New Duluth ballroom dance studio celebrates grand opening

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October 29, 2021, appearing on by Teri Cadeau

Ballroom dance instructor Rae Lyons has been dreaming of opening her own dance studio for years. She’s been dancing for most of her life and started to teach eight years ago when one of her instructors recommended she attend a teacher training program.

“I was working as a psychometrist by day, but my teacher thought I’d be good at it, so I decided to give it a try,” Lyons said. “I wound up getting really busy and made it my full-time job.”

Lyons and her dance and business partner, Benjamin Welch, recently made their dream a reality by creating the North Shore Ballroom dance studio in the Kenwood Village building. The team is celebrating its grand opening Friday and Saturday with free beginner classes and a Halloween-themed dance party.

“We want to grow the dance community and give people something fun to do,” Lyons said. “Dance is an outlet to move, which I think people need, especially after a long COVID year. I think people are really aching for social interaction and this is a fun way to do it.”

The studio focuses primarily on ballroom and Latin dance styles such as the waltz, rhumba, foxtrot, cha-cha, swing, tango and nightclub. Lessons are available privately with the instructors as well as through group classes and practice parties every week.

“Private lessons are the primary way that people learn to ballroom dance,” Lyons said. “But we also want to give people a chance to dance with others in a fun and safe environment.”

One particular group class Lyons has enjoyed teaching is “Baby Ballroom.” This class is geared toward caregivers and their little ones. In the class, caregivers learn the steps to various ballroom dances while holding their babies and dancing.

“I had my first baby in February of this year, so we wanted to find a way to dance with her some more. She danced with me for nine months already, so this just continues that,” Lyons said. “Right now, it’s mostly mamas, but it’s open to all caregivers. And I have to say: We’ve never had a fussy baby so far. In fact, the movement seems to calm them down and sometimes puts them to sleep.”

Lyons has been teaching dance in the Duluth area since 2016. Her dance partner, Welch, has also taught in the area for eight years, starting at the University of Minnesota Duluth ballroom dance club and growing from there. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the instructors found themselves with a lot more downtime. Lyons said that’s when they decided to open their studio.

“We did a lot of soul-searching and thinking when we weren’t working quite so much,” Lyons said. “We thought about what we wanted our future to look like. We wanted to step into an owner position and start building our dreams. It gave us the time to reflect on what we wanted in life. And what we want is to set people’s souls on fire with dance. That’s what we try to do every day.”

The studio’s grand opening weekend begins Friday with a Halloween-themed dance party from 7-9 p.m., and then continues with beginner group classes from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. There will be group classes every hour on the hour during Saturday’s event, as well as prizes, a costume contest and more. The grand-opening classes are free to the public.