The music fills the room with cascading violins. The rhythm of the waltz is slow and steady. The dancers glide across the highly polished oak floor. Round and round they turn, dipping and swaying until the music comes to a soft conclusion.
Within two or three seconds, however, there is a rumba playing and these same dancers pick up the beat and become Latin hoofers. No, you are not at the finals of Dancing with the Stars. This is Kuzman's Bar in Girard and the 15 dancers out on the floor are all here for just the fun of it.
Kuzman's has a long history of dances and these ballroom steppers are just the latest to gather here. In years past the polka was king here. In fact, the late John Kuzman who established the bar with his wife Helen, was inducted into the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame for his promotion of the dance over the previous 60 years.
I grew up in the neighborhood surrounding Kuzman's and can remember going there as a little girl with my grandpa. There was always someone with an accordion who was willing to strike up a polka at a moment's notice.
The secret to Kuzman's success is that it keeps reinventing itself. Google Kuzman's and you will find it is not only on the ballroom and swing dance circuit but has many polka bands that perform there too.
I went to Kuzman's to see the ballroom dancers because, like most non-dancers, I was fascinated with the hobby. The first Monday of the month dancers gather there for three hours of fun. It is free and open to the public, for singles as well as couples.
Steve Barba, who leads this group with his partner of 10 years Susan Ryan, told me that ballroom dance is defined as ''smooth'' dance, namely; the Viennese waltz, the tango and the foxtrot. They have recently qualified to perform in the national ballroom competition.
They have danced together at Kuzman's for the past four years. Some of these same dancers also meet on Wednesdays at Kuzman's for ''social dance'' which includes such high stepping dances as East Coast Swing, merengue and jitterbug.
Betty Kopey of Brookfield and her partner Dave Moos of Strongsville had previously competed in couples roller skating. They decided to give ballroom dancing a try and have never looked back.
''The thing I like,'' Dave said, ''is that the dance crowd is very respectful of each other.''
Bob Zampogna, a ballroom dancer for 15 years, said he wished he had begun dancing before he did.
Cindy Hlas teaches her friends to ballroom dance, ''Like if they have a wedding coming up,'' but said the thing she most enjoys is for the group to go to nursing homes to entertain the residents there.
Joanne Pacurar is vice president of the Youngstown/Warren chapter of USA Dance. She has been dancing for 20 years, mostly ballroom, West Coast Swing and Hustle. She told me that there are three non-profit dance groups in the area; Y-Dance, USA Dance and Happy Feet.
These groups also dance at Avon Oaks, a ballroom near McKinley Heights and at the Ukrainian Orthodox Pavilion on Belle Vista Avenue in Youngstown. The next big ballroom event is the Snowflake Ball, Dec. 9, at Avon Oaks. About 200 dancers attend from as far as Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
While I sat at Kuzman's taking notes, the couples danced a variety of dances; the boogie-woogie, cha-cha, waltz and rumba. One woman arrived without a partner and was whisked on to the floor by Steve Barba. It was apparent that she was a newcomer to dance, making her turns carefully and watching her feet. The group, in turn, all danced with her and encouraged her.
Ask any calorie counter that you know and you will learn that ballroom dancing is one of the most efficient forms of aerobic exercise available. Ninety minutes can burn up nearly 1,000 calories.
As winter comes upon us and the need for comfort food increases, maybe we should all take a little time out to get out and dance.
O'Connor is a Brookfield resident.