By Todd Travis
An early initiation to dancing
Monica McClurg got her start teaching ballroom dancing when she was 16 years old. She got her first big break when she was asked to move to California and dance in the blockbuster movie “Dance With Me” featuring Vanessa Williams. By age 21, she owned her own studio and eventually bought the name Dance With Me to use as her studio name. She has been an accomplished dancer, winning national dance competitions and teaching students to dance all over the country. Today, she has found a way to use her talents to touch people’s lives.
Finding more reasons to love dance
She made her way back to Indiana and opened a studio where she found a large group of senior citizens that just loved to dance. One day a few of them approached her and suggested she start a nonprofit to help senior citizens dance.
“Ballroom dancing is very expensive, and many seniors are just not able to afford it, but they love it. Especially that era, our seniors grew up with (big band founder/conductor) Glenn Miller (and the song) “In The Mood.” A group of seniors I was working with suggested we start a nonprofit and that we do shows to build our money. They suggested we do a large senior prom at the Indiana Roof Ballroom once a year,” McClurg described.
And that’s what they’ve done.
Running the nonprofit
The nonprofit is run from McClurg’s studio called MJ Ballroom DJ Services & Dance Venue which is used for ballroom dancing, events and entertainment. McClurg’s group of seniors will practice there and go out to retirement homes to perform for individuals at those locations. Independent teachers are also able to rent floor space to teach ballroom lessons, and community members can rent the space to hold events and gatherings for businesses or families.
Senior group classes
Seniors are invited to group classes and parties at MJ Ballroom every Wednesday from 1-3:30 p.m. to learn rumba, swing, waltz, foxtrot for just $5. On Monday mornings they also do a ballroom social at 9 a.m. where they drink coffee, learn some ballroom dances, and practice line dancing as well.
“I just love working with seniors. I think I learn more from them than they learn from me,” McClurg said.
“There were a lot of people that would tell me about how they used to be athletes and would do lots of physical activities, but they are just not physically able to anymore. Ballroom is an activity that you can really do at any age and skill level and also get a social experience along with it,” she added.
In addition to working with seniors, McClurg has also done work with Special Olympics doing adaptive sports for people in wheelchairs and amputees. That originally started from working with people with Down syndrome and led to other special needs. The nonprofit would also help raise money to get special wheelchairs for the kids that are made for that type of activity.
“I was scared to do Special Olympics at first, but to see the relief of the parents as they watch their kids participate in this new activity was such a good feeling to see,” McClurg shared.
Center Grove High School
Finally, McClurg also goes over to Center Grove High School to teach a class for students to fulfill a dance requirement that students need for their physical education credit.
“We really just try to get as involved with the community as we can. It’s not really about the money, it’s about the social experience and the community,” McClurg mentioned.
The Dance Board
Judy McWilliams is one of the women who has been helping McClurg with many of the events they have been putting on over the years. Not only is she passionate about helping seniors, but she loves to dance.
“My favorite dance is the East Coast Swing – the faster I go the more I like it. I can’t believe I’m 80 years old and I can do the East Coast Swing,” McWilliams laughed.
McClurg also gets a lot of help from another one of her dancers named Scarlett Haney and a few others that she likes to call “The Dance Board.”
For more information about MJ Ballroom DJ Services & Dance Venue go to mjballroom.com.
What ballroom dancing has done for me
“Ballroom dancing has improved my posture, balance, flexibility, coordination, and range of motion. It has helped to develop mind and nervous system connections with muscles I did not know I had. Ballroom dancing has helped improve my mental endurance and stamina. On the social side, I have met new friends and gotten to know many very nice people. I have improved my social skills and have enjoyed the comradery among ballroom dancers. I have developed a greater understanding and appreciation of music.”
-William Carlton Haeberle
“Retirement for me left such an unexpected void. Open to the infections of endless time and lack of desire! Dance has provided a balance to my well-being and saved my sanity in this ever-changing world. Loving the MJ Dance community.”