By Mark Iacampo, USAG Hohenfels Public AffairsFebruary 14, 2014
HOHENFELS, Germany -- As Valentine's Day gets into full swing, participants in Hohenfels Army Community Service's "Art of Romance" dance class may have a leg up on the rest of us.
Conceived as a couple's communication class, the weekly course is designed to help improve intimacy through non-verbal communication.
"This is not about fixing problems," said Priscilla Fleisher, Family Advocacy Program manager. "We have other classes for that. This is more about helping couples become closer through non-verbal communication.
"In dance, you have to work together as a team; you have to really be partners. You take two people and they have to learn to listen to each other without using words. That's a really important skill that not all couples have. It can really help people develop and enhance connection," Fleisher said.
The approach seems to be working. Participation in the class has steadily increased since its debut in November and has surpassed ACS' other couple's communication groups.
"I enjoy having the opportunity to come in here and work on some skills and make a fool out of myself," said participant Terry Giles.
The class is in the midst of its second session. The first six weeks were dedicated to waltz and salsa, while the current course is focused on swing and foxtrot.
"I've studied jazz, tap, Bollywood, swing -- every form of dance is an art," said instructor Kamallata Jones. "I love sharing that passion with people."
Jones, in the words of her mother, "came into this world dancing." Born in Assam, India to a pair of professional dancers, Jones was already performing by age four, winning a national dance competition and appearing on a popular Indian television program.
Schooled in classical Indian dance, Jones later learned ball room dancing as an instructor at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in the States. Now, with 38 years of dance experience including 15 as an instructor, she brings her expertise to Hohenfels.
"We're lucky to have a very talented professional dance instructor who's able to share that in this format," Fleisher said. "She's fun, she knows what she's doing, and she's patient with those of us have four left feet!"
New to the Hohenfels Military Community, Jones wanted to get involved and approached ACS to volunteer.
"This is a very close-knit community," Jones said. "For me, it was very important to establish an identity for myself and not fall into that, 'Oh, she's Lt. Col. Jones' wife.'"
The idea of a couple's dance class had been kicking around for some time, and Jones was eager to take part.
"I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to be the one who got to get it going," she said.
As a mother of a toddler herself, Jones is well aware how difficult it can be for couples to keep romance alive.
"In today's speeded-up environment, we forget how important it is for people to have that time together. You just don't have time. So, any activity that gives couples a chance to spend some time together is important," she said.
"We're trying to make it into sort of a date night," said Jill Ann Hills. "Afterwards we go out to dinner. It gives us an excuse to be together and sometimes you don't have enough of those."
Jones said she enjoys watching couples in class laughing, giggling and enjoying themselves.
"It's relaxing," said Lt. Col. David Hills. "You just stop thinking about everything else, because you have to focus."
In addition to the dancing itself, couples receive handouts and brief discussions on communication skills. Last session included such topics as active listening and using "I" phrases. This session focuses on the best-selling book, "The Five Love Languages," by Dr. Gary Chapman.
Jones is already planning the next class where she hopes to focus on Argentine Tango.
"Based on the response we're seeing now, this will be something we'll continue as long as we can," Fleisher said. "Hopefully, what we're doing can increase partners' resilience, caring and fun with one another."