Studio 6 Ballroom, located in the heart of Tacoma's Sixth Avenue business district, celebrated its grand opening this month and showed off some great improvements to the place that owners Natasha Thayer and Wes Rogers are very excited to share with the community. Maia Santell and House Blend provided live music for the event, and the ballroom was packed wall to wall with dancers of all abilities enjoying this unique space. A nightclub and ballroom came together for an enjoyable and unique evening out on the town for couples and singles of all ages.
"We're always changing, adapting and growing because we want this to be a community place, a dance place and a social avenue - a ballroom you can feel comfortable coming to," Rogers said.
Having opened less than a year ago, Studio 6 is shaping up to be a real community center, where visitors are encouraged to hang out and enjoy the place. A new lounge area at the back of the ballroom offers plush couches, and the dance floor is always open to those who wish to practice their steps or take lessons from Thayer, a national titleholder and the South Sound's only master coach with more than a decade of experience.
Thayer specializes in working with novices, especially those who have certain fears about dancing. She's started a "Chicken's Class" on Saturdays at 6 p.m., specifically designed to help new dancers lose apprehension and gain confidence.
"People are really wonderful in there because they're in a class where everyone else is as scared as you," Thayer said. She makes students comfortable by tailoring lessons to the individual, maintaining sensitivity and respect for all her students, which in turn fosters an enjoyable, and accelerated, learning experience. She said she enjoys boosting her students' confidence and social ease.
"I have always loved helping people. That's a lot of fun for me. I love figuring out different ways of approaching something for someone until it clicks for them."
Rogers said that before he met Thayer, he wouldn't be caught dead on a dance floor. Now, he owns his own ballroom, a testament to Thayer's teaching skills.
"When I first started taking lessons from her, I was totally paranoid," he said. "I didn't want to step on to the dance floor, and I didn't even tell my friends I was taking dance. I want students who are as nervous as I was to feel comfortable because that's half the learning. If you're comfortable here you're going to learn a lot better than if you're nervous and not quite sure."
Hosting swing band Maia Santell and House Blend one Wednesday each month is new at Studio 6, and the owners hope to bring the band in more frequently as interest in the event grows. Prior to the band taking the stage Thayer and other instructors spend time teaching swing dance basics or intermediate and advanced lessons to whomever wishes to learn.
Santell said she couldn't be happier with her new gig. She was raised in a family of dance band musicians, so she knows what the people want. "We're just so glad to be there," she said. "The way that we play, because our rhythm section is so phenomenal and we've all been playing music since high school, we know the rhythms and tempos they want. That's the key to it."
Rogers and Thayer said their business plan, which has proven quite successful so far, is largely based on making Studio 6 an all-inclusive ballroom that not only welcomes dancers of all levels, but everyone who wants to enjoy the inviting space. A new class for same-sex couples, appropriately called "Fred/Fred and Ginger/Ginger Class," is just getting off the ground. A preview will be given June 28, and those interested in participating can call to confirm a spot; a $5 fee will be collected at the door.
These and other new events happening at the ballroom will be scheduled regularly if enough people attend, Rogers said. "If people come out and support this, we can make it a regular event."
Wednesday nights are also for country dancing with two-step lessons given at 7:30 p.m. by instructor Joseph Wasser, who has trained and competed in country, swing and ballroom dances.
Sunday nights are Tango nights at Studio 6 when, from 5-7:30 p.m., dancers of all levels are invited to come by and practice their steps ($5). Then everyone heads out to the Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn for live Latin bands in Club Galaxy.
Friday nights are also dedicated to Salsa. Natasha teaches the basics at 8:30 p.m., then at 9:30 it's time for club-hopping on Sixth Avenue, including Masa across the street where DJ Alsay Productions spins Salsa music every Friday and Saturday night.
Rogers said that's the nice thing about being located on Sixth Avenue - Studio 6 is surrounded by restaurants, taverns and clubs like Jazzbones and Chopstix so that one can leave the car parked and enjoy going out to multiple places in the neighborhood.
"I love this business district. Everybody works together to make this avenue the place people want to be. Come down to Sixth Avenue and make a night of it," he said. "There's so much to do."
Rogers and Thayer are continually coming up with ways to make Studio 6 better, including having their eyes set on the space upstairs from the ballroom where they hope to create a separately-themed room with a private dance floor and possibly a beer and wine lounge.
Complete information on everything Studio 6 Ballroom has to offer is on their website at www.studio6ballroom.com. Or, call them at (253) 905-5301. The ballroom is located at 2608 Sixth Ave.