Steve Valentine 1:
Steve Valentine in action.
Steve Valentine. 2:
Five of Valentine’s loyal Ballroom Burners: Miguel, Hannah, Kristin, Laurel and Marcel.
Steve Valentine 3:
The Ballroom Burn class doing their thang.
Steve Valentine 4:
The Ballroom Burn class in perfect form.
Steve Valentine 5:
Steve Valentine dancing with the late Dr. Irene May-Ling Hutchins. They raised half a million dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – the Top 5 campaign nationally for 2018.
Steve Valentine 6:
Steve Valentine and Robert Tristan (on the right) won the gold medal in the Latin DanceSport category at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany. They beat Denmark and the UK.
Get fit and inspired at Ballroom Burn
By Julianne Homokay
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
You enter the room, which is darkened except for the disco lights. Pitbull’s “Fireball” is thumping from the sound system. People have come dressed to dance.
Believe it or not, you’re not at El Patron Night Club in San Bernardino or even an event at Bizzyland. It’s Saturday morning and you’ve dragged yourself out of bed and over to Lake Arrowhead School of Dance for Steve Valentine’s “Ballroom Burn.”
You know that post-New-Year’s slump that happens at this time in January after two weeks of our already fading weight loss and exercise resolutions? Well, this class is so much fun, you’ll be chomping at the bit to get back and burn, baby, burn. This chilly Saturday morning’s class drew a baker’s dozen of participants, many of whom have been with Valentine since he began offering the class back in the spring of 2018. Now that he’s landed in spacious Studio One at Sharon McCormick’s dance school in Lake Arrowhead Village, there is always room for more participants.
The experience is similar to what you might encounter in a jazz dance class, with one major difference. “I think dance is a form of communication,” says Valentine, so he doesn’t “instruct” so much as dance with his students. It’s not a formal class, he says, “it is a party!”
The class begins with a series of stretches on the floor under only the disco lights, which draws you into the right mindset. Valentine is such an experienced dancer and teacher, the class flows seamlessly, as he teaches without notes and has his music pre-programmed.
After the stretch, the overhead lights come on, and the class moves into a series of isolations, which help provide toning, control and further warm-up while focusing on specific areas of the body. The fun continues as the class moves into across-the-floor exercises and choreographed sequences: cha cha, salsa, perhaps a little mambo. One choreographed sequence we worked on featured tango, cha cha and samba. We closed with a little rhumba and a cool-down. During the entire class, Valentine was indeed dancing with us, gliding around the room, providing individual attention when needed.
While a dance background helps, it is absolutely not necessary, as the class is low impact and Valentine is always concerned about avoiding injury.
“It’s awesome!” said a dancer named Sandy. “And this is only my second time.”
Although Valentine is continually bringing fresh moves in, he does focus on the same collection of combinations each week. “We have a repertoire of about 12 dances,” says Valentine. This way, his students can build up a familiarity to get the most possible benefit. “After the first day I took it, I had energy all day,” offered another dancer named Denise.
Valentine has found joy in dance all his life. “My Mom, Vinnie Valentine, taught me all those dances from the 60s,” he says (think the Twist, the Mashed Potato, etc.). During junior high and high school, it was common to find all his friends at his house for a dance party.
Given his accomplishments as a ballroom dancer, it’s a bit surprising to find out he didn’t begin formal dance training unti the first few clases he took at Ole Miss. Then while working as a PR guru in Los Angeles, he led a same-sex ballroom dance program he helped to found through the City of West Hollywood’s Recreation Services division. He recruited a world champion ballroom dancer to teach in that program, Robert Tristan, who helped Valentine to hone his talent, and also pushed him to compete at a higher level. Their dance partnership culminated in a gold medal at the Gay Games in Cologne, Germany, in 2010.
In fact, Valentine’s love of dance just might have saved his life. In 2015, tragedy struck, as Valentine was diagnosed with lymphoma. “It doesn’t have to be dance, but you have to have a goal, something you want to do to move through your illness and recover,” he says. And his desire to dance again kept him going.
In return, he was able to inspire his oncologist, Dr. Irene Hutchins, to dance again after a 10-year hiatus in favor of her medical education. “She was my angel,” Valentine says, “and it was wonderful for me to have inspired her… she had been an award-winning dancer herself.”
The pair made a promise to each other to dance together after Valentine recovered, and they went on to raise upwards of half a million dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with their ballroom performances, providing inspiration to others along the way. “Everyone is inspired by Steve,” said another one of his Ballroom Burn participants, Hannah. “I hope to do any one thing in life as well as Steve does.”
We have Valentine’s husband, James Miller, to thank for helping Valentine to become a committed member of the mountain communities. While Valentine was recovering, Miller, a dancer himself who teaches tap, ballet and jazz at Lake Arrowhead School of Dance, had a house on the mountain the couple would visit from Valentine’s home down in Burbank. “You need to take a step back and heal,” Miller insisted, and the couple began a full-time life on the mountain.
“It was hard for me at first, being an ‘L.A. guy’… now I’m the other kind of ‘L.A. guy,’ Lake Arrowhead,” Valentine says proudly. And his main goal is to impart to everyone a little joy: “that passion, that joy, that enthusiasm for life.”
It was evident from the 13 students who showed up for Ballroom Burn on Saturday that Valentine is accomplishing that goal in spades. Says Miguel, another loyal, long-time participant in the class, “If you want to get fit, Steve makes it a hit.”
Ballroom Burn is held 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, Thursda, and Saturday at Lake Arrowhead School of Dance, 28200 CA-189 S-140, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352. Jazz shoes (available at Studio Boutique) are recommended but not required.
Classes are $20 per single class, $150 for 10 classes, payable by cash, check or via Zelle to Stephen Valentine, (310)
489-0017. Your first class is always free.