Let's dance

Updated: 2011-11-25 11:45

By Amanda Reiter (China Daily European Weekly)

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Let's dance
Dance students go through the moves around the ballroom. [Feng Yongbin / China Daily]

Instructor steps up the pace for ball season

Five men stand, arms folded across their chests, shoulders scrunched up. Six women nervously smile, their eyes fixated on the floor. They seem to be transported back in time to a high school dance, unsure if they are making the right moves. But that is precisely why they are gathered on the second floor of the Sino-Chu Wine Club in Beijing.

Most of the students were planning on attending the German Ball, the first of many expatriate balls this season, and they needed to learn or relearn the basics of ballroom dancing.

The four approximately hour-long dance classes are meant as weekly pre-ball intensive training.

Despite dance being part of the curriculum for many Germans during their formative years, Philipp Stiebeling needs a refresher course on the basics.

The German native decided to come to class this particular evening even though his dance partner for the ball had a prior engagement.

"I'm not sure I'll make it to the dance floor," Stiebeling says. "I might be too embarrassed."

Beijinger Karen He says she also wanted to improve on her dancing skills, while her husband, Michael Wilkes, from Hamburg, sees the class as a fun way to exercise after a long day at work.

"We are struggling, but they are the masters," his wife says.

"They" are Ken Wyland and his wife, Juliet, who live in Beijing.

Wyland came to China six years ago after retiring from his 26-year career with the New York City subway system.

His plan was to travel from place to place until he found his new home. China was his first destination, since he had never been here before.

He was drawn to the country after his father showed him photos and told him stories about his time as a pilot during World War II.

"I fell in love with Beijing. I was already interested in the Chinese culture," Wyland says.

Although he continues to travel the world, he now calls Beijing home.

One of his earliest memories is his mother teaching him how to dance at home.

He says his mother's biggest complaint was that his father was never a good dancer, so she taught Wyland how to cha-cha.

"I was the only one in the house who could really dance," he says.

But it took another 20 years for him to make dancing a priority in his life.

He realized early on that "hanging out at bars was not my cup of tea," and took up dancing after work as a way to fill the time.

It became his social life and single hobby.

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