Not-so-strictly ballroom

Posted on 10 Jun 2010 at 1:26pm
By RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

It takes two to tango — and now same-sex couples can learn how together


DANCING QUEEN | Shorena will usher couples into same-sex ballroom with classes starting Thursday. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

DANCE LESSONS
Gocha & Shorena Center of Dance, 2507 Knight St.
Classes begin June 17 at 8 p.m. $260 for 10 lessons.
GochaShorena.com.

Even on Dancing With the Stars, where a gay contestant like Lance Bass can make it into the finale, the star has to have an opposite-sex partner. But those with DWTS aspirations could have their dreams come true without having to compromise. That’s because former professional ballroom dancers Gocha Chertkoev and Shorena Gachechiladze have decided that, since their new dance studio is in the gayborhood, why not extend lessons to same-sex couples?

"It was a simple and easy question for why," Gachechiladze says. "We want to offer classes for everybody. Ballroom dancing is a great way to communicate and especially for couples to relate to each other."

Hailing from Russia, the two are superstars of ballroom, and they have the championship titles to prove it, including the Triple Crown Championship and the Texas Challenge. The two reached a bigger audience with their work on the Discovery Network’s Ballroom Bootcamp.

Yeah, they’re a big deal.

But after retiring from competition, they settled in Dallas to train and teach at their new studio on Maple and Knight, amid many gay bars. Being in the midst of the gayborhood, they envisioned an opportunity to introduce ballroom dancing to gay and lesbian couples. Besides, Gachechiladze had done it before already.

"I’ve coached and trained many dancers in same-sex competitions," she says. "One couple I trained about eight years ago, they won their championships! But it’s a lot bigger in Europe."

The idea didn’t come just because of their proximity to Oak Lawn. A friend opened a studio in San Francisco and she when offered same-sex classes they became a hit. No doubt, her TV persona was also a draw. The couple is close friends with DWTS dancer Cheryl Burke.

"I think gays and lesbians would like to have fun and be in shape and be together in this way," Gachechiladze says. "It’s as simple as that."

No doubt, the art is hot right now, but with it being so entrenched in male/female partnership, could there be a resistance to the notion of ballroom dancing for gay couples? They don’t think so. Chertkoev thinks it’s more about the body than it is the female and male roles most people associate with it.

"If they approach it just as the art, it looks beautiful," he says.

Gachechiladze elaborates. She knows there has to be a specific approach to it, but ultimately, enjoyable to the couples.

"There really are no struggles in leading and following but it will be the choices of the dancers," she says. "One partner will have to be doing the traditional footwork of their opposite sex. But really, it’s not a problem, it’s just starting from the beginning."

The Gocha and Shorena studio will open their same-sex classes with a 10-week session starting Thursday. The sessions are an hour long and the plan is to have every couple know three or four ballroom dances by the end. After the classes, couples will know how to cha-cha, waltz, tango and swing.

But if you have two left feet or a little on the shy side, Gachechiladze says not to worry. They are pros at this. If they can make competitors into champions, they can teach the novice the basics.

"I only feed the class as hungry as it gets — it’s never overfed," she says. "It’s a healthy activity, good music and you can do this with someone you care about."



TWISTERS AND SHOUT-OUT

IAGLCWDC may stand for the International Association of Gay/Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs, but those who attend just call it "Iggle-Wiggle" — a silly name for some very serious competitions. And last month, for the 17th annual convention held in Austin, Dallas’ Texas Twisters showed just how serious they can be.

The Twisters took 14 awards in three categories for four of its members, and the group won "top club," given to the contingent with the largest number of entrants.

Big winners include Tony New, pictured right, who won two first-place medals for two-person teams and several second- and third-place finishes, and Luis Rodriguez, pictured left, who won three first-place trophies, including overall champion for advanced line dancing.

— Arnold Wayne Jones


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 11, 2010.

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