It’s not just the next cruise or ballroom gala that Cy Richardson looks forward to when teaching a dance step. Dancing is one of those lifetime activities that one will do as long as he or she can walk.
"It’s a lifelong experience," Richardson said of dancing. "You carry on until you can no longer do it. Most people gravitate toward dancing as they get older."
That’s one of the attitudes that’s helped Richardson develop a clientele in Burke, where he teaches 19 different dances on a group and individual basis. He holds classes at his home and at The Oaks community center in Burke Centre. His students return again and again. That was the case with Tom and Suzanne Holloman, Fairfax residents who were introduced to Richardson last year when they were getting ready to go on a Carribean vacation.
"It was something for us to do together," said Suzanne Holloman. "I think we’ve taken everything from him except Latin [dancing], and we may take that soon. Dancing is something we can do forever."
At a nightclub, asking for a dance may be a cliché, but it is also a way for singles to meet. Richardson knows this as well, no matter what age the clients are.
"Dancing is a social situation," he said. "It’s a very good way for social interaction. You’d be surprised how many people, that’s their life. It promotes poise and confidence."
Richardson even met his wife through the dance class. She started off as a client.
Marcie Reinertson is the community services coordinator at Burke Centre. Richardson’s classes are popular in Burke.
"People really enjoy taking his classes," she said. "Sometimes he’ll do demonstrations at the fall festival."
Using their community center isn’t free for Richardson or other instructors they have, according to Reinertson. A ballet teacher gives lessons at The Commons community center on Friday nights.
"All of our teachers charge for the lessons and give us a percentage," she said.
RICHARDSON DIDN’T always dance, though. He is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army and spent two tours in Vietnam during the war as a transportation officer. He started taking dance instruction in 1986 and started teaching his own classes in 1989 in Arlington and Alexandria recreation programs. In 1994, he started teaching group lessons in Burke.
Being born in the French West Indies, Richardson considers his "Latin blood" an advantage when he hits the dance floor. He has also seen men excel over women. In Europe, dance seems to have greater significance, Richardson noticed.
"Men are better dancers. They seem to pick up dancing better," he said.
Some of his clients are couples preparing for their wedding day and their first dance as man and wife. They come for a crash course so they are not stepping all over each other’s feet.
"I encourage them to do the waltz, typically," he said.
Every year, Richardson has a dance party at which former students come back, learn a few steps, and get in some dance time. This year, he’s having the party at the Oaks community center in Burke on Dec. 7.