Local Realtors moonlight as ballroom dancers
In addition to sharing their home and their business local realtors and married couple Byron Bellew, 39, and Janina Kinler, 37, also share a passion for dance.
The two have been involved in competitive West Coast Swing dancing for the past two years.
Bellew said he and Kinler took up dancing after they decided they needed a shared activity outside of their Luling-based real estate company Kinler Bellew.
Bellew said the only dancing experience he had before getting involved in West Coast Swing was as the lead singer of a hip hop act.
“I was a singer for a band and we played hip hop and regular music,” Bellew said. “So I did an enormous amount of hip hop dancing during those periods.”
Bellew said going from hip hop dancing to swing dancing was a big change.
“It is quite a bit different,” Bellew said. “This is more of a trained dance and it’s considered lead and follow, which means that you’re not choreographing routines. You’re actually getting on the floor and leaders truly lead the followers through the dance and it is made up on the fly.”
Bellew said he enjoys the organic aspect of West Coast Swing in that in contrast to ballroom dancing the dances are allowed to unfold according to the whim of the dancers.
“It’s not to say that there aren’t patterns that you are using, but it is to say that you are not going to choreograph it from beginning to end and perform that in itself,” Bellew said. “You learn techniques that are within the dance and then the females learn their techniques and then you put those together and you actually dance it on the fly. That is the most amazing thing about this dance. That is why so many people have merged and moved from ballroom into West Coast Swing is because of that ability to really dance on the fly with it to so many different styles of music.”
Bellew said this comes to play in competition when partners are introduced to each other for the first time and asked to perform.
“You are dancing with different partners all of the time. That’s another thing that is so beautiful about this dance is that you are not dancing with a training partner,” Bellew said. “The main competition that you compete in is called a Jack and Jill. What they do is they put guys on the floor and then they bring out ladies and put them and rotate them around and you’ll get a random lady that you have never danced with before then they’ll put on a song that maybe you have never heard before and you have to perform on the fly with someone you’ve never danced with before. It’s incredible.”
Bellew said he and Kinler have traveled the country going to competitions from Dallas to Houston to Toledo, Ohio and other destinations, but he said he is particularly excited about an event coming up this summer in New Orleans.
“There is a big event coming up in New Orleans at the end of July it is called Dance Mardi Gras and that’s a national event,” Bellew said. “All the dancers from around the country and around the world will be coming in for that event.”
Bellew said the travel has been worth it and in the past few months he has taken home a number of first place prizes from national dance events including 1st place Jack & Jill (novice), 1st Place Pro Am (novice) and 1st place Strictly (novice) from Swingapalooza in Gonzales and 1st Place Pro Am (intermediate) at the DFW Pro Am Jam in Dallas.
Bellew said a lot of his success is owed to his Metairie-based dance instructors.
“Shaun Moody and his wife Kristen–they are our West Coast Swing dance instructors,” Bellew said. “They teach classes at a dance bar called Club Silhouette.”
Bellew said he and Kinler spend 12 to 15 hours a week practicing and preparing for competitions.
“It is an excellent source of exercise,” Bellew said.
Bellew said competitive dancing has a lot of perks overall.
“It is an excellent place to go and meet people or to go with your significant other and enjoy a social activity in a positive environment,” Bellew said. “And most of the people who actually do West Coast Swing dancing tend to stay with it and there are dancers that have been doing it for 20 or 30 years that are still doing it every day because it is so enjoyable.”
Bellew said he would encourage those who are interested to give West Coast Swing a try.
“It is a very simple dance to learn the basics and be able to get on the floor and dance,” Bellew said. “But it takes years or private lessons and practice to compete at a high level.”
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