Peninsula woman wins four gold medals at Seattle dance competition

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — A decade ago, Carol Hathaway liked to go out swing dancing.

One night, she saw Derek and Pamela Perkins float across the floor.

“Oh. I want to dance like that,” she remembers thinking.

Hathaway, psychiatric nurse practitioner in Port Angeles by day and ballroom dancer by night, recently won four gold medals from the U.S. Terpsichore Association: in waltz, foxtrot, quick-step and tango.

To earn these, she danced for 30 minutes before examiner Monique Hrouda of DanceSport in Seattle, then took an oral test of dance terminology and analysis.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Hathaway said last week.

This week, she’s ready to teach waltz classes at the venue where Derek and Pamela taught for years: the Sequim Prairie Grange Hall, 290 Macleay Road.

Starting Tuesday, she and assistants Jeff Stauffer and Don Schwendeman will teach two kinds of waltz classes: American style at 7 p.m. and international style at 8 p.m.

Students pay $7 per session or $12 for both. The series will continue each Tuesday through Nov. 5.

American-style waltz is relatively quick and easy, “which people love,” Hathaway said. The international style is more like fine dining.

The hall is no ballroom, but it works just fine for those who have learned how to move from the Perkins pair, who are American ballroom-dance champions in the 1980s.

There’s a kind of symmetry to Hathaway’s progress. When she went to take her medals tests in Seattle on Sept. 20, her teacher Derek Perkins was her dance partner.

“She was nervous; I think I was more nervous,” Derek Perkins said.

It must not have shown.

Hathaway “has lovely poise,” said Hrouda, who has been traveling the West as a USTA examiner for seven years.

In medals testing, Hrouda scores dancers on timing, footwork, sway, alignment and partnering, and then questions them on their knowledge of steps.

To be experts, dancers must be able to not only demonstrate but also describe their moves.

For the gold, a perfect score is 100; Hathaway’s marks were in the 90s, Hrouda added.

In completing the tests professional dancers take, “she knew her material very well.”

Hathaway said that ever since she began studying, her desire was strong for the kind of expertise the gold medals signify. But the joy of moving to music is most important.

“When I go to competitions, I see how the competitors are so stressed out,” she said.

Then there are the vendors who come to these contests. Hathaway saw one with a dazzling gown for sale. Price tag: $7,000.

“I don’t see myself falling into that lifestyle,” she said.

As both a student and a teacher of ballroom dance, Hathaway’s been giving classes and private lessons for the past five years.

She might have gone for those gold medals in 2012, but she was having hip-replacement surgery in Seattle. Dancing did not cause her hip disintegration, her doctors said.

But “dance has kept you fit enough that you’ll do well” in recovery, they told her.

For those wondering whether to dip a toe onto the floor, Hathaway has only encouraging words. Don’t be intimidated by anybody, she said.

“You just jump in there. And you keep learning new things. You build on them, and before you know it, there you are,” dancing.

“The main thing is having fun along the way.”

Hathaway’s gold has yet to arrive in the mail. They will probably hang beside her past bronze and silver medals in her home studio.

For teachers and students alike, moving well is a journey, not a destination.

“There’s always another dance, another technique,” Hrouda said.

As for Derek and Pamela Perkins, they have been dancing together since before they were married 58 years ago.

More information about ballroom dance classes and private lessons is available by phoning 360-460-3836 or emailing hathaway00@gmail.com.

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 06. 2013 6:37PM
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