All you need to know is how to count to four.
At least, that’s all you need to know to start learning how to ballroom dance. The rest can be taught by Jessica Land Conti.
Every Thursday night, Conti teaches a free ballroom dancing class at the Painted Lady. The event is open to the public for everyone from the beginners with two left feet to those who already have a firm footing on the subject.
A student of musical theater in college who later became certified by the International Ballroom Dance Teachers Association, Conti has been teaching individual and group lessons for about eight years. She started her free Thursday night lessons about three years ago, after friends begged her to teach them to dance.
“My friends were all struggling artists and couldn’t afford to pay for classes,” she says, “so I made this night the one class that I do not charge for and make it just about the fun of dance.”
The first class had four students in it, but as time wore on it grew larger and eventually branched out to include strangers. And though the location has changed over the years, one thing remains the same: the price.
“I keep it free because I don’t want to have business involved,” says Conti. “This isn’t a job – it’s just for fun.”
The fun begins at 8:30 p.m. (or earlier, if you need a little liquid courage) and runs until 10. The class starts somewhat like a middle school dance – guys lined up on one side and girls on the other – but quickly progresses. Once Conti begins counting out the beat of the music, the teaching gets going. Beginning with a simple tap of the foot to the beat, the moves grow progressively more complicated until the students are able to dance on their own.
One feature that makes this dance class unlike others – and one that brings in new people each week – is the fact that a partner is not required. Because Conti has her students switch partners after every new move is learned, anyone can show up and participate. It’s something that adds levity to the night and a great way to make new friends.
“My Thursday night class is a mix of kind and wonderful people from all walks of life, ages and levels of dance. Our dance family is always growing and this class is kept fun, easy and free so that anyone who attends can excel and feel confident on the dance floor and in social situations,” says Conti. “Everyone is welcome in this class and guaranteed to make new friends and learn this fantastic skill in a safe and friendly atmosphere.”