Lowell dance instructor yields numerous winnersBy GRANT WELKER , Associated Press
Mar. 9, 2013 3:31 AM ET
LOWELL, Mass. (AP) — Growing up, George Lacerte always wanted to dance competitively, but saw it as something probably out of reach.
"It was always a dream. It could never be done," he said. "But it did happen."
It took the cliché of one door closing and another opening, and Lacerte is there. About 30 years ago, he lost his job working as a manager in a formalware shop. So he finally did what he didn't previously have the time for, between the management job and a weekend gig as a keyboardist in a band: He started training so he could become a dance instructor.
He finally danced competitively and then one thing led to another, and now Lacerte, a 61-year-old Lowell resident, has been owning and running his own place, Steppin' Out Dance Studio, for 25 years. For much of those years, competitive dancing took a back seat. But with the success of shows like Dancing With the Stars, people want to take dance lessons again — and they want to be judged on their abilities just like on TV.
Last year, in Steppin' Out's first full year of having students compete in shows again, it won 60 medals, including 30 golds.
In the unpredictable way things work, two of Lacerte's longtime students started out taking a few classes only because their daughter was getting married and they wanted to know their way around the dance floor. A quarter of a century later, Ed and Celia McCormack are still at it.
"It's the best thing we ever did," said Celia, who, at age 80 still works 22 hours a week at Market Basket, her quasi-retirement job. "Once we started, we really wanted to do it. We loved it."
Ed, 84, and Celia started with the waltz and foxtrot until someone suggested they learn Latin, so they picked that up, as well. The Billerica couple goes to Steppin' Out a few times a week, plus other dance outings with friends.
Steppin' Out, located on the first floor of a mixed-use building on Westford Street near Drum Hill, holds 25 to 30 private and group classes a week. Lacerte, who teaches all of them, ends up sometimes putting in seven-day weeks. Some dance styles never go out of favor, but others come and go, he said.
"Right now, my swing class is jam-packed," he said.
As Lacerte has gotten back into competitive dancing, so has a cousin who's been into it for as long as he has. Carole McOsker, an administrative assistant who lives in Dracut, competed with Lacerte 20 years ago, and they're teaming up again.
Prepping for those competitions — about 10 from Steppin' Out dance competitively — requires lots of practice to keep up with others who might also see themselves as pros like on Dancing With the Stars.
"Hours and hours and hours," Lacerte said.