A cold hall on Deep Creek Road stands silent in the dreary night.
Within minutes, car lights illuminate the old weathered building as laughing, chattering people arrive for their weekly ballroom dance classes.
While accomplished dance instructor, choreographer and performer Jens Goerner takes couples through their paces, his wife Simone stokes the wood stove.
“Slow, slow, fast, slow, slow fast,” intones Jens, advising the four couples to enter a dance on the slow beat – never on the fast beat.
Enjoying the warmth of conviviality and the fire, the four couples in the beginners’ class listen and do their best to follow Goerner’s instructions. But there’s no pressure, they’re here for a good time.
Mark and Yvonne Dibblee are laughing as Jens offers advice on the distance of their bodies.
“She has to stay within a city block, right?” asks Mark, to which Yvonne makes a crack, chalking it up to her Scandinavian and French heritage.
Yvonne says she and Mark enjoy many activities and decided to try something new together.
They encouraged good friends Greg and Rhonda Hoffos, who took up the challenge last spring and returned for the fall session.
“We learned the steps right away and just the way he teaches, you remember and improve,” Rhonda says, noting the couple now enjoys going to the occasional dance where they are able to do the jive, salsa, cha cha and more. “Jens is fun, knowledgeable, patient and a great teacher. People progress at different rates and he gives everyone attention.”
The hall may be old and dark, but the instruction is coming from a first-class teacher, who owned and taught in his own dance studio in big-city Germany.
Basking in the warmth of the wood stove, Simone tells the story of how the couple made the move from bustling Munich to a secluded Deep Creek farm.
Jens and Simone were trained in the German Academy of Dance in a program that for the first two years focused on theory.
The four-year program of study includes a train-the-trainer component, something Jens did in both Latin and ballroom dance.
“Jens was the youngest studio owner in Germany,” says Simone with pride. “He started dancing at 16 and opened his first studio in Munich when he was 21.”
Simone began taking lessons in ballet at the age of four and was teaching ballet and hip hop by the time she was 15.
The couple had come to Canada several times, always beginning their journey with a visit to an uncle who lives in Larch Hills, before travelling to Alberta and Manitoba.
In 2009 the couple chose the Shuswap, settling near Gardom Lake. They spent the first few chilly months in Canada sleeping in a tent on their newly purchased land.
The fenced property now boasts a beautiful log home, raised garden beds, a pond and enclosures for their various animals. A tree house for son Noah is nestled in the arms of a dead tree. It is a serene and well-tended place.
Being in the country didn’t stop the dancing.
In 2010, the couple hosted a neighbourhood dance that was so popular it has grown to weekly dance lessons for 19 couples in three levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced jive, foxtrot, salsa, cha cha and waltz classes at Deep Creek Hall.
“This is the busiest Deep Creek Hall has become; they even fixed up the old hall a bit – put in new windows, and refinished the floor,” says Simone. “Everyone brings firewood when they come.”
Before the beginner’s class is finished, intermediate students arrive and join the others on the dance floor.
The Goerners own and operate City Dance Studio in Vernon, where Jens teaches international and American dance and is a coach and dance sport trainer.
Also a professional dance instructor, choreographer and performer, Simone gives lessons in hip hop and street dance.
A third teacher provides lessons in ballroom, Latin, swing and country dance.
A City Dance competition group brought home medals this year and, in a quiet aside, Jens says he will be taking a Deep Creek team to competitions next year.