It's not everyone that gets their childhood dance lessons from a Radio City Music Hall Rockette, but Karen Shackleford did.
"I remember as a young child staring with awe at the photos she had hanging on the wall of her studio," says Shackleford. She went on to study social dance, teach it and take part in ballroom dance competitions. Today she is the owner of the Queen City Ballroom Dance Studio in Manchester, where students young and not-so-young learn the latest steps.
What do you like most about teaching dance? I like knowing that through my work I have helped countless students increase their self-esteem and find a healthy, positive focus in their lives. Over the years I've received many letters from students, thanking me for helping them change their lives. Seeing fairytale endings of students who met at the studio and later married ... that gives me a nice warm feeling, too.
What's the most popular dance? The upbeat and club-style dances seem to be most popular right now -West Coast swing and salsa.
What's your favorite dance? Rumba. No, samba. Uhhh, I think it's tango. I give up. Meet me on the dance floor and we'll figure it out there.
How hard is it to learn? Anyone can learn ballroom dancing. When new students explain to me with great concern that they have two left feet, I tell them, "Don't worry. We have right feet in stock."
Have dance shows like "Dancing With the Stars" boosted business? We have seen a positive impact. The show increases awareness of ballroom dancing. It may also serve to motivate those who may have ruled it out because they thought they might not be able to do it or it would take too long to reach a certain level of proficiency.
Do you watch it? I am often working when the show airs, however I faithfully watched it last season to cheer for Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya. They captured my heart when they visited our studio last March to use some rehearsal space as they were preparing for the show while Evan was in town for a skating show at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Why do competitors dress formally? "The look" is very much a part of the formula needed to win a competition. Dresses that swirl around when a lady turns, shoes with heels that elongate the leg line, makeup and hairstyles that "pop" - that's how to catch a judge's attention.
Do you see the interest in ballroom dancing continuing? Ballroom dancing, because it is based on music, will always have a fresh look and appeal.