Get in the swing of things with The Groove Ballroom
By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer – The Co-owners of The Groove Ballroom met in Ridgecrest in dance classes and became good friends, long before becoming a couple and ultimately marrying. These two love to dance.
Burroughs graduates Anna Webber and Chris Millett are easy to spot around the region when they dance together. They have some pretty interesting moves and seem to move seamlessly together. They make it look easy; and to them, it is. You can often see them with a group of dancers from The Groove Ballroom who enjoy practicing their skills to a live band. One can feel the fun they are having just by watching them.
Once upon a time in the early 2000’s in Ridgecrest, dance classes were very popular. Anna was studying Swing Dance with Ken Sanger at Sierra Academy of Dance. At the same time, Chris, an engineer on Base, was taking ballroom dance classes with colleagues from a colleague, Ricky Fielding. He tells us, “I realized it didn’t have to be this social pressure date situation where you need a partner.” He was under the impression that, “there’s always romantic implications, which is really easy to interpret dancing from all you see in TV movies and the classic sitcom type stuff. So I realized that dancing is this other skill and I can go to a dance class by myself.”
Chris’ preference was swing music and he joined Ken Sanger’s class. He made it through the beginner level and then advanced to Intermediate. He says, “That was when Anna showed up for intermediate and that’s when we met, in late October 2006. So 16 years ago, and we’ve been dancing together pretty much ever since that December.”
Anna interjects, “When I figured out he also had enough interest in the dancing that maybe he would practice with me because I didn’t have anybody to practice with. We had been going down to Pasadena with Ken to take some classes from more professional instructors that taught more swing dance styles. We started going there on a regular basis and that’s how we became friends and started practicing together.”
Then Sierra Academy of Dance became busy with their repertoire of ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary dance. There wasn’t enough studio time available for the swing dancers to practice nightly. The dancers started meeting in each others’ homes to practice in their living rooms. That was when Anna decided to open a dance space.
The Groove Ballroom began in 2010 when Anna signed the papers and Chris assisted. “The goal for the Groove Ballroom was to open a studio that all of these different instructors in town could all use. I was trying to open up a place so people had a place to go every night of the week if they wanted to have a place. It was pretty popular for a couple of years. A lot of the instructors moved to so our dance community just kind of dispersed.”
Anna ended up buying a building for her pet grooming business, Good Time Groomin’. There was no room for a dance floor so the couple have been renting space at Hi Desert Dance. This simplified things and they have been offering classes there ever since. Like everyone else, they are working to rebuild after the pandemic.
Chris and Anna go to Lancaster almost every Wednesday to train with professional dancers. They still occasionally go to Pasadena for classes and social activities with the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association who have a live swing band every Saturday night with an average attendance of 300 to 500 people. When Stompy Jones, a band from the Bay Area, shows up in Pasadena attendance jumps to about 1,000 people. “A live band, $20 plus free dance lessons before the dance, you can’t beat that,” says Anna.
The swing dance world is a playground for these two enthusiasts. They travel around California to learn, dance, and sometimes compete. They won the Lindy Hop Competition several times at the High Desert Dance Classic in Lancaster at the City College. They have placed well in the East Coast Competition. “Each time we competed, we got one step closer, and then they stopped having it when COVID happened,” Chris says. Anna completes his thought by saying, “We’ll go back when they have it again.”
Get these kids started talking about dance and their enthusiasm bubbles over. They talk about being a lead or a follow. They explain how at social dances everybody switches partners following an etiquette. They talk about the history of social dance and how it has never been gender specific as to who follows and who leads and who dances with who. Chris elicits quite a laugh when he shares, “When I had a male teacher be the follow to show me something that I was doing wrong. I thought, ‘That’s weird, I’m dancing with a dude.’ Especially the first time I was learning salsa from an instructor from South America. He had me lead him through this move and it was, ‘I’ve never dipped a dude before.’”
As previously mentioned, Anna and Chris are a Mr. and Mrs. Married Couple. Chris tells us, “We were friends for so long. After her husband passed our friendship didn’t end; we just we grew closer. We don’t have a exact timeline but around the summer of 2013 we were able to say, ‘Hey, this has changed.’ I proposed Christmas Eve 2018.”
They didn’t set a date and couldn’t figure out how they wanted to proceed. Elope? Big Wedding? Small Wedding? In February 2019 they went to a friend’s wedding and thought, “This is nice. We should do this.” Seven months later they were married on the 21st of September in 2019. They chose the date to be sure Chris would never forget their anniversary. His birthday is one week before and the song, September by Earth Wind and Fire has the line “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” A grand time was had by all. The local classic rock band, Station Street, played for them.
You can almost always catch them dancing when Station Street plays. They also try to always be there when Big Band Xpress plays. They especially enjoyed when Pete Jacobs and his Wartime Radio Revue came to town, since the band frequently plays in Pasadena. “We enjoy the live music a lot,” says Anna. “It doesn’t even have to be swing music. It’s one of the things you learn the more you dance: you can dance to any music. It doesn’t have to be a specific type or style.”The Groove Ballroom offers various forms of lead and follow social dancing weeknights at Hi Desert Dance Center 725 S. Gateway in Ridgecrest. Feel free to drop in and watch a class. Experienced dancers can join in for $10 per class. Right now they are too deep into a six-week series, which builds in intensity as weeks go on and after two weeks it is usually too late to add a class. New series of classes will start at the beginning of the year. You can follow them on Facebook or call/text them at 760-384-8435. No partner needed.