From classroom to ballroom teacher showcases moves

Emily Nash

After balancing the things she loves – her job, her family, and other priorities – for 36 years, economics teacher Laura Wagner decided that it was time to do something for her own pleasure.

Four years ago, Wagner agreed to volunteer for a charity ball to support her brother’s free clinic in Temple, and although she only took two dance lessons before the ball, she immediately felt a connection.

“After [the ball] I just fell in love with it, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since,” Wagner said.

Wagner always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance; she enjoyed the music and the challenge that came with dancing so much, and soon decided to take it to the next step.

“I went from thinking, ‘I don’t care if we ever dance outside of this room’ to ‘I want to compete, and I want to compete well,” Wagner said.

And that’s exactly what she did. After hours of practice and a lot of hard work, Wagner now participates in dancing competitions and competes against all types of dancers. In the competitions, partners do a particular dance to music they may or may not be familiar with and are judged based on musicality, basic performance, and technique.

“I’m dancing with my dance instructor because I don’t have a dancing partner, but both of the competitors could be amateurs or professionals,” Wagner said. “A lot of times the competitors you see on those competitions on TV are professionals.”

Wagner is currently preparing for a competition in Dallas, which requires anywhere from 8-12 hours of practice a week.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” Wagner said.

Because Wagner devotes so many hours to dancing, she is often forced to stay at school a few hours after classes let out in order to finish her work.

“I enjoy my students and I hope that they enjoy the class,” Wagner said. “That’s probably the biggest problem for me, is the time constraints.”
Wagner’s students recognize the hard work she puts into teaching, and senior Justin Sanders said that considering how challenging of a class economics was, Wagner made it easier.

“I ended up doing really well in Ms. Wagner’s class,” Sanders said. “Even when I had trouble understanding a particular lesson, she could explain it in a way that made sense to me.”

For some teachers, the busy nature of teaching is quite the challenge, however Wagner said she doesn’t mind it, despite teaching AP economics and being the IB coordinator, in addition to ballroom dancing.

“Sometimes I do a better job at [staying balanced] than others, but I also tend to be a workaholic,” Wagner said. “I don’t do ‘nothing’ very well.”

Extensive hours on her feet and hard work landed Wagner with a foot injury at a competition in New Orleans, which left her off of her feet after surgery for about a year.

“It was discouraging and frustrating not being able to dance for that amount of time or thinking that I might not be able to dance again,” Wagner said.

But, of course, Wagner danced again as soon as her doctor gave her the okay, and was excited to commence learning a new level of dance: conveying emotions. After dancing the bolero at a recent showcase, a dance Wagner wasn’t ever particularly fond of, she decided she wanted to work towards this technique in every type of ballroom dance.

“I finally felt like I really captured the essence of the dance,” Wagner said. “I finally felt that, on that particular dance, on that particular night, that I did well on [conveying the right emotion].”

With every type of dance a different character comes out, and Wagner said her favorite dances would be the foxtrot, a smooth dance and the cha cha, a rhythm dance.

“I like the music, it’s kind of flirty and peppy,” Wagner said. “You get to be something you aren’t normally.”

Aside from the challenge, the music, and the character playing that comes with ballroom dancing, what is Wagner’s favorite part about it all?

“Winning,” Wagner laughed, “when you do.”