Not too many things can intimidate a judge, but the thought of taking dance lessons left John S. Ridge feeling a bit apprehensive.
Earlier this year, Ridge, the longtime judge of Norwalk's municipal court, and his wife, Joyce, signed up for the ballroom/social dance lessons offered at the Ernsthausen Community Center. The daughter of family friends was getting married, so the Ridges joined them and the engaged couple who were preparing for the wedding.
Ridge recalled "thinking it would be intimidating" for someone who believes he has no skills on the dance floor. "My wife was looking forward to it," he added.
But as Timothy and Annessia Nyman from Black Tie Dance Studio in Sandusky taught them dances such as the foxtrot, waltz and tango, the Ridges began to feel comfortable and have fun.
"Once we did it, it was very enjoyable more than I thought it would be," the judge said.
The Nymans are offering the next session of ballroom/social dance classes on Sunday afternoons in the mini gym at Ernsthausen. Nyman and his wife will guide students through the foxtrot, waltz, rumba, swing, tango and more.
Level 1 classes take place from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and Level 2 from 4 to 5:30 p.m., beginning this Sunday and running through Dec. 16.
Participants must be 16 years or older to register. The cost is $16 per couple at time of registration, and $50 paid to the instructors at the first class. The registration deadline is Friday.
Dance lessons offer many benefits, whether the students are couples or single.
"I don't think there is anything a couple can truly do together like dance lessons," Nyman said. "They can play sports or games, but they're not as together as when they're dancing."
As for those looking for a significant other, "social dancing is a good way to meet people outside the bar scene," he added.
Because it involves physical exercise, dancing promotes good health. And not to be overlooked is the mental health aspect. As people learn, practice and get through the various dances, they build confidence and gain a sense of accomplishment, Nyman said.
Ridge sees another benefit. "Now when I watch people who can dance, I appreciate the skills they've developed," he said. "At weddings or other social functions like that, you can tell if people have taken lessons and been successful at them."
The judge said he likes the instructors and the opportunity the rec center offers for people who want to try something new.
Hit TV shows such as "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance" have caused a surge in dance interest, Nyman said, particularly among people as young as 7, 8 and 9 and into the teens.
The Nymans opened their studio in April 2005 after purchasing and refurbishing the former Erie County Detention Home at 1319 Tiffin Ave. in Sandusky. In addition to teaching private and group lessons, the couple also perform dance demonstrations and teach at corporate events, such as conferences and holiday parties.
The Nymans are accomplished dancers, having earned high placements in student and professional competitions across the country, as well as many "top teacher" awards.
Other combined accomplishments for Nyman and the former Annessia Kerkhoff include choreographing musical theater and choreographing and performing in individual dance shows, as well as being certified to teach bronze, silver and gold in multiple syllabi and previously running successful studios in Minnesota and Colorado.
The Nymans came to Sandusky by chance. While vacationing at Disney World, they decided they wanted to escape the big city life. So they began researching places along lakes and discovered Sandusky's Web site.