MADLOS brings together some mad dance lovers

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(Left) Dance instructor Florencia Manon Colella and dance enthusiast Tom Twining started a group to spread the dancing love; (Right) Colella’s red shoes were helpful to those trying to follow where their feet should go next.

– PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA PRICE

A group tries out some steps while Kimon Kotos (at right in blue shirt) drums out a beat to the salsa music.
 

By Cynthia Price

The MAD in MADLOS stands for Muskegon Area Dance (the LOS is made up of some of the letters in “Lovers”), but it’s hard to hear it without thinking of people with a mad love for dance.

And that is a good description of co-founders Florencia Manon Colella and Tom Twining.

Colella has dancing in her blood. She not only grew up – in Argentina – in a family that danced recreationally a lot, but also has a husband back home who is a committed dance instructor.

Colella moved to West Michigan last August to join Michigan State University Extension as an extension educator. She works over a broad geographical territory helping farmers on the business end of their enterprises. Her home office is in Newaygo.

She also lived nearby when she attended Michigan State for her Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics. But now that she’s settled with a job she likes and does well – she is amazingly good at speaking English and has almost no accent at all – she decided to look for a group that got together regularly and danced.

Finding nothing, she turned to Facebook.

A friend of Twining’s sent him a post Colella made in the Muskegon Helping Muskegon group page looking for people who liked to dance. That friend knew Twining well, because he has been passionate about dancing for a while, and he jumped at the chance.

After talking about it, the two set out to hold events that would pull people together and create a social community based on a love of dancing, or at least on a willingness to learn to love it.

Colella, who is vivacious, skilled, and patient, is the teacher, and the focus is on salsa and swing (though Colella also teaches Bachata and Cubana). Twining, a quick study and great dancer, learns the steps for each lesson and practices them so he can help others.

The dance lessons are open to the public, free, and do not require coming with a partner.

Last Friday a group of 15 to 20 got together at Central United Methodist Church for a salsa session that would normally have been Sunday, rescheduled due to Mother’s Day. The
focus was very basic, on the foundational steps and a couple of turns.

People still had trouble because the rhythm can feel a little bit “off” from the dance-by-yourself rock beat, but they started to get it more and more with repetition under Colella’s patient eye. Beneficially, she called for people to switch partners frequently, so folks could learn different things from different “peer beginners.”

Twining, who is a karate/Tai Chi instructor and a web optimization specialist, said that other sessions routinely draw just short of 30 people, and the community both he and Colella seek is starting to pull together. “It’s not always the same people, so we’re actually reaching a large group,” he says.

The Muskegon events have been held at 18th Amendment Spirits Co.  in downtown Muskegon, Orchard View Early Elementary, Unruly Brewing, and Central United Methodist.

There are MADLOS sessions in Grand Rapids and occasionally in Grand Haven as well.

The group will begin meeting outdoors on the Olthoff Stage at Western Ave. and Third Street on June 3 at 6:30-8:00, and that will happen every Monday through Aug. 31
Additional events include:

• Aquastar (the former Port City Princess) Salsa Cruise June 29, 8:30-10:15 and Aug 29, 7:30-9:15.
• Aquastar Swing Cruise July 25, 7:30 - 9:15 
• Swing on the LST July 28 and Aug. 4, 4:30-6:30
• Muskegon County Latino Festival Sept. 7

The exciting news is that Colella’s husband will be visiting from Argentina this summer and will teach some classes (the Olthoff Stage ones on July 29 and August 5, the swing cruise July 25, and both of the LST events ). “I just plan to sit back and let him teach, because he’s really good,” she says.

Others who are mad about dance should visit (and “like”) the MADLOS Facebook page, www.facebook.com/groups/1091439631021034/, which has a calendar that includes other local dance events so that people can go as a group if they want. The page also has videos posted so viewers can see how much fun it is.
 

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