Scores of single people have passed through Julie Berger’s dance studio since opening the doors more than six years ago. The founder of Salsa in the Suburbs Dance Studio says she strives to create a warm, inviting atmosphere that encourages friendly interactions and creates “low-pressure opportunities” to meet and mingle with other single people.
Two of her regular students, Chuck Moore and Joseph Boyer, have won her endorsement as great guys who epitomize the wonderful personal transformation that can result from entering an unfamiliar environment that takes them out of their personal comfort zone, challenges them and pushes them to fulfill their potential.
“They both have made incredible friendships,” Julie says.
Chuck, who lives in Springfield Township, remembers hitting rock bottom about three and a half years ago. A serious relationship ended abruptly, and he admitted to being a “total wreck.” After a buddy invited him to a salsa dance party held at The Media Inn, Chuck decided to join Salsa In The Suburbs Dance Studio, who hosted the event.
He committed to taking dance lessons at Julie’s studio and soon forgot about his personal troubles. “It brightened the day. That’s one of the reasons I will always love that place and keep going,” he says. Eventually, Chuck signed up for performance classes and found himself in the company of “fun, cool people.” He began to tear down the emotional walls that he had built around himself and opened up toward his fellow dancers. After becoming involved with the studio, Joseph and Chuck developed friendships that extend beyond the dance studio. They plan road trips and participate in activities together, whether it’s heading to the karaoke bar, eating out, sharing in a hobby or exploring other interests.
Salsa dancing has helped Chuck overcome shyness. He is now confident in approaching women and asking them for a dance, even if they are more experienced dancers.
Julie gushes about both men. She describes Chuck as generous, very thoughtful, and romantic. She says Joseph is not only a great listener, but enthusiastic and encouraging. Julie says it’s much easier to connect with someone within a studio. By comparison, a salsa nightclub can play loud music and the environment tends to be more impersonal than her studio, which is a hub in the salsa dancing community, offering small-group classes and practice sessions.
Joseph widened his circle of friends who he invites to his home for parties and receives invitations in return. He enjoys the camaraderie and their sense of humor. Friendships developed at the studio provided a sense of belonging.
“I really wouldn’t have had that if I hadn’t joined Salsa in the Suburbs,” says Joseph. “I was definitely much more shy when I joined the studio. It opened up a social side of me that I didn’t really know existed.”
“I don’t think I would have had the confidence before to take such a big risk,” Joseph says.
Chuck also talks about how the shared experience at the studio has resulted in deeper friendships.
“You become very close to these people. You really do become family,” Chuck says. He likens his close friends to a “second family,” offer comforting words at a difficult time, sharing positive thoughts, or just sending text messages asking him what’s going on, or if he needs anything.
Chuck has a reputation for bearing gifts on Valentine’s Day for all the women enrolled in performance classes with him, intended as a token of appreciation regardless of their relationship status.
“I know what it is like to not have somebody on that special that day,” Chuck says. “It’s a little surprise that makes the day better.”
Words: Wilford Shamlin III