Learning to Fly

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Joel Plys and Valerie Salstrom had this advice for the ten couples gathered recently at their Get Hep Swing dance studio: Have fun, but be safe.

Safety's an important consideration in aerial swing dancing, which is the dance form Plys and Salstrom have been teaching in three consecutive Sunday workshops. The final workshop of the series this Sunday is open to any couple who knows the basics of swing but wants to learn the fine art of getting airborne.

Actually, one-half of every couple has to keep his feet on the ground. These advanced dance moves generally involve the female executing a move in the air while her partner serves as a base.

But couples aren't allowed to try even one aerial move until Plys and Salstrom explain the safety and ground rules. "If someone starts doing an aerial before we have taught them the proper way, we kindly hand them their money back and ask them to leave," Salstrom says.

"Basics are everything," Plys adds. "If the basics are solid, then everything else looks great. We're all about prep time and basics, basics, basics."

The workshops are held in a dance studio that resembles an old drugstore, with large windows facing the street and fluorescent lights dangling from the ceiling. At the start of the first class, the couples exchanged anxious looks as they prepared to learn such complicated-looking moves as the pop-up, the A-jump, and the shoulder throw. But Plys and Salstrom were able to break the moves down to their simplest components, so that the dancers could easily catch on. By the end of the two-hour class, they were performing with confidence.

The group was a diverse bunch, twentysomethings to graying, middle-aged couples, some dressed in vintage clothes and others in shorts and T-shirts. A tanned, muscular-looking pair looked as if they'd be more comfortable in the gym than on the dance floor, but by the end of the workshop they were doing the steps as gracefully as their lithe classmates.

Plys and Salstrom, who say they are the only ones who teach aerials in Ohio, are obviously proud of their workshops and their ability to teach people im-pressive moves in a relatively short period.

"No one does it as well as we do," says Salstrom. — Lisa Foster

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