News: Ballroom dancing motivates civil affairs officer into lifestyle change
Story by Sgt. Erick Yates
FORT MEADE, Md. - The benefits of dancing for recreation have put a new spin on life for one Army Reserve officer and Howard County, Md., resident.
Lt. Col. Anne Marie Theriault, a civil affairs officer with the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, said she has had a love for dance since she was a child.
“I took dancing as a child, and then when I grew up, I did a little bit more social dancing,” she said.“About two years ago, I started taking formal ballroom dancing lessons.”
Theriault’s beginning in dance was more than just a passing childhood phase. She said that her early experience included ballet, modern and jazz dance styles.
Theriault’s interest in ballroom dancing started after she returned from a deployment to Iraq. She said that while she was deployed, she had opportunities to take part in dancing events like salsa at the forward operating base she was assigned to.
“Now it’s strictly ballroom,” Theriault said with excitement in her voice. She takes ballroom lessons at studios in Columbia and Silver Spring, Md., in a variety of styles.
“Smooth and rhythm are the styles I practice,” she said. “They include the waltz, tango, cha-cha and rhamba, while the rhythm part includes American-style ballroom.”
Since renewing her dancing passion, Theriault has competed nationally and locally.
“I do an annual competition in Las Vegas, and also did competitions in New York and Virginia last year,” she said.
Theriault, who said she has finished close to the top in her competitions, said it makes her feel good to be able to compete and perform at her level, especially given that some of her competitors have been competing a lot longer than her.
As Theriault’s interest in ballroom dancing grew after her deployment, she said there was one particular factor that increased her enjoyment and participation: She uses it as a key component of her fitness routine.
“I joined Weight Watchers and lost about 30 pounds while doing normal exercise routines like running and aerobics, but decided to try ballroom dancing after the deployment,” she said.
Since she incorporated ballroom dance into her life, Theriault said she has seen pleasing improvements in her fitness.
“It’s one thing to lose the weight, but maintaining the weight loss is more challenging,” she said.
Theriault said her flexibility has also improved and strength in her core muscles has increased.
Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a strength and conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, said he agrees that dancing is a good routine to stay fit.
“Anything that you can find that you enjoy that keeps you active, I highly recommend it,” he said. “Keeping fit does not have to be kept in the standard forms or routines of working out. With dance you get speed, agility and balance. You can get more out of it than people realize.”
Theriault quoted Jennifer Hudson in relation to her quest to stay fit.
“Nobody’s perfect,” she said. “Even in keeping fit, you still have to live.”