MONDAY MAN: Dancing? He has a ball
AT FIRST Leon Greaves did not have any real interest in dancing. In fact, it was due to his father’s encouragement that he even bothered to check it out.
As fate would have it, he saw a girl he fancied and that encouraged him to join the dance group at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).
“The first positive thing that really happened was that I saw Camilla. She was sitting there reading, and I thought, I like that girl,” Greaves said.
Leon and Camilla became dance partners and 33 years later, they boast 27 years of marriage and are owners of the Genesis Dance Studio in The Belle, St Michael.
Greaves, who is president of the International Dance Teachers Association (IDTA) Barbados, and a member of the Barbados Dance Council, opened Genesis with his wife Camilla 15 years ago.
Greaves is now principal of the dance studio where he teaches children just old enough to step around and older adults who use dance to get some exercise and have fun.
Recalling his entry into the world of ballroom dancing, Greaves admitted that he always liked dancing, but never considered ballroom dancing.
“I had always liked to dance and I did the dances of the day. There was a group of us from Grazettes where I lived that would go to parties; and quite unlike the youngsters of today, when you went to a party you were so happy that your parents let you out, that you danced to every song and would go home dripping with sweat,” Greaves said.
He recalled popular dances such as the mashed potato, the funk, the twist, the strong man, Jamaican ska, the good foot, and the boogaloo – which he said is very similar to what people now call jonesing.
However, when Greaves joined the YMCA, he grew to like ballroom dancing for the structure, variety and the social component of dancing in a club. He said the one drawback was the YMCA’s restrictions – it was lights out at 10 p.m. and members could not maximize their development, so they decided to form their own club. That led to formation of the Modern Ballroom dance club.
The club focused on promoting the art of ballroom dancing as more than oldie goldies and tried to educate Barbadians that it was a different kind of dance, with more structure and variety. With some foresight and the fact that ballroom dancing was beginning to pick up in Barbados, the decision was made to train their student dancers as instructors to prepare them for an influx of people.
As luck would have it, in 1995 they made contact with a couple, the Clarkes from England, who were dance teachers. They raised the idea of becoming certified and introduced several Modern Dance Studio members to the International Dance Teachers’ Association (IDTA).
Greaves completed the Associate Ballroom dancing course and graduated in September 1995 in the five standard international dances: the waltz, quickstep, foxtrot, tango, and social rhythm.
After many years with Modern Ballroom, Greaves opened Genesis, more or less because people kept pushing him to do so.
“Being in a club structure, there are certain confines. Looking at ballroom in Barbados and where it is now, had we stayed with the club atmosphere which is mainly social, we would not have taught beyond a certain point, because people were more interested in dancing for fun and exercise – but that would not get you recognition on the world stage.”
Considering the growth of competitive dancing over the years, Greaves said: “In a club setting, if you single out someone for individual attention you would not hear the end of it . . . . why is she getting the attention that I am not getting ? . . . whereas in a studio I can single out someone and spend time training them.”
He said that running his own studio gave him that kind of flexibility and the ability to work with anyone. Dancing is now attracting people from “across the board”, including people getting married – he choreographs and teaches them their first dance – and graduands.
With the growing interest in dancing, he said, his decision to become a full-time teacher is the best decision he has ever made. Through his studio he delivers the type of service that would make people come back, offering one-on-one training sessions plus the option to train at any time of the day.
However, Greaves said that not enough men were dancing and that had led to the popularity of line dancing over the past five years.
“The women cannot dance alone so that is why they get into line dancing where they can choreograph dances. It is a workout, as it is good cardio; you can use it at church with gospel music, and even children can do it,” Greaves said.
The avid dancer said that the social side of dancing was fantastic; many club members formed long-lasting partnerships that have led to marriage.
“Dance keeps you youthful – when I go to the doctor for my physical, [he is] amazed; you can build incredible stamina.”