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Dancers hit the ballroom floor to mark Valentine’s Day

NEW CANADA, Maine — The St. John Valley is widely regarded on the northern East Coast as a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, affording them the opportunity to engage in hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, and bicycling in a pure natural environment. But what many people may not know, is that the area also is a great place to dance, ballroom style.

Dave and Penny Bouchard waltz with one another during a ballroom dancing session on Saturday, Feb. 10, at the New Canada Town Hall. (Jessica Potila | SJVT/FhF)

Christina Theriault, proprietor of Ballroom in the Valley, teaches beginner courses, technique classes, advanced classes, and West Coast swing classes in ballroom dance.

Theriault, a nurse practitioner, taught ballroom dancing in the Boston area for about 5 years before she moved to Fort Kent four years ago with her husband, Jake Theriault, a Valley native who works at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

“When I moved to the Valley four years ago, I asked my husband where all the dancing was. He said Portland,” Theriault recalled. “So although I had no intention of ever teaching again, I thought, if I can’t get to the dancing, I’ll bring the dancing to me.”

Theriault hosted a special Valentine’s Day dance for anyone interested in participating in the art of ballroom dancing at the New Canada Town Hall on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Participants Susan Frost and Robert Hebert of St. Agatha said it was the prospect of ballroom dancing that initially brought them together.

The couple met two  years ago during a Friday night live band event at the Lonesome Pine Trails ski resort in Fort Kent. Frost was at the resort skiing when she stepped into the Lonesome Pine Lodge where Hebert was enjoying the music with family members.

“I asked if I could sit down. He was there with a bunch of people and I was by myself,” Frost said. She also asked Hebert to dance and by the end of the evening they had agreed to take ballroom dance classes together.

Dave and Penny Bouchard waltz with one another during a ballroom dancing session on Saturday, Feb. 10, at the New Canada Town Hall. (Jessica Potila | SJVT/FhF)

“I asked him to do ballroom dancing. I asked even though I just met him,” said Frost, who added that she had wanted to find someone to ballroom dance with her for a long time.

“We started up taking lessons,” she said. “He said we have to practice everyday. We danced whenever we could and two years later, here we are.”

Hebert said ballroom dancing brings the couple together more than just physically.

“You’ve gotta be both on the same page if you’re gonna learn a dance.,” he said.  

Those interested in ballroom dancing who do not have partners at the ready can also take part in Theriault’s classes.

“You will find a dance partner in the class; you don’t need to bring one,” Theriault said. “All you need to bring is you, your sense of humor, and comfortable shoes that stay on your feet.”

Jim Watson of Cross Lake did just that on Saturday. Watson, originally from Massachusetts, said he has been dancing for 16 years, and is an enthusiastic student of Theriault’s.

“She’s a phenomenal teacher, best I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a bunch,” he said.

Frank and Joan McElwain enjoy an afternoon of ballroom dancing on Saturday, Feb. 10, at the New Canada Town Hall. (Jessica Potila | SJVT/FhF)

He enjoys ballroom dancing for the social aspect of it.

“It’s just a nice way to meet people and get some exercise,” he said.

Watson said he was pleasantly surprised to learn about the opportunity to ballroom dance in the St. John Valley.

Watson claims anybody can take part in the activity.

“Once you learn a couple of dances, it’s all the same stuff,” he said.

The Valentine’s Dance was Theriault’s first time teaching ballroom dance in 7 months, since the birth of her and her husband’s second son. She said she is currently planning her next group of classes and also offers private lessons. She is also interested in hosting a dance showcase, similar to “Dancing With the Stars,” in the fall, although practice sessions would begin much sooner. Anyone interested in participating in the showcase should contact Theriault by email at BallroomChristina@gmail.com, or through the Ballroom in the Valley Facebook page.

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