When it comes to ballroom dancing, amateur competitor Lisa Ace has what it takes: intricate footwork, polished technique, glamorous outfits and stamina. Lots of stamina. Ace recently performed 61 times in the Arthur Murray New Jersey Classic competition.
“[Competing] helps me gauge my dance progress and develop my body of work,” Ace says. “I love receiving feedback from judges so I know how to improve my technique and routines for the next time I perform.”
Ace, who is 45 and a full-time mother of two girls, dances at a local studio in Ledgewood, N.J. She’s also one of the legions of TV viewers inspired by ABC’s Dancing With The Stars. The show’s current lineup is full of baby boomers, including actress Kirstie Alley (60), actor Ralph Macchio (49) and boxing icon Sugar Ray Leonard (54).
Ace’s interest in dance began in childhood, but she didn’t take her first lesson until she was 41. She now takes three or more private lessons a week, plus group classes, and will mark her four-year anniversary of ballroom dancing in May. Ace also participates in national and international competitions. While she particularly enjoys the tango, rumba and the Viennese waltz, Ace competes in more than 15 styles of dance.
In an interview with SecondAct, Ace talks about what got her hooked on dancing and how it keeps her fit — both mentally and physically.
SA: What kept you going back to class after your first dance lesson?
LA: There are several reasons I keep going back. Physically, ballroom dancing is great exercise, and I love moving my body to the music. It just feels good. Mentally, I enjoy learning new dance steps and choreography. It’s great mental exercise and more fun than a crossword puzzle! Emotionally, I am able to express myself through performing the various dances. Socially, I have met so many interesting people and made some wonderful friends through the world of dance.
SA: How has dancing helped your health?
LA: I have lost weight, gained muscle tone and flexibility, and increased endurance. I dance all day at the competitions. Dancing develops your core, improves balance and strengthens all muscles. I firmly believe you have to “use it or lose it.”
SA: What else do you do to stay active?
LA: I am a mother of two active daughters, 8 and 14. They keep me busy. I also love to walk with weights, ride my stationary bike in the winter, do Pilates or yoga DVDs occasionally, and am always busy with housework and yardwork.
SA: What keeps you disciplined when it comes to your lessons?
LA: I always want to see progress. I often videotape my lessons and watch them to see where I need improvement. I like to be a good steward of my time and money, and I try to make the most of each lesson — learning all I can, plus having fun while I do it.
SA: What would you say to someone who’s been wanting to try dancing but doesn’t know where to start?
LA: Don’t waste another minute. There are so many ways to start: 1. Ask a friend who can dance to show you one step (in the comfort of your home) and see how it feels, 2. Sign up for a course at a local community college — there are usually beginner classes, and 3. Go to a local dance studio and take a sample lesson.
SA: How has dancing affected your life?
LA: My dancing has “freed” me in so many ways. I am in better shape now, am happier, and have a new joy in my spirit. It has both energized and relaxed me. Depending on the mood of the dance, dancing makes me feel classy, sophisticated, sexy, womanly, flirtatious, strong, and romantic. I love expressing myself through this art form.