As the holidays were winding down, about a dozen people showed up at Dance King Studios in downtown Leesburg on Monday evening to socialize and learn some new moves.
They stood along the mango-colored walls as owner Adam King demonstrated the Argentine tango. Then they moved hesitantly onto the dance floor, some staring at their feet as they practiced the steps.
As the evening wore on, the dancers grew more relaxed, buoyed by King’s infectious smile and words of encouragement. Before long, they were laughing and moving more confidently to the music’s rhythms.
King sees the laughter as evidence that he is succeeding, because “dancing is supposed to be fun,” he said.
Many franchises have benefited from the interest in competitive dancing that has been sparked by TV programs such as “Dancing With the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” King said. But he thinks that the social aspects of dance — and the fun — can be overshadowed when the emphasis is on developing winning ballroom dance moves.
“When I hear ‘ballroom,’ I immediately think ‘competition,’ ” he said.
A native of New Jersey, King, 38, has fond memories of his time working for the Arthur Murray chain, for which he taught ballroom dance styles such as the waltz, fox trot, rumba, hustle, cha-cha and samba. After six years, he decided to open a studio in Leesburg, where he could focus on teaching social dance styles and encouraging students to have fun.
He opened Dance King Studios five years ago in a 200-year-old building across from Leesburg Town Hall. The building had housed a thrift shop, tattoo parlor and cigar store, he said. During most of the 19th century, it was a shoemaker’s shop.
Now, 21st-century shoes glide across the smooth wood floors, as King and instructor Lauren Smith give private lessons during the day and lead group classes in the evenings.
Private lessons are where students make the most progress, “because you’re learning at your level,” King said. The private lessons are particularly popular with engaged couples who want to shine on the dance floor at their wedding reception, he said.
But the real fun happens during the group classes Monday through Thursday evenings.
“They’re high-energy, they’re exciting and new,” he said. Most nights bring in more people than last week’s Monday observance of the New Year’s holiday did — up to 30 or 40 people, he said.
Each night has a theme. Mondays are for beginners, who learn such styles as the tango, swing and salsa. Tango Tuesdays, Swing Wednesdays and Salsa Thursdays round out the week.
The group classes attract singles and couples, King said, including pairs who make it a date night. Although the couples may stay together throughout the class if they choose, King encourages them to rotate partners.
“That’s the number one way that we make it social,” he said. “And it helps the men to develop [their] lead. Your wife is going to follow very differently than the next 10 women.”
Jennifer Du Plessis, a mortgage broker, dances there several nights a week.
“I just want to socially dance,” Du Plessis, of Bluemont, said. “Instead of going, ‘I can’t get this right,’ we laugh and we have fun, and we teach each other.”
The fun is important, and so is learning what King calls “a portable skill.”
“Once you learn how to dance, you have it forever,” he said.