Dr. Daryl Green, assistant professor of business and Dickinson Chair of Business at Oklahoma Baptist University, along with his wife, Estraletta, will teach a basic ballroom and club dance class Feb. 7 through March 7. The classes will take place each Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Recreation and Wellness Center on the OBU campus in Shawnee. The class will conclude with a practice dance party for all levels of dancers.
The Greens have several years of experience in ballroom dancing, including competitive dancing. No partner or experience is necessary. This beginner’s class will introduce participants to the basic rhythms and dance techniques. They will be teaching two dances during the course, including Bachata and Rumba. Originating from the Dominican Republic, Bachata is an exciting club dance tracing its roots to Afro-Cuban folk dance. Rumba is a popular ballroom dance with romantic music.
We caught up with Dr. Green to discuss the upcoming dance series, and how he and his wife got into ballroom dancing.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m so very glad to be here on Bison Hill. I have the best job in the country. I’m a native of Shreveport, Louisiana. I met my wife Estraletta at Southern University in Baton Rouge, where we were both engineering majors. We have been married for 27 years and have three adult children. We both worked for the Department of Energy as program managers. I retired from the DOE in 2016 and made my way to OBU. I’m a business professor and my colleagues are great, allowing me to get into all types of new areas.
How did you and your wife get into ballroom dancing?
My wife Estraletta is an incredible dancer; she hears the music and understands it. Several years ago, our daughter bought my wife a dance package to a local dance studio. Surprisingly, she had always wanted to do ballroom dancing, but it was not even on my radar. She asked me to attend, but I refused. I thought, “What real man would go around taking ballroom dancing? … It isn't cool.” I didn't go for a while, but I thought about how my wife wanted to learn. Life is short, so I went. At first, I wanted to quit, as there were so many things to remember. I worked with my wife and practiced. I listened to our dance instructor. I started enjoying going to the dance practice parties and meeting new people, and I enjoyed learning new dances. It's a great way to connect with your partner and learn more about yourself.
What about ballroom dancing?
When you start talking about ballroom dancing, everyone thinks about ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars,” that pairs up celebrities with professional dance partners in an intense ballroom competition. The show features every type of ballroom and modern dance. When I talk with females, many want to try ballroom dancing to some extent, but most guys aren’t interested. It’s a culture thing where most men don’t enjoy dancing at all.
There's a formality of dancing in the ballroom, there's a culture of elegance and sophistication in ballroom dancing. It’s rigid. As a man, you stand nice and tall in your dance position. Chivalry is not dead. In this form of dancing, men lead and ladies follow, men provide the frame while the lady (his partner) is the picture. Dancing is about showcasing the lady in partner dancing.
In general, American ballroom dancing consists of smooth and rhythm dancing. There are six dances. The Smooth dances are Waltz, Tango, and Foxtrot while the Rhythm dancing are East Coast Swing, Rumba, and Cha Cha. I got into teaching ballroom dancing while I was at the DOE. I would tell my co-workers about ballroom dancing, and I started hosting dance lessons during lunch time. We had about 10 people, and I even threw in some Bachata, Salsa, and Merengue. I had a blast. As the president of dance chapter of USA Dance, Inc., I got more chances to do more dance lessons, primarily Bachata. I’m just an amateur dancer that likes to see everyone have fun. You got to know the dance first to enjoy dancing.
How did you and your wife start competing in ballroom dancing?
Competition is a whole different level of dancing. We had no intention of competitive ballroom dancing. We are social dancers who compete in ballroom. We know about 16 dances including ballroom dances and Latin dances. My wife and I enjoy attending social gatherings, especially where there is dancing. We have an arsenal of dances to utilize, and learning different dances is fun. Our Tennessee dance instructors, Emily and Jeremy Norris, encouraged us to do more in ballroom dancing.
In 2014, we performed in our first ballroom showcase. We did a Bachata routine. We also challenged ourselves in 2015 by competing in the Louisiana Gumbo Dance Competition. We were excited. Competing is very stressful, with everyone watching and judges who are very critical in their evaluation. We survived. We got several medals including some gold medals … I thought we were in the dance Olympics. We had a blast and the people were great. We now try to compete at least once a year, as it helps us get better.
You mentioned that you specifically wanted to teach this class during February, during Black History Month. Why?
Like many art forms in America, ballroom dancing has been influenced heavily by African culture. Most people don’t understand this point. For example, swing dancing in ballroom studios is very popular. Yet, modern swing came from the Lindy Hop Hop. Lindy took Harlem by storm in the 1920’s during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. In Tennessee, I sponsored a swing dance series called Swing at the Savoy, with the Dance Tonight Studio. The event was a fun and creative way to recruit more black people to ballroom dancing. It was the most diverse experience I have ever had in ballroom dancing. Music, food, and dance bring people together from all parts of life. With many of the health problems in the black community, dancing can provide some positive impacts such as better health, fitness, and mental sharpness. When I was the president of the Knoxville chapter of USA Dance, Inc, we made a serious effort to reach out to everyone in the community. USA Dance is a national organization that promotes dance awareness, hosts affordable monthly dances, works with universities and K-12, raises money for charities, and promotes dance competition. The ballroom community is shrinking in most societies and communities, and I believe ballroom dance studios could do more to recruit more diversity into their studios.
What has been the biggest surprise in learning ballroom and other dances?
The connection! Ballroom and dance people in general are pretty open minded. Think about that for a moment. There are lots of things that separate people … including religion and politics. If you think about music, food, and dancing, those things bring us together. In Tennessee, I would attend a dance with senior citizens. There are lots of widows and single ladies; I would volunteer my time dancing with the seniors. I was surrounded by older, energetic dancers (60s to 90s) who were mostly white. They were so excited dancing with a young whipper snapper like me.
Here’s an example. At one dance, I was dancing with this frail lady who must have been over 80 years old. We were dancing the Tango, I wanted to be careful and considerate of her health. We were dancing along and she said to me bluntly, "Son, is that all you got?" I had to laugh. She wanted me to lead her in the difficult stuff. The dance community is fun like that … those moments make me smile!
Where can people go to learn or participate in ballroom dancing in the area?
Well, our class this month is a great place to start. While there is no place for ballroom dancing in Shawnee or the east side of Oklahoma City, there are many ballroom dance studios in Oklahoma City, Norman, and Edmond. For beginners, you can’t go wrong with Oklahoma Central chapter of USA Dance, Inc. The organization’s primary mission is dance education and amateur dancers, offering low-cost dancing once a month. We enjoy dancing at Shall We Dance Studio and International Dance because of the mix of people and contemporary music. We love going to Adelante Dance Studio for Latin dancing in Moore. There are so many good dance studios in the area. Find one that you enjoy and fits your budget.
Why should anyone attend your dance lessons at OBU and engage dancing in general?
Do you want to have fun and connect with people? If so, you need to hang out with us on Tuesday nights. You won’t regret it! I hear people telling me all the time, “I can’t dance; I have two left feet; I don’t have any rhythm.” If you’ve got a heartbeat, you have rhythm, and we will work to get it out. Over the long-term, dancing will help you cope and improve your quality of life. There are so many positive aspects of dancing including more exercise, better health, better mental capacity, more social networks, and more relationship building. You can’t afford not to learn how to do ballroom or Latin dancing.
How to get involved.
For more information and to sign up for the “Basic Ballroom and Club Dance” lessons at OBU, contact Dr. Daryl Green at (405) 585-4414.