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World dance competition is major step

Published Oct. 4, 2005

The 20-year dream of Socrates Charos that ballroom dancing _ his version of it, which he calls sport dancing _ will become an international competition is finally going to come true.

It won't be part of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, as he envisioned, because organizers were not interested. Ironically, dancing will be a demonstration sport in Atlanta. But dancers from at least 45 countries will compete in the first Dance Olympiade in June 1996 at the Olympic Stadium in the country where it all began, Greece.

The dream's realization is good news to many in the Clearwater area who were students at Socrates' dance studio, the Sport Dance College on Drew Street, until he and his wife, Dru, moved to Athens 2{ years ago to operate a studio there while working on the Dance Olympiade.

Rena Brenner of Clearwater recently returned from Athens, where she attended a three-day pre-Olympiade Dance Sport Festival and visited Socrates, Dru and their two sons, Alexander, 4, and Philip, 2.

Most of the Greek dancers in the festival were under 30, she said, with many "juniors" ages 5-12 participating. Unlike this area, where most dance studio patrons, including those who went to Socrates' studio, are 50 and older, ballroom dancing is popular among all ages in Europe.

It is even taught in elementary schools, Rena said, recalling how Socrates tried here to attract children by offering free lessons but could generate little interest.

She compares sport dancing _ with its lifts and drops and athletic prowess _ to Olympic ice skating.

Dru loves the small-town atmosphere of the community they live in near Athens, Rena said, but misses her parents. She and the two boys returned last summer to visit her folks, Dr. Joe and Sue Dunlap in Clearwater, and will come again in August with Socrates.

Mrs. Dunlap said her daughter, a Dunedin High School graduate and former Miss Dunedin contestant, met Socrates when both of them were dance instructors _ she here and he in Sarasota.

Dru, she said, has been dancing since she was 4: "She was the child who never walked through the house; she danced, she twirled through it."

She said Dru "seems to love her life in Greece even though she gets homesick. She calls often. She loves being a mommy, she loves her husband and she loves dance."

Socrates, who has been named president of the National Dance Council of Greece, is quite a promoter, Rena said, and needed to be when he began in 1989 to interest organizations, businesses and the Greek government in his idea of a Dance Olympiade.

The Olympiade is open to sport dancers who are at least 17 years old. Events will include American style _ smooth and Latin, international style _ modern and Latin, theater arts and acrobatic rock 'n' roll. Events will be judged using the skating system, with gold, silver and bronze medals to be awarded.

Participating countries are expected to enter three couples in each category chosen at preliminary competitions in those countries.