Three generations of dance

First Posted: 2/23/2015

CLARKS GREEN — Dance instructor Jill Wetzel follows in her mother’s footsteps.

Wetzel’s mother, Nancy Santore, 75, of Benton Township, took round dance lessons from her parents in Connecticut when she was 36 years old.

Santore didn’t have a babysitter for Jill, so she took her along to lessons.

“Jill started so I wouldn’t have to get a babysitter for her,” Santore said. “I wanted to do some other type of dancing. I was a single mom and I needed a social activity and I didn’t have enough money for a babysitter, too, so we all danced.”

“I danced with my grandfather,” said Wetzel, also of Benton Township.

When Santore was 45 years old, she took ballroom dancing lessons in New York City.

“I think dancing involves your body, your mind and your soul, or at least your heart. It lets you leave all of your worries and cares behind and you’re in a place where everybody is having a good time,” said Santore.

Santore taught adult education programs in Connecticut and New York and then in Pennsylvania when she moved here in 1996. She and Wetzel have taught classes together and the mother-daughter dance team agrees they love to teach and “like to perform.”

Now Wetzel teaches with her husband, Gehred.

“I started ballroom dancing just after college when I was 22,” Jill said. “That’s when I took lessons with Gehred. He is a good dancer. I was 23 when we waltzed at our wedding. It made my father-in-law cry.”

Beginning March 4, Wetzel will share her affinity for dance with children and youth, ages 10 to 18 on Wednesday evenings at the Waverly Community House, 1115 N. Abington Road, Waverly. During the two five-week beginners’ “Dance Class for Children & Youth” sessions, she’ll teach the Mambo, Merengue and Cha Cha in session one, March 4 to April 8 and Waltz, Foxtrot and Swing in session two, April 15 to May 20.

“(My mother) taught me how to teach,” said Wetzel. “(Gehred and I) took lessons for two-and-a-half years and then when (Gehred) got busy with his medical practice, he didn’t have time to dance anymore, and so that’s when mom and I started teaching together (in 1998). She was the teacher and I was the assistant, and then when I improved enough, I was the teacher and mom was the assistant.”

In 2000, the Wetzels took a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina to explore the Argentine Tango and when Santore retired from teaching dance in 2003, Gehred became Jill’s assistant and has been teaching with her for the past 12 years in Tunkhannock, with the Abington Area Community Classroom (AACC) and the Waverly Community House. Jill also taught solo at Vince Brust Studio from 2000 to 2003 and offers Zumba classes on at 9 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Factoryville Borough Hall.

Although Wetzel has taught many adult classes, the upcoming children’s class is a first for her. “My daughters, Maria and Grace, are my inspiration for the class,” she said. “I love seeing them (the children) being successful. A lot of times they come in thinking they’re not going to be able to do it. But, really, anyone can learn to dance. It just takes some instruction and some practice. They’re usually amazed with what they can do. They surprise themselves quite a bit and I love seeing that transformation.”

Daughters Grace, 18, and Maria, 11, are also avid dancers. Grace has taken ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom and lyrical (modern) dancing; and Maria enjoys ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom and monthly Contra dancing classes with her mother. Maria also helps her mother choreograph Zumba routines.

“When you’re dancing, it’s fun to learn to do it with other people your age because you’re all learning it together and no one is singled out,” said Maria.

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