A Davenport dentist and his wife are, uh, “impacted” by ballroom dancing.
Dr. Lynn Griebahn Jr. and his wife, Brenda, say that their hobby has increased their physical and mental abilities. The Griebahns, who dance together almost every day, have been dancing for eight years and have competed for four years.
The Griebahns, now 58, were 50 when they heard television and radio host and musician John Tesh discuss the benefits of dancing.
“He said the best way to minimize your risk of Alzheimer’s is to do ballroom dancing and learn martial arts,” said Lynn, who also learned kung fu.
A friend, he said, is 60 and is debilitated by Alzheimer’s disease.
“One of the things I learned is that gross motor movement actually prevents Alzheimer’s more than we think,” he said. Large movements, such as those required in ballroom dancing, are more difficult for the brain, he said.
“When you do a complex movement with your brain, like a rumba, that takes a lot of memory,” he said.
They decided to pursue ballroom dancing as a hobby, something they could do together. They are members of USA Dance, a sanctioning association.
In 2012, they competed for the first time in a national competition in Chicago.
“We went into competition with all these people who had been dancing for 20 years. We got 17 out of 17 couples,” Griebahn said. He comforted his wife, who was in tears. “Brenda, next year we’re going to win,” he promised her, and so they did in their age category.
Now the Griebahns, who have a coach, have sunk their teeth into ballroom dancing. They dance at several qualifying events annually. They are not professionals, he emphasized. They do 11 dances, all of which require certain movements. The waltz, for instance, involves 50 different types of steps, he said.
He admits he is very competitive. Some time ago, their competitors were friends “when they were beating us,” he said. “Now they won’t talk to us.”
Dancing does not come naturally to Griebahn, who says his wife is graceful, but, “This is very, very hard for me.” Meanwhile, he says he “thinks better” and can make better decisions. And his physical reflexes have improved, too.
“We like to call ourselves ambassadors for dance,” said Brenda, who wishes other people could realize how much dancing can improve their physical and mental health.
“I’m in some of the best shape I’ve been in since I was in college,” said Brenda, who used to teach aerobic dance exercise. “It’s a great cardio workout as well, especially if you stay on the dance floor.”
She thinks “Dancing with the Stars” and other dance-based television shows have helped make dancing more popular.
She is happy to see younger people embracing the activity.
“When we go to a competition, the college kids come. Those are the biggest group of people that are dancing right now, and our age is actually the fastest-growing.”
Additionally, the sparkly attire is an attraction, she said. “It’s fun to dress up and be a fairy princess.”