Off-season dancing and music gets us moving

Left to right, Janet Holladay and Tom Carberry; Roger Mitchell and Christine MacLean practice their swing dance moves. —Courtesy of Ballroom Dancers MV

As a child, I loved to dance. I took ballet lessons for a while, but quit because I was afraid of the dance instructor who taught the older students, one room over. He had long dark hair, Superman-size thighs, and carried a stick. Each week I’d hear a thwacking sound coming through the wall. I thought he was hitting the students. Turns out he was just keeping time. 

In college I danced with abandonment — at parties, in friends’ dorm rooms, and if the mood struck, I’d twirl around in random parking lots. Then I stopped dancing completely. I have no idea why. Not long ago, I said to my husband, “On Saturday night, we’re putting on techno music and dancing in the living room.” Luckily he was game, and we let it rip. It was fun (and a tad exhausting), and we both wondered why we don’t dance more often. 

According to, we were all dancers at some point in our lives. Babies as young as 3 weeks old already sync their movements to music they’re exposed to. Dance combines exercising, listening to music, and connecting with others, and transports us into a state of flow, which regulates our biological systems and nourishes our health. 

The folks of Ballroom Dance MV clearly recognize the benefits of dancing; they’ve been learning and dancing together since 1996. Members practice all types of ballroom dance, including swing (East Coast and West Coast), salsa, mambo, cha-cha, rhumba, bolero, samba, fox trot, English waltz, Viennese waltz, quickstep, tango, and, sometimes, Argentine tango. 

When COVID hit, however, it put quite a damper on the group. “That was a rough time,” Janet Holladay, a member of Ballroom Dance MV, said. Holladay arranges the dance lessons and keeps Ballroom Dance MV afloat during the winter, when attendance is low. Since the pandemic, Ballroom Dance MV has gone through a lot of changes. They lost their dance venues, and disappeared for a while. But in summer 2022, a core group of dancers got together privately to maintain dance skills, and in October 2022, they teamed up with Island Theatre Workshop, and were able to secure space at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Vineyard Haven. 

”When we returned after COVID, it was a smaller group than we’d originally had,” Holladay said. “Sadly, some folks passed away, and I think some people just got used to being at home. So we wanted to invite more people to join us, and get people out.” 

And voilà, Local Off-Season Dancing and Music was born. On Sunday afternoons from January through May, several Island bands are collaborating with Ballroom Dance MV and hitting the stage. “Our goal is to keep the music and dancing going year-round,” Holladay said. “People have gotten used to just staying in, but there is so much evidence that being social is really good for you.” 

All Ballroom Off-Season Dancing and Music sessions are free and co-sponsored by the Vineyard Haven library, in collaboration with Pathways Arts. The 2024 bands playing include Serendipity, Delanie and Johnny, Darby and Sam, Becky and Rich, Barbara and Jessie, Andy Herr Duo, Jessie and Rock, DJ Smooth B, and the Flying Elbows. 

“The bands who are playing are all very excited,” Holladay said. “Winter can be hard, and these Sunday events give the bands a place to play, and give people a reason to get out of the house.” 

Island musician Johnny Hoy appreciates the opportunity. “We like playing these family-friendly kinds of gigs for all the kids and people who don’t go to bars at night to listen to music,” Hoy said. “It’s an alcohol-free scene where you can dance, or just hang out and tap your foot, and watch people of all ages (not to mention Delanie and I) having a nice time.”

If you think you can’t dance, you’re not alone, but the goal isn’t to be Misty Copeland. You can just tap your foot, as Hoy suggests, or simply close your eyes and let your body take over. It knows how to move. “Not my body,” you say? Well, you can also take lessons. Ballroom dance lessons are held on the first Saturday of the month at the West Tisbury library. 

“People can come to a lesson on Saturday and then join us on Sunday when the bands are playing,” Holladay said. “It’s so much fun, and it’s so important to keep socializing.”

Ballroom Off-Season Dancing and Music gatherings are held at the Unitarian Universalist Society on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. To learn more about Ballroom Dance MV, and to see the list of bands and the dates they’re playing, visit