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St. Helens residents promote stress relief through dance at Cedar Hills Crossing studio

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Evelyn Herendeen and her husband, Wayne, practice some dance moves at their new studio, Dance Fit - The Beaverton Ballroom, on Monday afternoon. The couple opened the relocated studio in late May.Wayne Herendeen was not the king of the high school dance. In fact, he didn’t really start shuffling his feet until he was 24.

So how did he come to be the owner and lead dance instructor at two popular studios?

“Shyness,” he says. “I just got tired of saying no. That’s when I went to learn how to dance. I was not expecting it to become a career, but sometimes that’s how it works.”

Herendeen, 39, opened Dance Fit Oregon — The Beaverton Ballroom in late May in a 3,200-square-foot space in the Cedar Hills Crossing shopping mall. Providing both private and group class instruction, the studio offers classes in all forms of ballroom dance: foxtrot, rumba, tango, Western Swing, salsa and country as well as zumba and fitness training.

A St. Helens resident, Herendeen started teaching dance in 1998 at Ballroom Parkrose near Northeast Portland and took over the business with his wife, Evelyn, in 2010.

“The owner wanted to get out of owning and sold the business to me,” he says. “I went from teaching dance to owning the school.”

A desire to accommodate their customer base on the Westside as well as from beyond the metro area in Vernonia and as far as Salem led the couple to take over the former Tatyana’s Ballroom, which operated at 6280 S.W. Arctic Drive for nearly 10 years, last September. With Evelyn pregnant with their first child, Torin, Herendeen spent months looking for a location with higher visibility before settling on Cedar Hills Crossing.

“The main thing I liked was the location, the foot traffic coming through,” he says. “That was the most appealing aspect.”

Group lessons in a wide range of styles are offered from $5 to $15. At a rate of $70 an hour, Herendeen currently teaches private lessons to 15 to 20 customers at both ballrooms while renting out the spaces to a bevy of private instructors, who charge their own rates — usually between $70 to $110 per hour.

“We could have three different instructors teaching private lessons at the same time,” he explained on Monday from the the new ballroom’s 2,400-square-foot wooden dance floor. “We can adjust our prices to accommodate people’s trials and tribulations in the outside world.”

The ballroom’s monthly social dance party, which falls on the third Saturday of each month, will be held Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The event begins with a dance lesson from Herendeen, followed by light refreshments and a night of dancing. Cost for the lesson and party is $10.

With its location in the middle of a busy mall, Herendeen sees the ballroom as a bit of an oasis from the daily grind.

“The outside world always presents trials and obstacles and stressors for people,” he says. “What dancing does is provide that outlet, at least for one hour a week, to let that stuff go. They can listen to music, be taught, move their body — it really does remove some of that stress. I believe that hour break leaves them better prepared to deal with issues they have to deal with.”

The ballroom caters to all skill levels, from novice to advanced, as well as goals and interests.

“We teach social dancing and competitive dancing,” he says. “If you just want to go out to bars and weddings, we can do that. But if you want to compete, there are a lot of competitions around the world we can help prepare people for.”

Raleigh Hills resident Jeani Wright started taking lessons with Herendeen about seven years ago. A separated shoulder sidelined her four years ago, but she got back in the groove last January. Coming in for private lessons once a week, she’s explored fundamentals in the waltz, hustle, rumba and salsa. She praised Herendeen’s instructional style and overall dance-floor demeanor.

“He’s just really a nice man — very kind and knowledgeable, just a good person,” she says. “And he’s pretty smooth on the dance floor.”

Wright, a skin care specialist, says her lessons and floor time influence her life even when she’s not twirling and stepping.

“It just gives me a lot more self confidence,” she says. “I was afraid to do something new, but the more I’ve learned, the more confidence I have in my physicality. Just walking down the street, my body seems more secure. I’m more aware of my body movements.”

Evelyn Herendeen, who met Wayne while both were taking dance lessons, says the ballrooms and dance competitions they share provide great bonding opportunities.

“We enjoy dancing together,” she says. “I think that’s a huge part of the relationship. Music and dancing, it’s a whole thing for us to enjoy. But there’s a lot of work involved.”

Wayne Herendeen encourages anyone who’s even halfway curious about how well they could dance if they gave it a whirl to come in and take a break from the regular routine.

“You can come in here and be taken care of for at least an hour. It’s a great stress-reliever,” he says. “Despite the economy being what it is, dance continues to survive and draw people in.”

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