AP NEWS

Step in Time

February 27, 2019

Ballroom dance has become a bit of a lost art, as has dancing in general as generations pass on. However, it is a unique skill that can serve several benefits, including exercise, a competitive outlet and simply an enjoyable activity for couples to share.

Tom and Sharon Craddock have kept the skill alive in Laughlin, teaching weekly lessons and hosting dance parties. The couple has years of dance experience, making their lessons a hot commodity. Tom has been teaching the art at the Riverside Resort for more than 30 years.

“I actually was hired by Don Laughlin in 1985 to come here and teach him and his family,” Craddock said. “During the in between time I could use the studio here and I taught private lessons.”

Tom received his formal training years earlier, while attending Northern Kentucky State.

“I was living in Kentucky, where I was born and raised, and I was going to college and I needed a job,” Craddock said. “I got started with Arthur Murray Dance School because they had free training. They put an ad in the paper for dance instructors and I thought, ‘I always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance.’ Maybe not a lot of guys would want to do that, but I thought that was kind of cool because you know if you went out to dinner or whatever you could dance a little. After I got through the training they paid me to teach.”

Craddock enjoyed being active, he was a gymnast and a diver, and ballroom dance was a new challenge that allowed him to continue an athletic lifestyle. After receiving his certification, he stayed with Arthur Murray for a while before branching out to independent schools and later landing the position at the Riverside.

Sharon owned her own fitness club in Kingman, Arizona, for several years, teaching aerobics and step classes. She and Tom met after he moved to the area, and the couple married in 1997. Tom taught her ballroom and Latin technique and then she began helping him teach his lessons at the Riverside.

Tom is qualified to teach all levels from beginner to advanced, and he is versed in nearly every couples dance, from quickstep to tango, to cha cha and polka.

“We teach all the ballroom and all the Latin and swing dancing,” he said. “It’s pretty much everything in the categories of ballroom and Latin.”

In the past, Tom has performed at competitions with his students, but he said he is no longer a competitive dancer. Now he solely focuses on the private and group lessons he and Sharon teach.

After ABC network debuted “Dancing with the Stars” in 2005, a popular dancing reality show that pairs celebrities with professional dancers to compete against each other, Craddock said they saw a boom in the demand for their lessons.

“Everybody wanted to learn after ‘Dancing with the Stars’ came out,” he said. “Wives were dragging their husbands in here and everybody wanted to take lessons, and then they realized its not as easy at it looks. When Saturday Night Fever came out with John Travolta that was a big influence in the industry too.”

The rush of people eager to learn dance slowed as the novelty of “Dancing With the Stars” began to wear off, however the Craddocks remain as the only pair teaching lessons in the Tri-state and couples still seek their expertise.

“They ask to learn some country two-step because they like country music, and the nightclub two step is another popular one — it’s a slow kind of romantic dance,” Craddock said. “And we get a lot of couples who come to us who are going to get married and we choreograph everything from them walking onto the floor, to dancing, to the exit.”

The Craddocks offer two ways for couples to learn — either by joining a group session at the Riverside or hiring them for a private lesson.

Tom and Sharon teach a beginner/intermediate class every Wednesday (5 p.m. NV time) at the Dance Studio on the second floor of the Riverside (beside the Bingo hall). These hour-long classes are open to everyone and cost $12.50 per person. You must have a partner to dance with.

The class begins with a quick warm-up time for the couples, then they attempt to practice the steps posted on the pattern sheet on the wall. Tom and Sharon will demonstrate one of the skills, then the couples try to replicate it. They continue to build upon each skill, learning around six new steps each lesson. Tom and Sharon walk around and give each couple tips and instruction to achieve the proper technique for the new steps, and then they review at the end of the hour.

Rae & Roxanne Speiser of Watertown, South Dakota, winter in Lake Havasu City and come to the lessons weekly. They are part of a dance club back home and bring what they have learned from the Craddocks to teach their club members when they return to South Dakota.

“We come just to learn new techniques,” Rae said. “We know the basics but they can finesse our dancing.”

Couples who may not feel comfortable jumping right into a group class or who want to hire the Craddocks to choreograph a special occasion dance, may book a private lesson any day of the week. Tom and Sharon have a dance studio in their Bullhead City home where they give the private lessons.

The Craddocks also offer monthly dance parties at the Karaoke Dance Club within the Riverside. Tom is the DJ and picks the perfect tempo songs for the crowd to practice the dances they have learned during lessons. The parties are open to everyone and cost $12.50 per person.

The next party is set for 2 p.m.-4 p.m. NV time on Saturday, March 9 (watch the “Showtimes” section in the Entertainer for future dates). The parties are subject to cancellation, so call 928-444-4067 to RSVP.

For more information, please visit TomandSharonDance.com.