The Dance Revolution: Ballroom to Boogie, Dancing Keeps Seniors Young at Heart

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From ballroom to boogie, dancing is all the rage for seniors to millennials both for the fun and fitness benefits. At Rungo Dance Depot in downtown Clearwater, you’ll find Corinne Rungo teaching classes, hosting socials, performing with some students at events and fundraisers and just having the time of their life. Looking confident and having fun, the students from 15 to 85 rumba and waltz, foxtrot and hustle with Rungo as their cheerleader and patient instructor.

Rungo has been dancing and teaching dance for 25 years and opened the Rungo Dance Depot almost nine months ago after teaching classes all over Pinellas County. She touts the benefits of dance for all ages but believes it’s the magic elixir for aging well. One of her students, 91, came to her because his grief counselor suggested that dance would be great therapy.

Said Rungo about the benefits of dancing for seniors: “It’s great exercise for the muscles and heart, strengthens the core, reduces risk of falls and exercises the brain. Seniors who dance regularly must memorize movements and routines and react in the moment, especially when dancing with partners. It integrates all three modalities-mind/body/spirit, and you use all your senses – eyes, ears, touch. …It ’s rejuvenating, being mindful in the present. Dance stimulates, and the added social interaction keeps active seniors young at heart.”

Largo resident Bob Waller, 77, moved to Florida eight years ago and has been dancing with Rungo for four years.

“I had tried lessons four times prior in my twenties, thirties, forties and fifties but never stuck with I,” Waller said. “Now we do demonstrations together at other dance studios, dance clubs for charity, even a presentation at The Festival of Trees. It’s exercise, it moves your joints, gives you confidence helps with balance, it’s something to look forward to, stimulates your mind and socializing keeps you connected. It makes me feel young.”

Waller’s three favorite dances are the rumba, waltz and hustle and for him, it’s an exhilarating feeling to dance.

“I like the artistry of it, I can’t draw a stick person, but I love symphony, ballet, opera and art. Dance makes me feel like I can do something well artistically,” he said.

It’s also a great way to connect.

“Older men will find that a man who likes to dance is always in demand,” Waller said. “And for married couples, it helps deepen a relationship by learning to dance together.”

For Rungo’s students Alan and Judy Comeau, dance brought them together and keeps their hearts hopping. Judy still works per diem as a nurse and will be 71 this year. Both met at a Fred Astaire studio in Boston. Dancing led to dating and a second marriage for both of them now going on 22 years.

They moved to Florida five years ago, and when they met Rungo “we loved her style of teaching that was so easygoing and inviting, with a nice social atmosphere so much we drive from St. Petersburg to Clearwater three times a week to dance.”

Judy Comeau did jazz and tap when she was younger and used to compete with her instructor at the Pro-Am level. The husband-and-wife dynamic duo love to get in costume and waltz, cha-cha and foxtrot on Rungo’s Formation Team or perform at local showcases.

In addition to dancing, she keeps fit with pure barre and her husband works out on his rowing machine; both also enjoy yoga.

“Dance makes you want to work out more so you can wear beautiful costumes and keep up your stamina and strength,” she said. But dance is more than physical for her. “The endorphins you get from dancing, the joy also is about communicating with people on a different level by enjoying the dance together, that’s why I like partner dance.”

Husband Alan also likes social interaction.

“I highly recommend it from the male perspective,” he said. “I always say my wife is more of a ballroom dancer and I’m a bar room dancer. For men who feel like they are being dragged out by their wives, take the group lessons. Find someone who is as patient and who can show you and is talented enough to teach so it’s enjoyable. Corinne has both of these skills. It’s worth it, especially in these trying times. When you go out and dance, you tend to forget your troubles.”

Alan and Judy are natural-born performers, but Alan points out that at first, it took him three times longer to learn the dance moves.

“Like most male athletes, our mindset was to power through when we approach the dance. You have to feel the rhythm and the musicality of the dance…there is athleticism, it will keep you youthful, but you need to switch gears so that learning and performing the steps becomes more enjoyable.”

The Cameaus have made many friends through dance and say the social, mental and physical benefits of dance are awesome.

Rungo agrees that dance and music heal and soothes the soul, and for seniors, may just be the right fun, fit activity for just about everybody. It’s growing popularity she said, may be boosted by TV hit Dancing With The Stars where unlikely stars such as Warren Sapp bewitched new audiences.

“It showcases the power of touch — the power of dancing with someone and an intimacy in the world that has diminished relationships hijacked by our devices,” she said. “Instead of hiding behind our device, dancing rekindles the personal connections we are losing to the devices. That’s why you are seeing a new generation falling in love with ballroom dances and competing, as well as seniors.”

There’s a dance class for every age and level at Clearwater Dance Depot where you can sweat, learn, burn and stretch.

Rungo Dance Fit was created 28 years ago when “I couldn’t find a Zumba teacher who could count music,” Rungo said with a laugh.

Rungo Dance Fit happens on Monday 6 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m. and Saturday 10 a.m., and she is adding an early morning Friday class and Golden Rungo Dance Fit for those who need a little extra push and TLC soon.

Her performing Rungo Formation Groups integrate all ages, primarily 65-plus, and they just showcased a waltz at Gulfport Casino, with another showcase of a new bolero coming up on March 26 in the same location. Clearwater Dance Depot is located at 1261 S. Ft. Harrison near Morton Plant Hospital.

For more information and list of classes and events, visit Alternately, call 727-741-3337 or email

Private lessons are available. You can buy a class card or an unlimited social membership; the first class is free.

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