28th Lt learns to love ballroom dance

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Samuel King Jr.
  • 53d Wing Public Affairs
It all started with a flyer for a free ballroom dance lesson.

Five months later, 1st Lt. John Scheuren, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron, is now competing in and winning dance contests with his new-found hobby-turned passion.

Scheuren, a two-year active-duty lieutenant and MIT graduate, said he liked the idea of a free lesson and when he found out he'd be taught by Georgia Ambarian, World Cabaret Ballroom Champion, the hesitation vanished.

"It would be foolish not to at least try to learn," he said. "It would be like learning basketball from Michael Jordan ... learning from the best."

Lieutenant Scheuren enjoyed the lesson and decided to keep it up.

"It was a lot of fun and a tremendous workout," said the 24-year-old. "I wrestled in college and ballroom dancing was much more demanding physically than I ever expected."

The operations analyst picked up the steps and moves quickly, and the better he got, the more addicted he became.

"I was learning the basic steps, and then two weeks into it ... it just clicked," said Lieutenant Scheuren.

After four months of practicing at least 1-2 hours a day, Lieutenant Scheuren decided to enter a competition in Orlando, Fla.

At the competition, the Alexandria, Va., native would dance against 10-20 other couples at once. The dance styles ranged from swing, cha-cha, rhumba, bolero, mambo, hustle, samba, waltz, foxtrot and the tango. He and his partner would have to perform each style for only 90 seconds during each group heat.

"It's like controlled chaos," said the physics major. "Every couple is vying to get in front of the judges and perform their best move."

He came away from his first competition with 1st place in the newcomers, beginners and intermediate bronze divisions of the dance championships.

"Never thought I'd be in a dance competition ... let alone winning one," he said.

Now as a fellow mover and shaker, the lieutenant, dubbed "Tiny Dancer" by friends, has a tremendous respect for competitors and the celebrities on "Dancing with the Stars."

"It is amazing the amount of practice and concentration that goes into one performance," said the lieutenant. "There is such an inordinate emphasis on perfection of details that the heightened sense of alertness makes your mind and body very tired yet you still have to concentrate on smiling. Everything must be focused and beautiful."

His instructor says Lieutenant Scheuren is progressing greatly and hopes he will keep it up.

The energy and enthusiasm that John shows makes him a pleasure to work with," said Ms. Ambarian. "His work ethic will take him as far as his heart desires."

The lieutenant sees the progress he's made, but now (thinking like an analyst) he knows what it's going to take to try and reach perfection.

"I am worlds away from where I was five months ago," said the lieutenant, who also plays piano and is a trained professional baritone. "Every day I get significantly better but it never gets easier - it only gets harder. Once you fix the errors in your frame, timing and footwork, you realize there are thousands of important details missing that require massive amounts of concentration. Also, by fixing one thing, it highlights another two things that now need to be fixed. It's an ongoing, rather painful process, but I love it."

Even as a beginner the lieutenant is using his talent to entertain the community. He recently took the ladies of the Westwood Retirement Resort for a spin on the dance floor during their annual ball.

Lieutenant Scheuren is practicing daily now for his next event, a "much harder" competition in Sandestin Dec. 6-9.

"This will definitely be a test of where I am in terms of competition and training," he said.

The lieutenant said he regretted waiting this long to take up his new passion, and hopes those who've always wanted to or who are curious about it, will give it a try - because all it takes is one free lesson.