I didn’t dance until I was 31. Unless I’d had too much to drink. Even then, I was so self-conscious.
Thanks in large part to a wife who loves to dance, I was forced to embrace that forbidden exercise. While I’m not quite Kevin Bacon from “Footloose,” I’ve got some moves now.
Maybe if I had learned a more structured form of dancing, it wouldn’t have taken me three decades to get into it. Something like ballroom dancing, perhaps.
North Raleigh dance aficionados now have a new ballroom studio to check out. The Southern Star Ballroom Center opened in January in the Falls Village Shopping Center on Falls of Neuse Road.
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The ballroom guru running the place is Shari Huggett, a lifelong Triangle resident whose passion for dancing goes back to childhood.
When she was 4 and lived in Durham, Huggett began to take tap, jazz and ballet classes. She kept it up until her teenage years, when rebellion kicked in.
“You go through puberty and you question everything,” Huggett said.
But her love for dance never went away. When she turned 18 and needed a job, she knew what to do.
And fate intervened.
Huggett saw a newspaper ad requesting a dance instructor for a Durham studio. The job required no experience, and Huggett jumped at the opportunity.
She got the job, enrolled in a six-week training course and started her career. After a few years of teaching ballroom dancing, she got a partner and the pair moved to New York in hopes of becoming professional dancers.
For a few years in the mid-1990s, Huggett worked on the television soap opera “All my Children,” danced with Julio Iglesias and proved herself as a dancer.
Eventually, she tired of the work and came back to Durham, where she has lived for the past 16 years. She had a studio in Durham in the late ’90s, which she sold in 2001.
The current studio in North Raleigh is a project three years in the making.
A few years ago, Huggett’s friend told her she should open a studio again. She thought it sounded like a good idea, but it wouldn’t be a simple endeavor.
“The journey was an interesting one and still is,” Huggett said. “But suffice it to say, we didn’t have any money, we didn’t have anything ready to open a business of this magnitude.”
They first step was finding a location. Huggett knew she wanted to repurpose a building that hadn’t been used in a while. When she found a spot in the Falls Village Shopping Center that had stood vacant since a fitness center left six years before, she knew she had her place.
“Let’s not try to go build something brand new, but take something empty and make it new again,” she said.
Huggett and her husband did the bulk of the work to get the studio ready. She said it took nearly three months to build 5,000 square feet of dance floor.
The studio is a multipurpose space. Huggett and her crew offer ballroom dancing classes, of course. But on the weekends, the space can be rented out for other purposes: weddings, baby showers or other events.
So far, Huggett said there’s been a great response, particularly from other instructors who want to have their own dancing business without investing in a space. They can rent space from Huggett.
Sure, I dance now, but I still don’t see the big deal. I asked Huggett what was so great about ballroom dancing.
“You can’t answer that with a simple answer,” she said. “Ballroom dancing has so many benefits. Most people come into it for a specific reason and they end up leaving with 100 other things that they never expected to get.”
Which of the 100 reasons will be yours?
To find out more, go to southernstarballroom.com.
Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.