Merengue the night away after free classes

Rockford Ambulance leads the way in popular dance 

After this free class, your spouse will be so good you can likely rent them out at the next wedding or visit to a local night club. At least that’s what paramedic and dance instructor Andy Andresen joked about Rockford Ambulance’s upcoming merengue dance classes.

Rockford Ambulance has been offering free dance classes as their gift back to the community and they have been very popular. The next class teaches the basic moves of the merengue—a dance originated in the Dominican Republic. The class begins on Tuesday, April 27 at 7 p.m. and lasts 10 weeks.

“It started out as a friendly gesture to get to know the firefighters and police officers we see on the job,” Andresen said. He pointed out that ambulance paramedics often cross paths with firefighters and police officers in the course of dealing with patients, but a fire or car crash is not conducive to casual conversation. Circumstances are often quite dire.

“We are both busy then, usually handling equipment. They are trying to cut people out of cars and we are trying to keep them alive,” Andresen noted. He said spending time together learning a variety of popular dance styles seemed like a friendly, healthful activity. Andresen was already a dance instructor in addition to his duties as a paramedic. A former criminal investigator, he has plenty of respect for the difficult jobs firefighters and officers face.

Begun in the Grattan Fire Department truck garage, the classes were as successful as Andresen hoped, and with encouragement of Rockford Ambulance CEO Roger Morgan, Andresen decided to open the classes up to the general public.

Two sets of swing classes have been offered. Last time, 80 people called to take advantage of the sessions, so they had to be split up into two separate classes. Andresen said he welcomes such a response again, but believes fewer people are likely to sign up in the summer months. Those who have taken a previous class are also more than welcome to return.

“Some of the civilians are quite good,” Andresen noted. “They ought to consider private lessons and doing some competitions.” He said, regardless of aspirations of semi-professional dance fame, those who take the classes are sure to be pleasantly surprised. “It’s only a few moves, and when people learn to do them well, they look fantastic.” He said women tend to sign up more than men—paramedics are on hand to perform as partners for single dancers—and those men that do sign up will be heroes to their wives.

“At the next wedding or vacation, they can probably rent their husbands out and make some money on them,” Andresen joked, noting men who can dance are always in demand.

The activity is also nice for couples and a healthy, natural workout. Andresen said one of the class’s repeat dancers is a man the paramedics took to the hospital. The man’s doctor advised he get more exercise to avoid a repeat incident. Now he and his wife are regulars at the dance classes.

Merengue is a rhythm dance, sharing an African/Latin American origination with other rhythm dances such as mambo, salsa, Cha-cha and rumba. Andresen calls it an excellent dance for night clubbing. To sign up or for more information, call Rockford Ambulance at (616) 866-0724 or Andresen at (616) 633-9557.

Rockford Ambulance is located at the intersection of Ten Mile Road and Shaner Avenue in Rockford. The company employs 50 or 60 individuals, has seven substations and has a service range of about 66 percent of Kent County.

“The people of Rockford are lucky,” Andresen said. “Rockford Ambulance has a really good crew and the company is very community-oriented, probably because of Roger Morgan.”

Andresen said he has also been very impressed with the local law enforcement and fire departments. “They are phenomenal, tremendous, and that’s coming from an outside source. I used to carry a gun and wear a badge. I’d rate them hyper high.”

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