Annie Hawkins of Genoa has always loved to dance, starting with ballet, jazz and tap as a child, joining the Florida Ballet at 16, transitioning to ballroom dancing at 21, teaching at Arthur Murray, an international dance franchise, and forming DanceFit in 2012.
DanceFit offers affordable private lessons in a variety of dance styles including ballroom, Latin, niteclub, salsa and country western. Private lessons are available afternoons, evenings and weekends in Genoa, DeKalb and Rockford. Group and fitness classes and dance events are also offered. For information about DanceFit, visit www.DanceFit.biz, email DancePC@live.com or call 904-613-3765.
Hawkins spoke to MidWeek Reporter Katrina Milton about DanceFit, different styles of dance and the benefit and fun of dancing for all ages.
Milton: How did DanceFit start?
Hawkins: I opened up DanceFit in Florida in 2012. Prior to that, I taught for Arthur Murray, an international dancing franchise, for eight years. Then my dance partner and I each decided to open up our own studios. ... When I moved to Illinois three years ago, DanceFit came with me.
Milton: What classes do you offer with DanceFit?
Hawkins: I offer instruction in ballroom and Latin dancing, including one-on-one lessons, group classes and dance events similar to parties. The dance events are 45 minutes to an hour of instruction as a group class and then the floor opens up to dancing with a variety of music. … In July, I will start a new session of salsa and swing dancing at Dimensions Dance Academy in DeKalb. In September, I will teach general ballroom dancing at the DeKalb Park District.
Milton: When did you start dancing?
Hawkins: I’ve loved dancing my whole life. I started dancing when I was 3 years old. My parents started me with dancing to see if I liked it. At first, I took ballet, tap and jazz lessons. I kept up with it and attended a performing arts high school. When I was 16, I joined the Florida Ballet, a touring company that toured the southeastern United States. I went to college at Jacksonville University and studied all different types of dancing, even traditional African dance. At age 21, I switched over to ballroom dancing exclusively, started my training and became a dance instructor at Arthur Murray.
Milton: What do you love about being a dance instructor?
Hawkins: I love seeing the progress and growth of someone who’s never danced before. Dancing really enriches people’s lives. I love seeing their improvement from lesson to lesson, even through the years. It’s great to have a large group class, when they’re all dancing, sharing a similar passion and participating in a fun activity together.
Milton: How does “Dancing with the Stars” compare to real-life dancing?
Hawkins: I think that “Dancing with the Stars” is great – it makes the public aware of ballroom dancing and raises interest. I think people watching the show on TV don’t know all of the time and hard work the dancers put in behind the scenes. It takes a lot of hard work and practice to train someone who’s never danced before to come out in front of a huge audience and perform a televised routine. They have to eat, sleep and breathe ballroom dancing. … In Florida, we had a local spin on “Dancing with the Stars,” where we partnered with local celebrities, including doctors and politicians. It was a fundraiser for great causes.
Milton: What do you say to people who tell you “I can’t dance?”
Hawkins: I think 99% of people that start dancing say they have two left feet or “I’m going to be your biggest challenge.” The first step is always the hardest. It gets progressively easier and easier with practice. … I would tell anyone that’s interested in dancing to start now. Don’t put it off or wait until you have a dance partner. There’s nothing stopping them from getting started except themselves. That first step, showing up and getting started, is the most difficult.