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Bringing the Charleston back to Charleston

By CHARLES MELTON

Editor

The old hardware store in Bremerton’s Charleston district has found new life as a ballroom thanks to Charleston Ballroom & Recital Hall owner Mary Schweiger.

The old building became available at an opportune time for Schweiger, who was looking for a way to devote her full attention to teaching dance.

“My husband was looking at my old yearbooks and saw that I had written down as one of my goals to open a dance studio,” she said. “At about that time the owner of the building offered it to me.”

While the building on Callow Avenue had all of the makings of a great ballroom, it took some effort to rediscover the interior’s charm, she said.

“It has great wood floors, which are perfect for ballroom dance,” she said.

With a large open space on the first floor and additional room on the second floor with a balcony, the ballroom is not only the perfect venue for lessons, but parties as well. In fact the ballroom will be the place for a New Year’s Eve ball from 8 p.m. Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 and tickets are $15.

Although Schweiger has taught numerous forms of dance in the past, ballroom dance is her passion.

“I love ballroom dance, and I’ve been teaching dance since I was 16,” she said.

The benefits of ballroom dance extended beyond the physical coordination and balance aspects, she said.

“It’s a great social activity, because it’s something for couples to do together,” she said.

After more than a decade as a substance abuse counselor and teaching dance on the side, Schweiger said the ballroom will receive her full attention once she closes her store in the Kitsap Mall after the first of the year.

Classes are taught in the evenings at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and are offered for beginners to advanced students, she said. Students as young as 10-years-old are learning how to dance.

“I’m working with a few couples who are preparing for ballroom dance competitions,” she said.

Those couples are a reflection of the increasing popularity of ballroom dance, which began long before the TV show “Dancing with Stars” started gaining a large viewing audience, she said.

“Ballroom dance has been popular in this area for a long time,” she said.

During the past year, Schweiger said she has seen her business grow largely through word-of-mouth and she has great expectations for the future.

When asked if her favorite ballroom dance was the Charleston, Schweiger quickly replied, “It’s the foxtrot, because of all of the pageantry.”

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