- Associated Press - Monday, June 26, 2017

EAST LYME, Conn. (AP) - Jessica Megargle moved to town at age 17 to live with her grandmother and take lessons at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in downtown Niantic.

Five years later, she bought the place at the former location of a car repair shop with the help of a partner.

“I was a student for two years and taught for four years,” Megargle recalled this month during an interview at her Main Street business.

Her grandmother Claudia Post, she said, “saw the spark in my eyes” and encouraged her ballroom dancing despite Megargle having only a couple of years of ballet under her belt.

“It wasn’t too late to start,” she said.

She found a partner in 2008 to buy the business, she said, because the Arthur Murray franchise has a rule that a studio owner must be at least 25 years old. But two years ago she bought out her partner to become sole owner.

Now, the studio is gearing up for its 30th anniversary celebration next Saturday, July 1. The event will include four free one-hour workshops starting at 3 p.m., followed by a ribbon cutting at 7:30, and the Rock and Soul Review Band playing until 11 p.m.

“We’ll be dancing through the night,” Megargle said.

And that’s nothing new for the Arthur Murray studio, which regularly invites walk-ins to come out and enjoy an evening of dance for $15. And lest anyone get the wrong impression, Megargle said the Niantic studio may be the only one in the state that regularly has more men than women drop in - plus, three of the seven dance instructors are male.

Megargle said she is hoping to bring back the allure of ballroom dancing in an era when manners and romance seem to be on the wane.

“There is a connection dancing with partners that doesn’t exist when dancing with yourself,” she said.

One of the main motivators of taking dance lessons, Megargle said, remains couples wanting to improve their moves for upcoming weddings and cruises. Empty nesters whose children have all left for college and people looking to add a spark to their marriage also are often attracted to ballroom dancing, she said.

Some of the favorite dance steps these days include the West Coast swing and Zouk, a Brazilian street dance. The Niantic studio teaches more than 20 of the 30 favorite ballroom dances, Megargle said, and she estimated about 15 percent of her clientele enjoys competitive dancing.

“We travel a lot for competitions,” she added

Megargle said the studio does a ton of private lessons, which cost $98 an hour, but it also has group lessons at $15. While the studio used to charge by the month, it now offers drop-in dancing and parties to entice more people to see what they’re missing.

Megargle said a common concern is finding enough time in a busy week to enjoy dancing, but she pointed out that even local doctors have decided to work Arthur Murray into their schedules.

“If you find something you love, you make the time,” she said. “This, to them, is their therapy.”

Online: https://bit.ly/2sILouv

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Information from: The Day, https://www.theday.com

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