By Heidi Lynch
Imagine the golden pooling of afternoon sun on smoothly planed floorboards. See the glint and sparkle of crystal chandelier drops as they dangle above. Brush against the velvet folds of drapery and you have the perfect setting for . . . a traditional Native American dance? Perhaps this pairing appears incongruous at first glance, but delve a little deeper into the renovation story of Social Graces Ballroom Studio’s new location and the combination makes sense.
Freddie Ciampi, who discovered a love for dancing while in a performing arts group at college, started Social Graces 15 years ago. “It was a small scale business with only one instructor,” he says, “but there’s something magical about dance. It created its own community of friends.” Now the studio has moved to 639 E Main St, Berryville.
Community drives this studio. While Social Graces offers opportunities for competition and performance, the studio’s name announces its principal value: dance in a social setting.
“Our focus is people dealing with people, and offering students a challenge, exercise, a chance to learn,” says Ciampi. “We focus on the human condition. Students here don’t care how good you are; they care how nice you are.”
It’s no surprise, then, that this dance community has grown to include seven instructors and more than 150 students. The growing dance family is not only the driving force behind the studio’s move to a new and larger space, but also part of the work force for renovating that space. Ciampi estimates that more than 30 volunteers, all students of the studio, gave freely of their time to pour concrete, paint parking lines, and hang chandeliers.
“Why would people be so adamant about helping this business if not to contribute back?” he asks.
This giving of time and resources, this concept of contribution, is something on René White-Feather’s mind, as well. She is president of the Native American Church of Virginia and executive director of The Harvest Gathering, a 3-day celebration of Native American people and neighbors through dance, storytelling, and various social interactions. The goal behind The Gathering includes preserving and sharing traditions from generation to generation. René compares culture to a seed being planted in the ground.
“This ‘ground’ is community,” she says. “This area, this county, this state is the ground in which the seed is planted. The volunteers and organizers of The Gathering events are the planters of this seed.”
So what about those chandeliers and drapes mentioned above? How does the planting of a seed relate to a swanky ballroom? White-Feather views Social Graces’ grand opening as a preview of The Gathering. The grand opening will feature dance lessons and performances throughout the day, including the performance of a traditional Native American dance. Lenny Harmon, a local Native American Indian of the Nanticoke Lenape people, is scheduled to perform at Social Graces, allowing participants a quick glimpse into the spirit of October’s bigger event.
“Ciampi is supporting, and has caught the spirit of, The Gathering,” René says. “He is contributing of himself.”
René hopes to see more and more community embrace the seed of culture being planted. She asks, “How can you contribute of yourself? Who else has caught the spirit of The Gathering?”
The Social Graces Ballroom Studio’s Grand Opening starts Saturday, June 27 at 10am, and runs through the week. For information visit Berryvilleballroom.com or call 540-409-7136. The studio is located at 639 E Main St, Berryville.