Community dance lessons offer camaraderie, fun in Gordon
Free weekly dance sessions encourage folks to kick up their heels.
TOWN OF GORDON — Classic rock music filled the Gordon Town Hall Wednesday, Jan. 25 as two couples danced across the floor.
At a table by the stage, Rob Erno queued up tunes and occasionally jumped in to demonstrate a step or set up a line dance. He’s been offering the free community dance sessions every Wednesday at 6 p.m. since Dec. 6. In addition to spinning songs, he offers lessons in swing, rock and roll and line dancing to newcomers. Consider it a satellite of the Twin Ports community dancing culture.
“The reason I’m doing this is so that people will get out and have fun,” said Erno, who has led similar sessions at the Eagle's Club in Superior and for Northwood Technical College when it was Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. “What I do for free is I can show people that don’t know how to rock and roll. And so I don’t do a lesson unless someone doesn’t know how to dance and then everybody participates … I do the lesson, but only if there’s someone to teach it to. If not, I just play music.”
Kris Diller and Doug Ritzinger of Solon Springs stopped by a session after seeing a Facebook post about the class and have been coming whenever the weather allows.
“We have a wedding coming up in September, my nephew, and we’re hoping to wow the crowd,” Diller said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Karen and Royal Alworth of Duluth have been dancing for about 12 years, starting with community education classes in Duluth and at the West Duluth American Legion hall.
“Our youngest went off to college and we said, ‘What are we going to do for the rest of our lives?’ So we’re dancing,” said Karen, a retired nurse.
The couple has a cabin in Solon Springs, so they drive to the Gordon Town Hall every Wednesday night.
“He’s a really good teacher,” Karen said.
They encouraged others to stop by.
“Especially in the deepest winter, this is a great break in the week,” said Royal, a retired welder and fabricator.
“It’s good exercise. Anybody who says, ‘No, I’d be too embarrassed’ — we’re all learning and I’m not looking at them. I’m looking at those eyes right there,” Karen said, looking at her husband.
Partners are not required; singles can kick up their heels as well. Children are also welcome.
“You can do your own thing, which is nice. He’s great about teaching, but then also letting us kind of work out the steps. I need to learn it and then I need to practice it,” said Diller, who is retired.
It’s a relaxed, social setting, said Ritzinger, who works for the Maple School District.
“A lot of people think ‘I don’t know how to dance.’ That’s the point — you don’t need to. That’s why we’re here.” Diller said.
Erno started the lessons, in part, for his own well-being.
“I’m laid off in winter. I’ve got nothing but time,” said Erno, who drives a concrete mixer.
He likes to snowmobile and ice fish, but also needs social interaction. Since he lives in Gordon over the winter, Erno decided to launch the free dancing sessions there.
Erno started dancing at the age of 23. He learned from Keith Miernicki in Duluth and teaches the same community dance lessons in Gordon – basic footwork, open and closed position and open and closed position turns, as well as line dance moves.
“After that, it’s all fair game. You just have fun dancing with what you’ve learned there, and I just play music,” he said. “Basically, if you can do the basic footwork with an open position and a closed position turn, you’re the best dancer on the dance floor.”
It’s free, it’s basic and it’s super fun.
“I’ve never had a bad time,” Erno said.
The first dance session held in Gordon attracted 18 dancers, but winter storms put a damper on the next couple weeks. Erno would like to pack the town hall, and maybe find someone who could continue offering the sessions over the summer.
People are allowed to bring their own drinks.
“Gordon says it’s OK to bring your own bottle,” Karen said. “We only bring water, but …”
Diller, who moved to the area from the Twin Cities, said it’s nice to have something like this available in rural Douglas County.
“It doesn’t cost anything. It’s a great way to get out in the winter, and it’s good exercise. I mean we leave here and we’re like, ‘Whoa, we feel that,’” she said. “Just to get out and see people, do something different. I love that it’s a small town and they have stuff like this.”
The dance sessions take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday nights at the Gordon Town Hall. Erno will be out of town Feb. 1, but classes will resume Feb. 8. Follow the Our Gordon and Wascott Family or Robert Erno Facebook pages for updates. Visit the Twin Ports Dance Facebook page for listings of community dance opportunities in the Twin Ports.