Lakeview School District, Battle Creek, Mich.
Born In: Flint, Mich.
Lives In: Battle Creek, Mich.
Married to Judy, a teacher. Three children: Jeremy, 32, Holly, 30,
and Erik, 28.
After his wife won a complimentary lesson at a local ballroom dancing studio, Paul Yettaw, foodservice director at 3,500-student Lakeview School District in Battle Creek, Mich., quickly fell for the art form.
“My wife got a phone call that said we had won a free lesson. It was fun, but from my perspective, it was a little overwhelming. You have all these different moves and the man has to lead. We finished the lesson and they talked to us about signing up for five lessons. We signed up. That was 12 years ago. We’ve been doing it ever since. It’s our date night. Usually we go out for the lesson and then go out to dinner afterward.
In the beginning I was apprehensive because you see these people who can really dance and I’m going, I don’t think I can do that. It took a few times to where I thought I could do it. You get your confidence up. We were new at the studio and some of these people had been there three or four years. We would look at them in awe and say, ‘They make it look so easy.’
After several years at the studio, we were asked to do a showcase. You work with the instructor and she choreographs a routine for you and then at one of the parties at the studio you get to perform in front of everybody. It was for two minutes, but it was probably the longest two minutes of my life. I was very nervous, but we got through it.
There are three different levels in ballroom dancing: bronze, silver and gold. I always said that I just wanted to dance for the fun of it, but as we learned and progressed, I said we should really start looking at testing out of the bronze level so we could get some more material and steps to learn. The studio director is the one who sits in on the testing. You have all the different dances and within each dance you have to know 10 moves proficiently. During testing, they will say, ‘I want you to do this move and this move,’ and you have to be able to do it flawlessly. We tested out and we are studying in the silver division.
About three years ago, we thought about competing in Chicago. At LAC (Legislative Action Conference for the School Nutrition Association), I broke my foot, so by the time I did all the rehab I couldn’t compete. My wife went with an instructor to compete. The following year we both went and competed in the bronze level. We didn’t do badly. Last June, we decided to compete again in the silver division. We did 11 dances. We placed first in all 11.
Waltz is probably my all-time favorite. I also like the Viennese waltz, the quick step and the swing.
My youngest son was hired by the studio to be an instructor. He learned a lot faster than us because he was doing it eight hours a day. One of the things that was frustrating for me was I would learn a new move and get to the studio the next week and the instructor would say do this move and I couldn’t. I have to do it six or seven times before it sets in.
My favorite parts of ballroom dancing are learning new steps and the camaraderie that you have with the people at the studio. For us, it’s nice when there are new couples that come up to us and say, ‘You guys make it look so easy.’ I always tell them that I know exactly what they are going through. It just takes time and practice.
It’s fun when we go to a wedding reception and people say, ‘Wow, you guys really know what you’re doing.’ I always chuckle and say, ‘Well, after 12 years I better know what I’m doing.’”