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A pretty romantic duo


July 16, 2012
Billie Shelton ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

It's not every time you go out that you get to witness a marriage proposal, but that was just what happened to us last week when we went dancing. Between songs, the band stopped playing so a young man could use the microphone to ask for his girlfriend's hand in marriage.

She said yes. Then we all clapped and cheered. The newly engaged couple were the youngest dancers there, no doubt, yet I noticed many couples - most of them many years past their own engagements - stopped to wish the young couple their best after the proposal.

I don't know any details about this young couple, like why he proposed at the ballroom or even if they dance a lot, but it seems to me that they caught what generations of couples have long understood: Ballrooms and dancing are a pretty romantic duo.

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And you don't have to be newly engaged to catch that feeling.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the local dance hall was a fixture in many communities of all sizes around Iowa, where it was the place to meet old friends, make new ones, hear live bands, and, of course, practice up on your dance steps. Or learn some, perhaps. In fact, at one time there were more than 200 dance halls scattered all over the state, much like the old country school system that put a school every two miles in our rural areas.

Today there are only about a dozen ballrooms left in our state.

The place where we went dancing Sunday is one of the best that's still active. Lake Robbins Ballroom was built in the late 1920s by a Mr. Robbins on a dusty country gravel road that he was promised would be paved. The ballroom opened in 1931.

But the ballroom has remained open all these years, although the road in front of it is still gravel. Part of its appeal is its original white maple dance floor, even though it's now about half of its original 10,000 square feet due to remodeling done over the years.

The band still plays from a raised stage on one side of the floor, though, and with such a fine floor I believe almost anyone can dance. Thanks to a handful of dance lessons we attended not long after we were married, my husband and I know enough to get by on a dance floor. It's not hard if you listen to the beat of the music.

We don't go dancing real often, but when we do I always come away thinking we need to do it more often. There's an ambience, a bit of magic, that's special in a ballroom.



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