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WINONA, Minn. (AP) — Movement carries messages, and learning that language takes practice on the dance floor. Helping this process along are Stan and Molly Breitlow, a couple who teach ballroom dance lessons to the people of Winona.

The two met through dancing and grew closer as their choreography grew tighter.

“I didn’t want to wait for a partner,” Molly said, despite initially having no experience when she started in the 1990s.

Stan was teaching ballroom in La Crosse, where Molly was a teacher at the time, when he met her and her roommate during class.

Originally, Molly and Stan made a deal: a lesson in exchange for help teaching another lesson. Being a huge fan of “Dancing With the Stars,” Molly jumped right in.

It turns out there’s a unique give-and-take when it comes to learning choreography together.

“You have to accept what’s going to happen, and you need to make it happen,” Stan said.

The Winona Daily News reports that they soon discovered a balance that evidently grew on them. They are now married and had their first child together four months ago. They teach regular classes on Monday nights at the Winona Athletic Club and hold special events through the River City Ballroom Dancers. The group held a dance on Saturday night, “Get Back in the Swing of Things.” There’s another scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 4, called “An Evening in Paris” that will feature a live band.

Molly said that dancing can help people develop new relationships with their bodies. The awareness evolves a kind social confidence that partners can collaborate to build further. This takes hard work over a large span of time, but yields great results.

“As soon as you start teaching it, you have to know it at a whole different level, and it’s never static,” Stan said.

They’ve been an active part of the local community, dancing their way through Levee Park and hosting events at the farmers market for Winona’s recreational benefit.

Tristen Wendel is a student of the Brietlows who has experienced a lot of change since first signing up.

“I was really shy at the time, and they were just so open and funny, and they really helped me get out of my shell,” Wendel said. “I feel like I can go out and talk to anyone. I really enjoy the swing.”

The Brietlows take the pressure off during lessons by incorporating humor and encouraging their students to move with purpose.

Jill Krase started taking lessons with her husband as an alternative to the usual date options.

“So many of the things you do for fun, you’re just sitting there,” Krase said, adding that the Breitlows “always keep the dance lessons entertaining. The jokes just kind of spill out.”

When a large group of people come into the same room with the common goal of moving their bodies in new ways, a sense of camaraderie develops.

“It’s a community thing to do,” Molly said. “A lot couples have their own hobbies, and they’re usually individual, so this is something that people can do together. It’s a wonderful way to meet people.”

It may seem like a lot to ask someone to explore outside their comfort zone, especially if it involves leading a partner.

“It’s OK,” Molly said. “It’s safe; it’s a judgment-free environment, not snob town.”

As with any physical form, there are fundamentals to keep in mind.

Dancers must commit to the nonverbal message they are sending to their partner, maintaining a strong frame and eye contact.

If a participant is willing to follow along, they might learn a few things.


Information from: Winona Daily News,