LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Professional dancer Jonathan Roberts, who appeared in seven different seasons of "Dancing with the Stars" since the television program first premiered in 2005, can now count Lakewood Ranch among the places the California native has visited.
Roberts, who won third place when he partnered with celebrity singer Marie Osmond in the show's fifth season, was an invited guest of the grand re-opening of Dancin on the Suncoast.com, an independently owned and operated dance studio on Nature's Way in Lakewood Ranch, owned by Roberts' friend and one of his first dance coaches, Patrick Johnson.
Johnson, a world champion dancer, coach and international judge who grew up in England with Len Goodman, the charismatic British judge on "Dancing with the Stars," and trained celebrity dancer Cher
yl Burke, has owned the dance studio in Lakewood Ranch since 2012, when it was an Arthur Murray franchise. He and his Brazilian-born wife, Cyntia, a ballroom dancer whom Johnson first met during a competition he judged, held their grand re-opening on Friday under a new name, with Roberts offering choreography coaching to professional and amateur couples who traveled from as far away as Naples and Mississippi, followed by an evening class, "How to be a better dancer," that was open to the public.
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Roberts, who now spends his time away from the camera, choreographing for professional companies and judging national competitions, including one this Sunday in Sarasota, says anyone can learn to dance, even if you have one left foot, which he definitely doesn't."It doesn't mean you'll be a professional, but it can happen if you have the interest, patience and the will to work hard," Roberts said.
Johnson, whose studio offers all types of dance instruction from social dancing, to ballroom, Latin, hip-hop and even a crash course for couples getting married, says he will soon have a taste of television in April, when he travels to Mexico to serve as a judge for that country's version of "Dancing with the Stars," which has 47 televised versions around the world.
"When I was a champion I used to compete in these countries, now I judge in them," Johnson said.
When Mississippi residents Joe Jackson, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, and Barbara Mauldin, a dentist, heard that Roberts was visiting Johnson's dance studio in Florida, the couple, who compete on an amateur level, stepped off the plane and into the studio just in time for a choreography lesson. Students who train with Johnson once a month, they were eager to catch some tips from the TV pro about representing themselves better on the dance floor.
"We want something eye-catching and unique," Jackson said. "What better than learning from a world and national champ?"
Marilyn Hammond, a transplant from Connecticut who enjoys attending group classes at the studio, attributes "Dancing with the Stars" to the resurgence of social dancing. But, for Hammond, it's much more.
"It's extremely relaxing, good for the mind, body, and coordination. It gets you out into another world and takes away your problems."
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.