The origins of "Ballroom Dance, MV" date back to the spring of 1996 at the parish hall of St. Andrew’s in Edgartown. The group did not officially have a name, but sometimes was known as simply Ballroom Dance or MV Ballroom Dance. Jack Burton, and his dancing partner, Carol Carrick, can be credited with the organization of the first dances. They attracted novice dancers and not-so-novice dancers to attend the Sunday evening informal event, complete with dance instruction.
When Jack Burton and Carol Carrick started dating in the early nineties, the thing they most enjoyed doing was ballroom dancing. But where could you do it on Martha's Vineyard? Occasionally, there were a few Saturday night dances at the Legion Hall, The Hot Tin Roof or The Atlantic Connection, where you could do a few foxtrots, swings or maybe a latin dance, if you requested it from the band or DJ. The only public room with a good wooden floor on the Island that they had access to, was the parish hall at St, Andrews Episcopal Church in Edgartown, where Jack was a member of the congregation. So they put up posters around town, a notice in the church bulletin, and the Vineyard Gazette, and asked for a $3 donation to pay for the $30 rental of the room. Jack bought a $20 cassette tape player and recorded dance music. At first, most of the people who showed up were church members, but soon word got around, and people came from other towns.
Jack and Carol were surprised to find that people knew only a few basic ballroom steps, so they started teaching a different dance every night. Jack and Carol sought out other dance loving couples. Tom and Dorothy Newton responded to their ad seeking dancers and joined Jack and Carol in giving dance instructions. Christine and Ted Box joined. They quickly mastered the steps and began instructing along with Jack, Carol, Dorothy and Tom. Georgia Ireland also joined early on, and brought her love of music and dance every week. (She passed away in 2009.)
At the end of each Sunday evening dance session, the group would gather in a circle and discuss the music and dances and lessons. Sunday evening dancing continued at St. Andrew's until people started complaining that there were few parking spaces in down-town Edgartown during the summer months. Carol then started contacting other places to dance during the summer, such as The Sailing Camp in Oak Bluffs, The Edgartown Boys and Girls Club, The Hebrew Center, The Vineyard Haven School, Grace Episcopal parish hall and the Chilmark Community Center. Some of these sites worked out for the summer, but none for any length of time. Finally, the group ended up at Fanny Blair Hall of the Nathan Mayhew Seminars in Vineyard Haven. During the summer, when they have to give up the premises to a large paying group, they move to a different locale. The last few years, until 2016, the summer dances have been held at the Portugese American Club. The location would move in the summer to the Portuguese American Club in Oak Bluffs, and sometimes the Senior Center at Oak Bluffs, and then back to Fanny Blair Hall in Vineyard Haven, until summer.
Meanwhile, Tom Carberry and Janet Holladay joined, and became the group’s swing and jive masters. Janet, an avid dancer, keeps track of, and particpates in almost all the dance events on the island. Tom Carberry teaches dancing at the Community Education. Harriet Bernstein, another dance afficianado, joined the group in 1999 as the West Coast Swing expert, and helped initiate the 6- 7:00 PM Swing hour, which became very popular. Leslie Stark, our man of the arts, and his wife, Myra joined the bandwagon. Leslie found time between his directing and acting, to do tango steps with Myra.
Tom and Dorthy do most of the teaching while they are on the Island from about April till October. The rest of the year, Jack, Carol, Christine and her husband Tim McLean, Tom and Janet would still be dancing and taking turns teaching, along with some newcomers, like Roger Mitchell, Jay Airis, and Maria and Tad Lawcewicz, who joined a few years later. Roger Mitchell, a summer resident, dances up a storm in his white spats, and teaches us his sultry merengue steps. Jay Airis, is our part time resident Jive expert from Germany, who has since become certified to teach Ballroom dance, and shares his dance expertise with us. Susan Fairbanks drops in to brush up on her graceful dancsteps. During the last couple of years, Marcia Rock and Peter Williams, summer visitors from New York, have been demonstrating their Argentinian Tango expertise. Once or twice a year, their teacher, Dwight Carter, gives dance instructions. Jean Migdal, another Argentine tango expert from New York, has joined us. Sergio Racig, an accomplished Salsa dancer, together with his partner and wife, Esther Deming share their dance expertise. Kaitlin Dorr, who has also become a swing expert, has put on a good show together with Tom Carberry, with whom she has been teaching West Coast Swing. From time to time, Bob and Fran Tierney showed up and provide some excellent dance instruction.
Other islanders just show up and have fun. Victoria Dreyfuss brings her enthusiasm every week. Frank Elliott, a longtime participant, who became wheelchair bound, would come and moves to the dance beat. Lloyd Henke, a retired math teacher comes every week to practice and learn new steps. Lorraine Huffman, and her friend Patty, also retirees come to join the fun. Ladislav Navratil (Laddy), who has appeared in Salsa performances in Built on Stilts, dropped by often. Teenager Jacob Adams, who plans to be a professional dancer, came to us from Maine last year (2009), and graced the dance floor in our 2010 performance in Built on Stilts.
Our dance group settled on a name, when in 2009, fourteen members appeared in a Built on Stilts dance production under the name of “Ballroom Dance, MV”, and continue to do so every year. In earlier years, several dance members had also choreographed and danced in Built on Stilts, but they had appeared under the choreographers' individual names.
Sadly, we lost a few dancers. On Jun 5, 2013 Carol Carrick, who together with her long time partner Jack Burton founded Ballroom on the island, passed away suddenly. She and Jack had just recently taught us some swing steps. We will miss Carol, who besides being a talented dancer and author, had a great sense of humor. In late July 2015, we lost another dancer, Leslie Stark, who loved Tango and was our MC in a Built on Stilts performance in 2012. Leslie was a Thespian director and performer and very active in the community. Laddy also passed away that year on his native Czech Republic. Our 2015 Built on Stilts performance was dedicated to Leslie and Laddy. On January 17, 2017, Tom lost his wife and dance partner, Dorothy, and we lost our beloved dance teacher. Heaven gained a graceful angel. We lost Virginia, who taught seniors yoga, to a car accident in Oct. 2017.
In 2016, we moved to The Barn, Bowl and Bistro in Oak Bluffs, with occasional trips to Fanny Blair or the PA when the Barn is booked. On a typical summer Sunday, Janet shows up at six and sets up the dance floor and starts the music going. A few other dancers drop by and start to practice or exchange dance steps. Just before seven, Christine and Tim show up. Christine brings her latest dance music and the warm up for the dance lesson begins. Partners are rotated so that everyone can learn the lesson. After a half hour of instruction, there is a round robin or mixer to practice the learned steps. Afterwards, Tim collects the donations, Janet makes dance announcements, Christine starts her play list with a variety of dances, and the dancing continues. Tim and Christine have since, joined other summer birds on the island such as Jack and Roger, and moved to Florida for the winter. Janet takes over during their absence, in addition to organizing the dance location and lessons.
Dancing is good for the mind, the body and the soul. It has also encouraged romance. Since 2008, there have been five marriages of dancing couples from Ballroom Dance: Christine and Tim Mac Lean ( April 2008), Esther Deming & Sergio Racig (February 2011);Victoria Dreyfoos & Craig Arnold (May 2011); Marty Ann and John (Fall 2016); and Marcia and Peter (Nov 2020).
COVID changed everything. We lost our space at the Barn, and had no venue until October 2022, when we collaborated with Island Team Workshop. Jennifer of MamasIgnite, a member of ITW and the Unitarian Church, secured for us the use of the Unitarian Church in Vineyard Haven. Weekly dances returned and Janet continued to schedule dance instructors from our group: Esther & Sergio; Tom C, Maria & Tad, Marcia & Peter, and Jay & Jean. We even performed in Built On Stilts this year 2023. November through April are quiet due to lack of dancers, so weekly dances have been suspended. Janet is working on monthly dances at the libraries on the island. Christine together with Serendipity and ESP Bands play dance music at the PA club in Oak Bluffs twice a month.