Competitive ballroom dancers not constrained by age

Jim Eller, right, and Mo Bloemsma practice their foxtrot in the La Puerta ballroom in preparation for an upcoming competition.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

You can teach a couple of spunky retirees to ballroom dance, though.

Mo Bloemsma, 71, and Jim Eller, 65, along with 15 other dance students of various ages from La Puerta Dance Studio, will compete at the Colorado Star Ball Friday and Saturday in Denver. More than 6,500 entries have been submitted for the competition.

This will be the second competition of the duo’s career. The couple also danced at last year’s Star Ball.

The twosome took first place in all three dancing events they entered last year. This year, though, ailments may stand in their way.

“This year, I don’t know, because I have a little bit of a back problem at the moment and Jim has a little bit of a knee problem. So how good we’re going to do this year, we don’t know,” Bloemsma said. “But we’re going to give it a stab anyway.”

The pair practices at least three times a week, sometimes for up to three hours at a time. They will compete at the bronze, or beginning, level in the swing, rumba, foxtrot and tango.

Ballroom dancing is still rather new to the couple. They met five years ago, but only have been dancing together for the past two. They decided to try something different, and soon found themselves in a ballroom dancing class.

“We found out about a dance studio here in Grand Junction that was teaching ballroom, so we decided to go give it a shot and see what the ballroom was like. And we haven’t looked back,” Eller said.

The duo soon discovered that ballroom dancing was more than just swirling and twirling around a dance floor.

“It’s great exercise for anybody, but especially when you start getting older like we are. It not only gets you out and gives you physical exercise, but it makes you learn new skills and it makes you think,” Bloemsma said.

“If you want to stay halfway sharp in your old noggin, get out there and dance,” Eller added.

In addition to the health aspect, ballroom dancing gave the couple a chance to get spruced up in fun and elegant attire.

“I always wanted to be the fairy princess, and now I get to be the fairy princess,” said Bloemsma, who will be sporting two different bright pink dresses during the Star Ball.

The flamboyant fabric is sure to attract the attention of the judges, who will be watching the dancing duo closely.

“They judge us on our appearance, our posture. They judge us on our showmanship and steps,” Bloemsma said.

“And whether or not you trip over her dress on the way down to the floor,” Eller quipped.

So, do Bloemsma and Eller plan to continue dancing after the ball and into the future?

“Nah, we’re quitting tomorrow,” Eller joked.

Besides, it’s too early to quit.

They still have plenty of new tricks to learn.


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