Junior embraces a colorful array of dances

January 4, 2011 — by Vivian LeTran

Tango, swing, modern, salsa, cross-step, polka, flamenco, Argentinean tango, African jazz, ballet, tap and hip-hop. For junior Valerie Peterson, it is all part of her weekly routine.

Peterson takes private Flamenco lessons in Bonny Doon, a small community in the mountains near Santa Cruz. She also does ballroom dancing, which encompasses a variety of these social dances.

“Ballroom dancing is really fun because you meet new people of all ages. [For example,] there’s my friend’s 10-year-old brother who’s really cute when he gets serious and there’s my mom who dances,” said Peterson. “It’s like a big family. I have about 10 friends who dance too and we all go together.”

Peterson enjoys attending elaborate balls and finds it the best part of ballroom dancing. The most recent one was the Vampire Ball for Halloween.

“The ball was [held in] a huge, two-story building. It lasted probably until midnight and was just amazing,” said Peterson. “There was also a costume contest and some people came in really eccentric costumes. This lady had a 19th-century dress complete with a corset and a train made out of actual peacock feathers.”

Although Peterson’s dancing schedule varies week to week, she generally dances only on the weekends due to homework. One regular event she attends every week is the Friday Night Waltz.

“It really depends since I’m only dancing [for fun.] For example, one time I had [so much going on,] that I definitely danced over 10 hours,” said Peterson. “But there’s always time for homework; there’s always time for dancing. In my opinion, if you really want something, you [can do it.]“

With so many dances to choose from, Peterson said she does not have a favorite type.

Peterson started dancing early in her life, beginning with tap at 5 and flamenco around 7. In fact, her first steps were on a dance floor, Peterson said.

Peterson enjoys dancing for a variety of reasons: the work out, the stress relief and, most importantly, the fun.

“You’re working out, but you don’t have to run a mile or do any push-ups. It’s a great way to relieve negative feelings and you can let it out without yelling or anything,” said Peterson. “Also, it’s really fun. The feeling you get when you’re [dancing,] everyone’s watching you and then your partner lifts you up in the air is just amazing!”

Besides events such as Dicken’s Fair, a re-enactment of Victorian London, Peterson performs only for close family and friends.

“For Dicken’s Fair, we have fezziwigs, which is a big dance party, and people just come and dance with us. It’s more that I’m a character in the fair than them sitting down and watching me,” Peterson said.

For the future, Peterson considers competing in ballroom dancing if time permits and, in the long term, perhaps teaching dance. Although unsure about teaching, she has little doubt that dancing will remain a huge part of her life.

“I know I’ll always have dancing in my life as it’s a huge part of our family,” said Peterson. “I’m going to dance until the day I die. No question about it.”

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