By Iuliana Petre

Killeen Daily Herald

Of the five couples who showed up for Stefan and Diana Easter's ballroom dance class at the studio at Criston's Dancewear in Killeen last Monday night, Tina Rabena and her husband, Col. Bill Rabena, an officer working at III Corps on Fort Hood, moved the most gracefully across the dance floor, a testament to the couple's commitment to dancing.

The Rabenas started dancing three years ago while stationed at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. It was then that Bill decided he was tired of standing by the bar during formal events while his wife, Tina, danced circles across the floor. The couple signed up for dance classes offered on post. When they moved to Killeen, Fort Hood did not offer a similar program.

The Rabenas discovered In The Mood Ballroom, a Temple-based dance company that offers lessons in Temple, Killeen and Lampasas.

"Now I think he enjoys dancing more than I do," Tina said.

Dancing has brought them closer together, Tina added. With four children and many years of marriage behind them, the Rabenas are able to reconnect as a couple when they're dancing.

"From the standpoint of being a military couple and going through constant separations, dancing has reconnected us. When you're dancing, you're not distracted by kids and other things. You're there, and it's good for that mental reconnection," Tina said.

In addition to its mental health benefits, dancing is also a fun way to trick the body into exercise, said Karen Gonzales, the owner of In The Mood Ballroom, a company she owns with her husband, Rudy. "Dancing can raise the heart rate anywhere from 80 to 120 beats per minute. That is the equivalent of any strength training or aerobic program and will build not only the heart's strength, but its endurance. Dancing, which uses a blend of isometric and isotonic resistance, builds beautiful muscle tone without building a lot of muscle mass."

And according to the American Journal of Medicine, dancing strengthens the joints, which is the best way to avoid arthritis, improves posture and balance, and boosts self-esteem and confidence.

"Bottom line about dancing, it offers a great health benefit, it's fun and you get to meet people," said Stefan Easter, a professional dance instructor with In The Mood Ballroom.

"It definitely gives you a workout. When you're on your feet and moving for two hours, you're burning quite a few calories," Tina said.

Reluctant dancers are reminded that many dance steps stay the same despite the change in dances. The music changes and the key is to tailor the steps to the rhythm of the music, Tina said.

"The thing about music is that once you understand how to break it up, beat-wise, you can dance to it," Easter said.

Gaining popularity through televised programs like "Dancing with the Stars," dancing has caught on with people of all ages.

"Television definitely puts dance in front of people, but ballroom dancing does not have to be so flamboyant," Gonzales said.

Ballroom dance includes many styles, including foxtrot, waltz, rumba, cha cha, swing, tango, mambo, bolero, samba and quick step. And you don't have to know how to dance to join the groups that meet regularly in Central Texas.

"Ballroom dancing is available in Central Texas at all levels," Gonzales said. "We're just giving people who are sick of the bars a place to dance."

Contact Iuliana Petre at or (254) 501-7469.

Grab your dancing shoes

In The Mood Ballroom offers classes in Killeen Monday nights in the dance studio at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church for $17 per person and in Lampasas at Hanna Springs Intermediate School. The dance lessons in Lampasas are offered as a four-week package, which costs $38 per person. For more information, or for group or private dance instruction, call (254) 773-7088 or visit In The Mood Ballroom's dance studio at 13 S. Main St. in Temple.

The Central Texas Stardust Ballroom Dance Club meets from 8 to 11 p.m. the second Saturday of each month at the Cultural Activities Center in Temple. Appropriate dress is after-five attire. For more information, call Nance or Lee at (254) 213-1951.

The Temple Cultural Activities Center sponsors lessons in various ballroom dances, with Stardust Advanced Dancers as instructors. Lessons are from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursdays at the CAC. A five-session class costs $25 per person. For more information, call Jo Ann or Ed Peeler at (254) 593-3101.

Central Texas College in Killeen teaches several ballroom, swing and Latin dance classes each semester as part of its community education program. Four, two-hour classes are $31 per person. For more information, or for schedules and specific offerings, call (254) 526-1586.

Prefer to watch?

A new season of "Dancing with the Stars" premieres at 7 p.m. Monday on ABC. The 13 contestants this season include Lil Kim, Denise Richards, David Alan Grier, Steve-O, singer Jewel and her husband, Ty Murray.

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