice crowd.

"I think they're still going to come regardless of the heat."

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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