USA Dance sees Tallahassee as ‘hub for ballroom dancing’

Amanda Sieradzki
 |  Council on Culture & Arts

The third Saturday in June is a special day for social dance.

Mayor John E. Dailey proclaimed it as USA Dance Day two years ago. USA Dance is a social dance organization, which board member Rebecca Kelley has served on for nearly four years. There are 17 chapters in the state of Florida alone, and countless across the country. 

To commemorate the day in Tallahassee, Kelley and her fellow committee has planned the first ever Florida Sunshine Dance & Symposium, which will span three days and include a talent show, mini-match and evening dances.

On Saturday, the USA Dance national president Ken Richard will serve as keynote speaker and talk about navigating the future of social dance. 

“Our organization wants to make Tallahassee a hub for ballroom dancing,” says Kelley. “After many board meetings, we came up with this “a la carte” event. It’s not a one size fits all and we did that on purpose.”

Friday night will kick off the weekend with social dancing and spotlight performances by organization members. Beginners and all levels are welcome to join. Saturday will feature a roundtable meeting of the minds to discuss growing the chapter and pushing social dance to the forefront of Tallahassee’s arts scene. 

Competitors are welcome to brush up on their skills by attending a competitive “mini-match” event. There will also be lessons and workshops taught by Diedre Manzanares Williams, Joe Mounts and Christian Grace. Grace was Kelley’s partner during one of her most memorable spotlight performances a few years ago.

A spotlight is similar to an exhibition, where one couple takes the dance floor and gives a performance. Kelley says their waltz allowed her to embark on a new journey with social dancing. 

“It really allowed me to let go of some of the things in my past,” remembers Kelley. “I incorporated a lot of personal things into the dance that I needed to express.” 

Kelley joined the USA Dance organization after attending a few Tuesday night swing dances at the local American Legion. Her mother serves alongside her on the board, and together they have continued to organize events around town. 

Music was Kelley’s first introduction to the arts. She sings and plays piano and trumpet. Given her musical ear, she has a lot of respect for how musicians and dancers work together to interpret rhythms and embody the intricacies of each song.

Her favorite dance is the foxtrot and its unforgettable rhythmic signature which can be found in music from the 1920s through the 1990s. 

“You can hear and dance a variety of different styles within the foxtrot rhythm,” says Kelley. “There’s a lot of ad-libbing you can do. For instance, you can incorporate a tango pattern in the foxtrot. Or you can stop in the middle, turn it into a swing step, then stop the swing and turn it back into a foxtrot.” 

Kelley’s dancing genes were inherited from her mother, who has been a ballroom dancer for almost 20 years.

Her sons, ages 10 and 12, are also quick on their feet and have joined them at multiple social dance events. Kelley is not only impressed by how her children soak up new moves like sponges, but also how their role as “leads” on the dance floor have helped them to grow into young gentlemen. 

Kelley had the chance to dance with her sons in a spotlight performance in 2019. Looking back on videos from that night, she admires the spark in her sons’ eyes and the quality time that they’ve shared together. Her eldest son competed in a team match in Daytona and won first place with swing dancing in April. 

“He was so proud of the trophy he won, went to school the next Monday and showed it off,” says Kelley. “Those are good, proud moments. My mom, her husband, my two kids and me, we’re all out there cutting up the dance floor and we enjoy it. It’s a family affair.”

Kelley says their chapter has been able to hold dances since December with extra

COVID precautions. There are hand sanitization stations and mask-wearing encouraged by members. They also abstained from holding regular mixers where couples dance with different people one right after the other. 

However, now that most of the core group of dancers are vaccinated, Kelley is hopeful that dances will start to look like they did pre-pandemic.

The debut of the Florida Sunshine Dance & Symposium is another opportunity for the community to get involved as well, whether it’s attending a lesson, learning about membership to USA Dance or just gathering for a fun night out with friends and family. 

“We said in February of last year, before everything started shutting down, to not miss your opportunity to dance because you don’t know when you might lose it,” says Kelley. “It just so happened that a month after that, we lost it for several months. I hope everyone who attends the weekend leaves with an awe-inspiring aspiration to never miss a chance to dance.”

Amanda Sieradzki is the feature writer for the Council on Culture & Arts. COCA is the capital area’s umbrella agency for arts and culture (

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If you go

What: Florida Sunshine Dance & Symposium  

When: 6:30-11 p.m. on Friday, June 18, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, June 19, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday, June 20 

Where: Days Inn & Conference Center, 2900 N Monroe St 

Cost: Prices vary, pre-registration required 

Contact: For more information, call 850-739-3096 or visit  

This content was originally published here.

Author: dancesteps