Steamboat dance teachers share their love of salsa and swing |

Steamboat dance teachers share their love of salsa and swing

Dancing the dream

Margaret Hair

During her more than 35 years living in Steamboat Springs and throughout her life, Polly Idol never has stopped dancing.

She went to big community dances with her parents as a child, taking in all their steps and energy. She majored in dance education in college, and after moving to Steamboat, she taught classes and helped found the Steamboat Dance Theatre.

As couples dance became popular here, she jumped at the chance to stay close to her passion while dancing with her friends and community members.

To go without dancing for even a few days would be a lifestyle "that I don't really want anything to do with," Idol said Thursday afternoon as she and dance partner Charles Horton prepared for a new set of classes at Northwest Ballet Studio that evening.

The two have been sharing their love of swing, foxtrot, salsa, cha-cha, two-step and other social dance forms with Steamboat Springs as a teaching duo for about five years.

It's not the formal, competitive style of ballroom dance potential students might have seen on "Dancing With the Stars." Instead, it's a style that's more social, meant for people to revel in dancing in someone else's arms.

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"More than that, it's a conversation that happens nonverbally with people," Horton said. Dancers form a connection, communicating an artistic notion with their interpretations, Idol said.

Making steps their own

In an advanced-level class at Northwest Ballet Studio on Thursday night, Horton and Idol encouraged their students — four couples who had taken their classes before — to move their own way with the music, playing with the steps and having fun with their basic knowledge.

Their students come to lessons as a date night, as an outlet to practice the steps they already know or as a chance to check one more item off their "bucket list," Idol said.

The pair's social dance classes range in size, going as small as four or five couples and as large as almost 20 sets of dancers, Horton and Idol said.

Horton also teaches classes for people looking for help getting through their wedding dances. He and Idol offer private lessons or quick tutorials at community events on an on-demand basis.

Idol also occasionally teaches country styles, and goes out dancing socially as often as she can, finding open floors at community events such as Backcountry Ball or Ski Ball; public concerts by the Steamboat Swings community big band; or during country performances at Ghost Ranch Saloon.

"One of our greatest joys in a small community like this is that we see our students out dancing and enjoying each other," Idol said.

Horton came to formal couples dancing years after Idol. He'd always loved to dance and started taking classes in the late 1990s after seeing a movie called "The Tango Lesson." After seeing that movie, Horton decided he wanted to be able to dance into his 80s. The steps he learned in classes stuck, and he started teaching with Idol in fall 2004 after she asked him to put together a piece for the Steamboat Dance Theatre's annual concert, he said.

New class starts Feb. 18

Horton and Idol spend about as much time preparing dance routines and teaching techniques for their classes as they do leading them. After their advanced-level class wraps up in February, they'll offer a similar set of steps to beginners in a six-week class from Feb. 18 to March 25. They expect the class to fill up and encourage anyone interested in participating to register early.

Horton, a massage therapist, and Idol, an educational materials developer for TIC, said they'd have trouble fitting more than one class a week into their already full schedules.

The highlight of their teaching pursuits so far has been leading a lesson to more people than they could see at a Steamboat Swings community concert and dance in March, Horton and Idol said.

To keep up with couples dance opportunities in Steam­boat, check the studio schedule and teachers page at


Charles Horton and Polly Idol will offer a six-week beginner-level social dance class covering steps such as swing, salsa, foxtrot and cha-cha Thursday evenings starting Feb. 18. Call Charles at 879-3712 or Polly at 846-4217 for more information or to register.

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