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Waltz right in, gay or straight

May 8, 2008 |  8:00 am

The sport (art?) of ballroom dance isn't a foreign concept anymore, thanks to the phenomenal success of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," which has brought copious couples into dance classes ... mostly heterosexual couples, that is. So where would a same-sex couple go if they wanted to perfect the jive or learn the finer points of a waltz?

Gayballroom250They'd head to Plummer Park in West Hollywood, where ballroom dance champion Christopher Beroiz teaches Gay Ballroom, a six-week program in which students learn two dances in 90-minute sessions (the current series that just kicked off features tango and rumba).

The idea was cooked up by publicist Steve Valentine, who competed in disco-era dance competitions and later learned ballroom. "Being a gay man," he says, "I wanted to learn how to transfer what I learned to dancing with a male partner, and I wanted it to look good. I wanted to make sure that if I did it, I did it the right way."

He met Beroiz at a dance studio, the two teamed up (along with co-producer Lisa Marie Belsanti), and classes began in January. They're done in conjunction with the city of West Hollywood, and singles and straight couples are welcome.

Beroiz solved the who's-going-to-lead-and-who's-going-to-follow dilemma by simply asking gay couples in which role they felt more comfortable. "They can switch at any time," he says. "Nothing is locked in stone."

Needless to say, ballroom is great exercise, terrific for toning muscles, improving posture and developing good cardiovascular health. Even beginners will start learning steps immediately, promises Beroiz. "They may not master it, but they sure as heck will move."

-Jeannine Stein

Photo by Dave Schwep