Happy feet


Estonian couple Gert and Kirsti Roslender introduce dance to Westfield

By Navar Watson

From Estonia to Indiana, world-class dancers Gert and Kirsti Roslender are extending their passion to the Hamilton County community, opening their own facility, Aurelia Dance Studio, off Ind. 32 in Westfield.

“This idea of ballroom dancing is … something that people don’t know to take benefit (of) or don’t know to appreciate,” Gert said.

Born and raised in Estonia, a country just west of Russia, Gert started dancing at 9. Kirsti began at 4, and the two started dancing together around college. Together, they have represented Estonia five times in European and World Championships.

Having retired from competing together about 10 years ago, their new focus is to introduce people to “a different way to have fun,” Gert said, as well as a new way to stay healthy.

The Roslenders moved to the United States in 1998 for a job offer. Renting out various studios in Indiana and training competitive students, Gert and Kirsti opened up Aurelia Dance Studio as a way to teach more social dancing to the general public.

Many people deny their ability to dance, saying they lack rhythm or have “two left feet,” Kirsti said.

But learning rhythm just means learning to listen to the music, Kirsti said. In her several years of teaching, she’s never once encountered a person who physically couldn’t dance.

“You’d be surprised at how quickly (your feet) can get you moving,” said Dr. Mark Keen, Westfield Washington Schools’ superintendent and dancer.

Keen and his wife picked up social dancing about 17 years ago as an activity to do while their kids were at college. They’ve since competed at various national amateur ballroom championships for the past nine years.

“I’m living proof that anyone can be taught how to dance,” Keen said.

Keen said that the concept of baseball – a round bat hitting a round ball – is “extremely difficult,” but “most people don’t shy away from that.”

For some reason, men seem more reluctant to dance than women, he said. Gert said once men experiment with the activity, they realize the physical and mental benefits.

“It’s a very safe drug,” Gert said. “You just love it. You want to do it again and again and again.”

Keen, who completed a full and half-marathon last year, considers himself an athlete. However, he’ll break a sweat faster dancing than running, due to the mental and physical exercise combined. He called it a “stress reliever,” as focusing on the steps “takes your mind off everything else.”

“That’s the big part of it, I think, that is not really said enough – how good of a tear-up it is for people,” Gert said. “Especially people who are busy and have lots of stress.”

This level of physical and mental effort can also prevent or postpone health issues later in life, such as Alzheimer’s disease. According to the American Dance Therapy Association, “the motor action often sparks memories from the past, which in turn helps confused individuals become more alert and organized.”

Likewise, dancing helps slow down the effects of Parkinson’s disease, Kirsti said. She and Gert have trained students with Parkinson’s, as well as elderly people with hip replacements.

Elderly, supposedly on the “decline,” only get healthier with dancing, Gert said, improving their posture, coordination, balance and core strength.

For Keen, learning the steps comes easily, but nailing the technique is the hardest. Trainers like Gert and Kirsti adapt to the student’s learning style and break down the routine.

At the same time, Gert and Kirsti separate beginners from more advanced students, so the beginners don’t feel pressured or uncomfortable.

Though they do offer some introduction packages to ease people into dancing, Aurelia does not sell specific contracts, like most studios do. Kirsti said “it’s very important” to give the students freedom on what classes they want to take and how often they want to take them.

“We don’t try to … tie them down,” Gert said.

Now that they have opened their own studio, Gert and Kirsti hope “to get the place filled up with people.”

“We can talk about competitive things,” Gert said, “[but]to introduce … ballroom dancing to this particular area, I think, is the bigger goal.”

Aurelia Dance Studio offers group and private sessions, as well as a wide variety of dances – including Waltz, Tango, The Foxtrot, Cha-Cha, Salsa, Swing and many more.

For more information on Aurelia Dance Studio, 3198 E. Ind. 32, Westfield, including class and event prices, visit aureliadancestudio.com.