The fox trot will be foxier.
The rumba should be really "right on."
And the cha-cha could get crazy, man.
Leisure suits, puka shells and big hair will be in fashion again — for one night, at least — as the Modesto Modesto Ballroom Dance Club embraces "Peace & Love" for its first theme dance of the year on Friday from 7 to 11 p.m.
As with all the group's dances, it's open to anyone 16 and older. And the group's usual dress code — no jeans, no miniskirts, that sort of thing — will be relaxed to allow "over-the-top" attire including tie-dye and Afro wigs, said club member Cindy Beckler. "They don't have to dress up," Beckler said of folks who plan to attend. "There will be people who aren't in costume and are just enjoying the evening. But there's a good group of us who will dress up."
Tunes from the '60s and '70s will be woven throughout the night's recorded music, and the evening will begin with a hustle lesson, for those who've forgotten, or never learned, the popular dance. The snack for the Peace & Love Dance? Brownies, of course, with a parsley garnish serving as a nod to a certain forbidden weed.
Theme dances are one way the Modesto Ballroom Dance Club reaches out to generate attendance and membership.
"One of the things we've done is developed a subcommittee," said Beckler, a 41-year-old nurse, wife and mom. "We're putting our heads together on ways to draw new people. We're trying to contact some of the local dance instructors. I just went my first time last night to one of the dance classes to say, 'Hey, do you have anybody who's new to dancing, looking for a place to practice what they've learned.' When we took our class, nobody us about the ballroom club. You may take a ballroom class, then you don't know what to do with it."
About six months ago, the club created a Web site, www.modestoballroomclub.org, to publicize its events, as well as other dance venues in the area. Last year, it held a "showcase" event, Beckler said, to encourage the public to go see what ballroom dance is all about.
"We're doing again in August," she said. "It's similar to watching 'Dancing With the Stars,' but you have everyday, regular folks putting on choreographed dances."
Beckler and her husband, Robert, 45, started dancing about four years ago. Both had taken lessons in their youth and were interested in getting back into it. But when their children were young, the expense and hassle of getting a baby-sitter kept the Becklers from cutting a rug. But the dance floor never stopped beckoning.
"We waited until kids were old enough to leave home alone an hour here, two hours there, and so it was a nice transition to just have a date night," said Beckler, who's two children now are 13 and 15.
Son Andre, the 15-year-old, has served snacks at Ballroom Dance Club events and taken an occasional lesson.
"He enjoys watching," his mom said. "A lot of times, he'll sit their with his cell phone and text his friends and watch. He's like, 'Mom, y'know, you guys are old, but some of your friends really know how to dance.' We have friends who do the Lindy and he really likes watching them."
The perception of dance clubs as being for "old" people is something the club is trying to change. "We get a variety of people," Beckler said.\
Recent attendees included a couple in their early 30s who have a few children. Like the Becklers at that age, though, they said they wouldn't be able to come every month because of the cost of hiring a sitter. The club's dances also periodically draw 20-somethings.
"In the group we hang with, we are the youngest, but not by far," said Beckler, adding that the club has many members in the age group of 40s to 60. "A lot of our friends who dance are right around 50. Younger folks show up, but not consistently. I'd like to see more of the younger individuals."
As for the level of dance talent among members and visitor, Beckler said that also varies. Some members have been dancing for years and have created their own steps.
"Maybe they haven't taken lessons, but they're accomplished dancers," she said. "Most members have had at least a few lessons and maybe are a little more accomplished. And I think that's part of the problem — a lot of people think they have to be a great dancer to come out there. But we have lessons prior, and you don't get better by sitting home."
The club holds dances the first Saturday and third Friday of most months, at the Modesto Senior Center, 211 Bodem Drive. For the Saturday dances, the music is live — usually Knight Sounds, Ernie Bucio's Little Big Band or the Kyle Barker Band. At Friday dances, the music is recorded — a move made for financial reasons (hiring bands isn't cheap) but that has another advantage.
"The band nights are a lot of fun," Beckler said, "but the recorded music, I'll be honest with you, you know when you get out there on the dance floor and somebody announces, 'This is a fox trot,' exactly what the music beat is going to be. And if you are a new dancer, we have a playlist and it says whether a dance is a cha-cha, rumba, waltz. ... We print what we consider the dance to be."
What should a newcomer expect from the dress code? Women wear dresses or blouses with slacks. Men wear dress shirts or casual shirts with slacks, not jeans. "I almost always wear a dress," Beckler said. "Typically, men don't wear ties. My husband usually wears a nice short-sleeve shirt and a pair of slacks. He wears a lot of his golf shirts because we dance real hard, so he sweats." (Women, of course, don't perspire, but glow.)
While the Becklers are most active in the Modesto Ballroom Dance Club, they also frequently attend dances held by other local groups, such as the Forever Young Dance Club, which also meets at the senior center, and the USA Dance Ballroom Dancing group, which meets in Hughson. She doesn't think there's any one group that would be best for a newcomer, and suggests it's fun to take in a variety of dances and see what the various venues and groups have to offer (big vs. intimate dance floor, free lessons, the level of refreshments).
"You would almost want to attend all of them to get your skills up," she said. "You need to get out there, you can't just take one lesson or go to one group, because if you learn a step and you go to only one dance venue a month, you'll never remember it."