Living

Waltz club provides a regular peek into Cinderella's world

Sparkling evening gowns and silk skirts swish along the wooden floor as dozens of Cinderellas hug hello in a chandelier-lit ballroom.

The men, dressed in penguin suits and shiny shoes, hover in pods. Few dance more than a half-dozen times a year. Most are desperately trying to remember the steps they've practiced.

"Most of the husbands have been drug here," laughs Loretta Nelson, 56, co-chair of the Broadmoor Waltz Club. "You can see the skid marks."

Fingers warm on the piano keys. Strings and a clarinet join in. Music gradually rises above the chatting. Slowly the group expands into an oval, as couples begin their practiced moves.

The steps are the same as when the club started, 70 years ago.

"(The club) really is much more about community," said Nelson's husband, Kurt, club co-chair. "It really is an opportunity to emphasize civilization, culture."

Members celebrated the final dance of the season at The Broadmoor, the five-star resort tucked in the foothills between the city and Cheyenne Mountain. A handful of ladies donned Victorian dresses, others wore modern gowns, splashing the room with color, sparkles and lace.

Pearls decorated necklines and ears, shrugs and shawls balanced on otherwise bare shoulders and ringlets swept delicately against cheeks. They were self-admitted princesses, but make no mistake -- this is no snobs' club.

Marie Jones, 63, is a grandmother of 10. Her pink and black strapless dress showed off her toned arms, the result of her summer loves: kayaking, mountain biking and hiking. Jones joined the club with her husband, Larry, 10 years ago, first coming in prom and homecoming dresses found in her daughters' closets.

"We're everyday people who just love to come here and dance," Jones said. "It's a very Cinderella-Prince Charming experience."

Though her Prince Charming scoffs when asked if he's ever danced professionally ("I have enough competitiveness in my wife -- she keeps after me."), Larry Jones lights up on the dance floor while his wife's golden slippers glide across the room.

"I may enjoy it a little more than he does, and this is typical," Jones said. But, she continued, "Dancing is where our interests come together."

Though many of the couples are empty-nesters or retired, a few younger couples have shown interest in the group, a trend many members attribute to the popular TV show "Dancing with the Stars."

Josh and Jennifer Billings, 27 and 25 respectively, visited the club on the last dance of the season as guests of Josh's parents. Though the youngest and least experienced couple on the floor, the Billingses joined a few of the 12 organized waltzes of the evening, despite a little hesitation.

"I like the dancing, but it is kind of intimidating when you see all the steps," said Josh Billings. "It's special -- even just being around this kind of stuff makes me feel special. It's about honor, romance."

And, of course, the dresses.

"I felt like I was getting ready for prom," said Jennifer Billings, who wore a slinky, sparkling floor-length black gown.

The lure for many women is the glamour, the gowns, shoes and jewelry. Though many ladies recycle dresses every few dances (or years), most said the club gives them an excuse to frequent department store sales.

"To dress up like we do, typically this is one of the only places (to go)," said Debora Young, 52. "If you want to have the perfect evening of total elegance, this is the perfect way to do it."

Young fell in love with the club's charm at her first dance 10 years ago, when her hair comb fell on the floor. Another dancer picked up the accessory, and after the song finished, bowed down before her in a way that was "something so elegant; there is no such thing anymore."

"I was hooked," she said.

The dancers move on the floor with an ease of experience, credited largely to dedicated practice. Couples are offered twice-weekly classes during dance season -- October through April -- free with the annual fee of $200.

Vic Fast, who joined the club in `75 and brags to be the oldest (and best) dancer, hosts one of the classes with his wife, Elaine.

Dressed in a white jacket and a red bow tie, the 84-yearold jokingly pointed out others' good and bad moves, saying more members needed to join his class. But between criticisms (best to keep those foot rises only inches from the floor), Fast also divulged his favorite part about the club.

"This guy here, he's a plumber," Fast said, pointing out one couple moving around the room.

The co-chairs, an engineer and a returning college student, glide across the floor.

The young Billingses, a youth pastor and a high school math teacher, smile from the edge of the dance floor. Young and her husband, Marshall, hold each other tightly -- by day, realtors; by night, romantics.

"There are so many different people," Fast said.

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