Amsel Ballroom

Parker Amsel, right, helps lead Jeff and Teri Lautman while not touching Teri Lautman during a dance lesson at Viva Dance Studio in Cleveland.

Dancing with a significant other can help build the strength of a relationship. Yet, when a pair wants to keep a certain level of modesty in the dance class, finding someone to teach them means changing how that class is taught.

When Jeff and Teri Lautman were newlyweds, they started dancing in their kitchen for fun, but wanted to learn more, so they watched dance lessons on video tapes.

The video instructors were not always helpful and, at times, a little too comedic for the couple to take seriously but finding time between work and raising kids made it difficult to take real dance classes. Yet with the desire to better their ballroom dancing skills and an empty house, the Orthodox couple sought the help from professional instructors.

The pair took the leap to professional classes when passing the now-closed Cheek to Cheek Dance Studio located in South Euclid. They saw dance lessons going on through the glass windows lining the front of the building but before they signed up for lessons, they had a request so to avoid coming in contact with others of the opposite gender.

“We decided to enroll but only if they could give us private lessons and I would have a female teacher and my husband would have a male teacher,” Teri Lautman said.

In addition to refraining from touching someone of the opposite gender, the couple, who belong to Young Israel of Greater Cleveland in Beachwood, will not dance to music that is degrading to women or learn dances that might seem suggestive.

It was at Cheek to Cheek where they meet their current dance instructor, Parker Amsel, who is now co-owner and head instructor at Viva Dance Studio in Cleveland, who they’ve been working with for the past six years. However, having Amsel as their sole dance instructor provided a new challenge.

“I watch as they (dance) together and try to make comments and fix them without touching her, which can be difficult,” Amsel said.

When instructing them in a new dance, Amsel said he demonstrates Jeff Lautman’s part in the lead position and then does the same for Teri Lautman’s part in the follow position. Then Amsel will dance with Jeff Lautman to make sure he’s leading correctly and knows what Teri Lautman’s position should feel like. After the instruction, the pair dances together and Amsel watches intently.

“With other couples where I can dance with the follow, I can fix things in her that I can fill that I can’t see and I can do that way faster,” he said. “But I have to be aware of body mechanics and just make sure he knows what it should feel like.”

Not having a professional lead can make the learning process difficult when approaching dances the Lautman’s practice like the salsa, waltz, tango, fox trot and East Coast Swing dance. To pick up on the dances faster, Teri Lautman said she watches for visual clues, which is more of a challenge than following contact clues. She added she’s taken different forms of dance classes since she was a child and continued through college courses, which has helped lessen the learning curve.

“But we’re in this for the fun of it, so however long it takes until I catch on is fine,” she said. “But I catch on quickly.”

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