Waltzing worries away popular at ambulance station


Guy Fransisco is a former professional dancer trained by Patrick Swayze’s mother, Patricia. Here he helps one of the dancers perfect a move.
Guy Fransisco is a former professional dancer trained by Patrick Swayze’s mother, Patricia. Here he helps one of the dancers perfect a move.

Thirteen-year-old Tessa Paul-Cox didn’t really want to go to the free dance classes her mother Sandra has been enjoying so much, but once she arrived, she saw many others were having a great time.

Sandra and Tessa were two of about 30 people who showed up on an off-day practice session on Tuesday, November 24. Rockford Ambulance offered the classes as a way to give back to the community and pass the time in a healthy way.

Su Grey is a paramedic and one of the instructors of the program. She couldn’t be more enthusiastic, either during the classes or about them.

“Our phones were ringing off the hook,” she said, when the nonprofit company announced the start of the classes. She said so many people signed up for the six-week course that the ambulance staff had to schedule two classes to accommodate everyone.

Nancy Popma, who works for Cannon Township, said she learns something new every class, and the steps are easy to master. Milissa Soderstrom also works for the township. She said the two show their co-workers the new moves they learn each week.

“We go back to work the next day and show the girls at the office,” she said. “It’s almost like our whole office is learning.”

People don’t need dance background to participate, and don’t have to be couples. Grey said plenty of people show up by themselves and the ambulance staff step in as partners.

First Rockford Ambulance volunteered to teach local first responders dance moves as a fun way to fill up the hours at the ambulance station, where the staff puts in long days. The program went over so well they decided to invite the public in as well.

Chuck Premer, emergency medical technician and instructor, joked that if an emergency should occur requiring the staff to leave, class will be canceled. “And if someone has a medical issue during the class, at least they are in a good place for it.”

Grey is pleased that a wide variety of participants have signed up. Margaret and Don Smith were having a great time during the practice session. “We’ve learned to dip and swing. There is a lot of rhythm, even if I have too much feet,” Don said.

“It’s fun. We are really enjoying it,” Margaret added. “It’s fabulous to invite the community to just come here and dance. It’s excellent exercise. I don’t have to go home and ride my exercise bike.”

The pair said communities benefit greatly from a program like this, which gets neighbors out to meet each other. They commend Rockford Ambulance for their efforts and generosity of time.

Mother and son team Carol Erickson and Nik, 8, enjoyed the time together learning new moves they can show off with at the next mother and son dance. The Roguewood Elementary School student was having fun and the pair were improving their dance skills. “At first I didn’t think he’d do it,” Carol noted. “He goes to the mother/son dances with me, too.”

In addition to Rockford-area participants, the classes drew a surprise. Los Angeles-trained Guy Fransisco and wife Cheryl were whirling through the room. The former professional dancer was trained by Patsie Swayze, Patrick Swayze’s mother. He taught in Los Angeles and is proficient in jazz, ballet, tap, modern dance and pretty much the “whole kaboodle” in the field of dance. They showed up to have a pleasant evening, and both helped out as impromptu instructors.

It’s great for a relationship,” Guy said. “It brings you together. Dance does that. It’s physical touching, an intimate form of communication that is different than word communication.” The now Grand Rapids resident highly recommends dance to anyone.

Grey said the lessons have been so popular she believes they will offer them again in 2010, and may include other forms of dance. Those interested should contact Rockford Ambulance at (616) 866-0724 to find out more.

“They really need to be congratulated for doing this,” said Margaret. “I can’t say enough for them.”

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