Jane Peck gives two of her ballroom dance students at Winona State University some pointers as they prepare for a performance at Over the Back Fence in Lanesboro on April 12. The dancers are Lanesboro native Libby Thiss and Henry Cole from St. Paul. Peck will also be teaching a series of classes in Lanesboro on Tuesday evenings in April at Coffee Street Dance and Fitness Center.
Jane Peck gives two of her ballroom dance students at Winona State University some pointers as they prepare for a performance at Over the Back Fence in Lanesboro on April 12. The dancers are Lanesboro native Libby Thiss and Henry Cole from St. Paul. Peck will also be teaching a series of classes in Lanesboro on Tuesday evenings in April at Coffee Street Dance and Fitness Center.
The sight of two people, locked in an embrace and sweeping across the dance floor may bring back nostalgic memories of romantic movies or maybe frustrated attempts to get the steps right during a high school physical education class. Whichever the case may be, an opportunity to perfect one's dance steps is coming to Lanesboro in April.

Jane Peck, a ballroom dance instructor at Winona State University, will be teaching a series of four dance classes at the Coffee Street Dance and Fitness Center in Lanesboro. The sessions will be held on the first four Tuesday nights of April, from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m.

Peck explained that she has been teaching two ballroom dance classes at Winona State University and had some requests to bring the fun to the rest of southeastern Minnesota. "Why should college students have all the fun?" she added.

While Peck plans on being flexible in her lesson plans, to accommodate requests by her dancing participants, she plans on covering basic Latin and ballroom dances such as the salsa, waltz, East Coast swing and the foxtrot.

Ballroom dancing is gaining popularity once again, due in part to Dancing With the Stars, but Peck also feels that dance is a natural human activity and society has ignored it too long. "It had to bubble back up somehow into our lives," she added.

In addition to being an enjoyable pastime, ballroom dancing can have a positive benefit to physical and mental health. Peck explained, "All movement provides some degree of cardiovascular benefit and this is no exception. I am always amazed at the smiles that break out after people have been dancing awhile. It does make people feel more positive, takes them out of the doldrums, in this case - winter doldrums!"

While in Lanesboro, Peck will also be participating in the Over the Back Fence variety show on April 12 at the St. Mane Theatre. "I am working with two of my ballroom students at WSU on a dance from a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie," Peck explained. "They will be the in-house performers to the song 'Night and Day,' which will be sung live. The song will be on the radio at least! The radio audience will have to imagine the dancers."

She also shared that the dancers will be Lanesboro native Libby Thiss and Henry Cole from St. Paul. The singer has yet to be chosen.

Personally, Peck said that she doesn't remember a time when she wasn't interested in dance.

"I grew up in Albert Lea jumping and twirling in the living room as a preschooler and it progressed from there," she recalled. "At that time there was no dance studio in Albert Lea. I have danced so many types of dance since then - modern, ballet, step dance, historical dances from the past and ballroom."

This is the third semester in which Peck has taught at Winona State and the second in which she has taught ballroom dancing. She also teaches dance appreciation through the Dance and Theater Department.

"This is basically a humanities class taught through the lens of dance; history, other cultures, learning to create, perform, and enjoy dance," she described. "I have danced professionally in the Twin Cities area, primarily with my own ensemble, Dance Revels Moving History. I am the artistic director and I choreograph and write scripts on active tales from our regional and national past that are filled with dance."

Her group performs in schools, museums and at festivals across the upper Midwest.

"Our most popular show is 'A Voyageur's Tale' with lots of jigging from Quebec and the Metis people of northwest Minnesota," she added.

Peck began her own professional training in modern dance and choreography with the former Nancy Hauser Dance Company, which she said was one of the first professional modern dance companies in the state.

Now, as Peck brings her dance experience and instructional expertise to Lanesboro, area dance enthusiasts will get a chance to relive some romantic memories of sweeping across the floor with a loved one or to rectify a failed attempt at dancing from the past. Whatever the reason, one is sure to enjoy some dancing finesse during Pecks upcoming ballroom dancing classes.

The cost of the class is $75 per couple for the set of four classes. Peck explained that single-gender friends are welcome also for that rate. Singles are also welcome to sign up for the class and the fee is $40 for the set of sessions.

To register, one should call (612) 823-0776 before the end of this week.

"The class is filling up," Peck said. "Not to worry, if it fills up, I may add another section on Wednesday evenings."

Peck also recommended that dancers bring clean, dry shoes that stay on or one can also dance in socks!

She encouraged area residents to look for future ballroom experiences in Lanesboro and the surrounding area. She plans to hold a fall ballroom dance class in Lanesboro to help residents prepare for the Swingsation fundraiser for the Lanesboro Art Center as well as the annual holiday dinner dance held in Lanesboro.

She added that she would like to add an intermediate level class at that time and that she may teach a summer weekend workshop or two as well.

"Shake a leg, Bluff Country!," Peck concluded.