Everything about May Berge—from the way she lightly walks to the gold-toned pin of the entwined pair on the lapel of her jacket—speaks of the passion she has for dance.
It’s a life-long fascination that only until 10 years ago really came to fruition for the Grand Forks resident.
It all started as a child while watching the dancing greats on television. She was hooked by the graceful movements of the dancers and fascinated with the dance teachers who got them there. But it wasn’t until many years later—in 2006—when
Berge took up a formal dance class while living in Greenwood. She’d been asked to help the dance instructor as his dance partner; in exchange she got free lessons.
“I love how you move in the pocket of the music and you feel like the only two people on the dance floor—I love it when you can achieve that feeling,” said Berge of what moves her. “You feel so good you are either floating or skating.”
She hasn’t stopped her tapping toes since.
“When I was helping the teacher, I noticed some people got dancing easier than others,” said Berge. “It is rewarding as a teacher to help those (who find dancing challenging) achieve what they come for. When they come and have fun while learning something, that is what’s worth it.”
“My passion is dancing. It’s not work to me—I could go seven days a week doing it.”
For Berge, she isn’t only teaching her passion, she is helping others unlock there’s.
Berge delivers a unique dancing program. She offers a group drop-in session twice a week. The session includes group and individual instruction and an opportunity to learn from more advanced dancers.
“Advanced students love it when beginners come,” Berge said. “By helping the new person, it helps them too. They like to get back to the basics because without the basics it is hard to move forward.”
“Advanced students also get something out of the class because I give them more advanced steps or perfecting something they already know.”
She teaches everything from Salsa to the Two Step, the Waltz to the Jive. No matter the dance, most of the classes are taught using country music because the beat is easily heard and follow for beginners.
Dancing comes with a side of laughter
Single or coupled, experienced and inexperienced alike come to Berge’s bi-weekly dance drop-in at the Hutton Elementary School gym.
Since she started the class, Berge has taught more than 50 people from Midway to Christina Lake to Republic, Washington. She has more than 25 regular students currently attending.
While they come for different reasons (the exercise, an evening out, to stroke it off their bucket list, listen to music, meet new friends or to gain inspiration) they all keep coming back for just one—Berge.
“I really like the class,” said student John Ethier, whose been coming to Berge’s class for the past three months but has been doing informal dancing all his life. “I like the way (Berge) spreads herself around the room.”
“I’d always wanted to learn to dance but hadn’t found someone to teach me,” said Christina Lake resident Mary Bird, who has been taking lessons with Berge for the past four years. “There is always more to learn—a new dance or more steps to learn on the dances you already know.”
“With May dancing is not stuffy… we laugh a lot. It’s such a casual atmosphere. Dance has taken over my life—I’m so involved with dance now it has become a fettish with me. And there is always more to learn—a new dance or more steps to learn on the dances you know.”
John Thomas, a Grand Forks resident, has been attending Berge’s classes for the past four months on his own.
“It’s the easiest thing in the world to sit on a couch,” said Thomas, whose always wanted to learn to dance and has now made it a priority. “If dancing is something you’ve always wanted to do—do it. Make it happen. Don’t regret not doing it.”
Thomas finds Berge’s class welcoming and a great way to make new friends.
“This is a public service to the community that isn’t being taken advantage of,” Thomas said.
“Dancing with May (Berge) is a real fun evening,” agreed Arlene Hope. “We are actually learning how to dance now! It’s not scary, even with the more experienced people. Everyone helps each other in the class.”
Hope and her husband John Bennett drive from Midway to attend the classes. They’re looking forward to showing off their new skills at their son’s wedding in the summer. So far Hope’s favourite is the Salsa.
Want to try a dance step or two? Everyone is welcome to the drop-in dance class in the Hutton School gym, located at 2575 75th Ave. in Grand Forks, every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 – 9 p.m. The fee is just $2.
Berge also hosts dances twice a month at the Seniors Centre in Grand Forks and there is a more formal event in Trail about every three months that features a live 20-piece orchestra.
A dance partner is not required, but comfortable dance shoes with a leather sole (no runners because they stick to the floor) and a bottle of water is all that is required.
For more information visit Berge’s Facebook page at “Dancing In Grand Forks and Area” or by calling the Grand Forks and District Recreation Centre at 250-442-2202.