Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stardust dancers see silver anniversary

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

This year marks the 25th anniversary for the Central Texas Stardust Ballroom Dance Club, and plans are underway to make it memorable.
The first special event is set for 8-11 p.m. July 11 at Strasburger Hall in Temple's Cultural Activities Center.
'It will be a military appreciation dance,' said president Nance Travis.
Admission for those with military IDs will be discounted by 50 percent.
'It's our way of saying 'Thank you for serving our country,'' Ms. Travis said. 'The sacrifices they have made and endured have not gone unnoticed.'
Then come Oct. 10, the club will have its anniversary dance.
'I'm very excited about the anniversary celebration,' Ms. Travis said. 'It will be wonderful. We hope to have a big turnout of our longtime members and club founders.'
Club founders will be welcome to attend the Oct. 10 dance for free if they register in advance with Ms. Travis at 254-213-1951.
So plans for future festivities are set, but the present is a time of anniversary, a time for reflection and memory. What is the Stardust Dance Club?
The Central Texas Stardust Dance Club launched in October of 1984 under the helm of Joyce and Herb Davis of Harker Heights.
'We were traveling back and forth to Waco to dance,' Mrs. Davis said. 'And the more we drove through Temple, the more we thought it would be a great place to have a dance club.'
So they enlisted the aid of Mildred Shine and Carl Vincent, both also of Harker Heights.
'They were friends we knew who also enjoyed dancing,' Mrs. Davis said.
Together, the four found seven couples who were interested in launching a Temple dance club. Mr. Davis served as the first president, Mrs. Davis was the secretary, Ms. Shine was the director and Vincent was the first vice president.
'It was perfect,' Mrs Davis said. 'Enthusiasm was high, and we all wanted to get dancing. To us, people are age, you see, dancing was the high form of entertainment. You dressed up, you listened to wonderful orchestra music and you danced in a ballroom.'
She was talking about the sort of dancing Fred Estaire did, 'dancing that had magic to it.'
Phadra and Lank Wilson of Killeen are two longtime Stardust dancers who know that kind of magic.
'Our first date was a dance, and we've been married for 61 years,' Mrs. Wilson said. 'So when the opportunity to join the club came about, we were quick to do so.'
A formal dress code was important to the Stardust club founders.
'The point is to have a fun, elegant evening,' Mrs. Davis said. 'And the way you're dressed has a lot to do with it. We ask for formal attire, and we have never had any trouble with that, never had to turn anyone away.'
For gentlemen, the dress is coat-and-tie, and for ladies, it is after-five.
'That's the way it started, and that's the way it is now,' said Ms. Travis, the current president.
Except when it's hot.
'In July and August, the guys usually take their coats off,' Ms. Travis said. 'But that's for comfort. The style should still be semi-formal.'

Growing pains
The Stardust Dance Club had its fair share of struggle as it expanded its membership from seven couples to more than 50 people.
'Paying the orchestra was a regular problem in the first few years,' Mrs. Wilson said. 'Everybody was paying dues, but it wasn't enough to pay the band, so a few of us had to chip in an extra $100 just to keep it going.'
Mrs. Davis remembers those days too.
'My husband and I looked at it as an investment,' Mrs. Davis said.
Their desire to dance and commitment to make it happen caught the attention of several people in the Central Texas area.
First were the administrators of the Cultural Activities Center. David Pennington, the CAC director at the time of the club's launch, said the Stardust dance group was one of several reasons the center needed to expand.
'Everything happened in Wendland Hall, and it was getting cramped,' Pennington said.
So the idea of a larger hall was born, and through grants and community contributions, some of which were from Stardust dancers, it became a possibility. And when Strasburger Hall was completed in the late 1980s, the Stardust dancers relocated.
'The dance group fits into our mission of promoting the arts,' said Terri Matthew, the CAC director of today. 'They're a fun group, and we're pleased to provide a venue for them to dance.'
Some local entertainers were also impressed with the Stardust dancers.
'A few became real good friends to the group,' Mrs. Davis said.
The Dick Thomas Band and the Don Vaughn Music Co. started entertaining for the club regardless of whether it could pay.

Nowadays

At the May Stardust dance, more than 150 people attended.
'Ages ranged from 15 to 90,' Mrs. Travis said.
And the ambience of the group, with the orchestra music and nice attire, remains the same.
'Not much has changed since it started,' Mrs. Davis said.
Mrs. Travis agrees, though she said the 'Dancing with the Stars' TV show has helped to increase public interest in dancing.
'But that's a TV show, it's not real dancing,' Mrs. Travis stressed. 'It's fantasy, escape and entertainment for the most part.'
Mrs. Davis, the dancer who helped found the club 25 years ago, wouldn't give the show that much credit.
'We're fairy disgusted with it,' Mrs. Davis said. 'It takes the beauty out of dancing.'
About to turn 80, Mrs. Davis and her husband can no longer dance because of physical aches and pains.
'But we do treasure our memories,' Mrs. Davis said. 'We visit the club some, but not a lot. To listen to an orchestra and not be able to dance is pure misery. So we took up bowling.'
Mr. and Mrs. Davis bowl with the same gusto as they used to dance. At present, they're preparing for a July bowling tournament in Las Vegas.
'But we are glad to have helped give the town such a nice place to dance.'

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