Dance Dimension of Sandy, operated by Paul and Michelle Wilding, takes a professional attitude toward ballroom dancing - an indoor sport that many regard as a social pastime; and its winning ways are proof of the studio's effectiveness.
On Aug. 31 in Costa Mesa, Calif., at the Embassy Ball (the yearly competition of the U.S. Amateur Ballroom Dance Association), Dance Dimension dancers won or placed in a dozen categories.A star of the event was one of the youngest dancers - Jason Turner, 14. He and his partner Mindy Wilding, 17, won first place in all junior couples categories - waltz, fox trot, cha cha and swing.
This led to Jason and Mindy's being declared overall title winners in the junior division.
Team honors also came to the Dance Dimension, which took second place in the senior division for dancers 18 and older, with Brigham Young University taking first place. Dance Dimension also won first place in modern dance formation, junior division, for dancers 13-18.
Among couples, Andrea Nielson and Steve Crump won second place in fox trot and waltz, third in swing, and sixth in cha cha. Leanne Prince and Phillip Kimball won fifth in fox trot, with Janna Benson and Rex Jensen placing sixth in waltz.
Jason Turner has been studying with Dance Dimension since he was 11. Mindy (the Wildings' daughter) says she's been studying "forever." A senior at Hillcrest High, she's had many years' training in ballet and jazz, and dances with the modern dance club at Hillcrest.
Jason, a ninth-grader at Midvale Middle School, comes by his dancing interest naturally, since both his mother and grandmother dance. In fact, his grandmother met her husband through ballroom dancing. Jason had no dance training before Dance Dimension, just came to a class, liked what he saw and dove in.
When preparing for competition, the dancers put in at least four hours a day rehearsing. "Then Jason and I practice two or three hours on our own," said Mindy. Both would go professional if they thought they could make it; if not, both are interested in medical careers.
Jason and Mindy admitted to getting "jitters" before they compete. "It's very exciting, you work so hard, but when you do good, it's worth all the effort," said Mindy. "We pump a lot of energy," said Jason. "I get nervous, but Mindy goes for it."
Paul Wilding feels that frequent experience in a competitive situation helps his young dancers win. "We go to the BYU competitions in November and April, and Ricks College in the spring," he said. "We also usually go out of state in the spring, and to the Embassy Ball, which is held on the Labor Day weekend." The group is trying to raise money to go to Blackpool, England, next May to compete in one of ballroom dance's most prestigious events.
Wilding feels sure that if teenagers knew his kind of dance development and fun were available, more of them would participate. "It's not only a great artistic expression, it can turn young people around," he said. "We have taken kids in here that didn't know which way they were going, and with a new sense of direction, they make good changes in their lives. Dancing also develops social skills, poise and enthusiasm. These kids are not into boyfriend-girlfriend relationships at the studio, but they build each other's confidence and self-esteem."
Dance Dimension has three competition teams of eight couples each - senior, junior and novice. The studio has a total of 50 to 60 teenagers, from West Valley, Holladay, Sandy, Midvale and Draper - mostly south valley, though students are welcome from anywhere.
The Wildings make their living through Dance Dimension, and though it operates on a shoestring financially, they don't sell contracts. The students pay as they learn. Wilding does some of the choreography himself, but for major competitions he hires a professional choreographer from Las Vegas.
The group's attractive costumes are all made by the Wildings, the dancers and volunteer parents, many of whom do elaborate detailing such as beading, sequins on lace, feathers and flowers.
Jill Turner, Jason's mother, thinks highly of the opportunity that Dance Dimension offers. "It gives the kids a chance to shine, and superior training," she said. "They learn a skill that helps them through their teen years, and transplants into all periods of life. They learn to survive a pressure-filled situation. Some of them make big, positive turnarounds socially and in their self-image."