Cathy Walsh has spent 22 years in Westport. She chairs the Planning and Zoning Commission. Professionally, she’s a steel trader.
But her obsession is dance.
She dances whenever she can. She takes lessons and classes, then hops from studio to studio to dance even more. If she had her way, every Westporter would dance everywhere. Including the streets.
The other morning — as her laptop chirped with incoming email notifications, undoubtedly about big steel trades — she took me on a tour of Westport dance spots. Virtually, that is — by computer websites.
Our first “stop” was Studio 44. The cleverly named dance and fitness center (the address is 44 Main Street, on the 3rd floor of the old Klein’s building — get it?) offers hip hop classes taught by the “amazing” Brian Herman.
“Westport moms” fill the studio every morning and afternoon, Cathy says. They come for the music, and the chance to dance. They stay for the camaraderie.
Owner Candy McCarthy throws “incredible” parties, and puts on similarly spectacular performances, adds Cathy. There’s wine, cheese, big crowds and plenty of networking. The studio is filled with “normal people, crazy people,” she says.
It was on to The Dance Collective. Located on Post Road West, across from Settlers & Traders, it’s where Enrique Alarcon and Amanda Parton teach “terrific” modern dance.
“When I became single, I wondered what people do in Westport,” Cathy says, pausing in her “tour.”
“Then I discovered the Fred Astaire studio in Norwalk. I took 12 lessons a week. Ballroom dancing was my new social network. It became a common bond with people, beyond talking about our kids.” She loves Fred Astaire’s Friday night dance parties.
Cathy and others can “easily dance 2 hours a day,” she says. “It lifts your spirit. It’s magical. It’s totally head-clearing.”
The next stop on Cathy’s computer was Intensity. Just over the line in Norwalk and owned by Westporter Clair Mason, it’s where Cathy goes to see Marcello Deaguero mount a huge stage, turn on disco lights, and pump up a couple of dozen women with a high-energy Zumba workout. At 8:30 a.m.
If the local dance scene seems heavily female, it is. “Every once in a while, you see a guy,” Cathy says. That rare species feels the same joy she does, she notes.
Men do like ballroom dancing. “CEOs do it — in secret, on Saturday mornings,” she explains.
Her passion for dance takes her all over the state. On the last Saturday of every month, 200 people wearing gowns and tuxes descend on the Greek Orthodox Church in Bridgeport for a ballroom event. They range in age from 20s to 80s. Westport is well represented, Cathy says.
Notably missing from the Westport dance scene are teenagers. Why not?
“That’s a good question. It would be fabulous for them.”
Cathy thinks they — and many other Westporters — would be inspired by outdoor swing dancing in the summer. “All you need is a wooden floor and a DJ. You could do it somewhere in Saugatuck, Sconset Square, or the space by the old Inn at National Hall. Or even downtown.”
She has someone in mind: Bill Fischer, a New Haven-based contra dance caller who opens up his barn to people who just walk in and dance.
“I really want him to come here,” Cathy says. “He could bring fiddlers. We’d close down Main Street. People could bring their kids, have dinner, walk around and just dance.”
Our tour was over. It was time to get back to steel trading. But Cathy’s enthusiasm was undiminished.
“I get so tired of being entertained,” she says. “I just want to do.”