Life is a Dance

Local resident shares his passion by teaching

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Dave Watson and his wife Jo Ellen Jarvis demonstrate the "West Coast Swing," while students in a Washougal Community Education & Recreation class observe. The Beginning Ballroom Dance class is held on Monday nights in the commons area of Washougal High School.

A Washougal man with some serious dance credentials is sharing his knowledge with local residents.

Dave Watson currently teaches “Beginning Ballroom Dance” Monday nights at Washougal High School. The seven-week course, offered through Washougal Community Education & Recreation, is focussing on waltz and West Coast swing dancing.

Watson has been teaching dance professionally for 39 years. For the first 15 of those years, he competed professionally in standard, smooth and rhythm styles.

Watson, a former owner of three Fred Astaire studios in New Jersey, has been an independent instructor for more than 25 years. In 2004, he opened Ballroom Parkrose — a studio in Portland.

“For a while, it was one of the top competitive studios in the country,” Watson said.

He sold it two years ago, but he still teaches there.

Watson has trained national champions. He is a fully certified adjudicator in all five styles of partnership ballroom dance — Latin, rhythm, smooth, standard and theater arts.

Watson continues to compete with his students all over the country. This year, that is expected to include competitions in New Orleans, Portland, Seattle, Las Vegas and Puerto Rico.

Watson is registered with the National Dance Council of America, United States Terpsichore Association and the Professional Dancers’ Federation. He is a former Western vice-president of the federation.

Watson said his favorite student is his wife, Jo Ellen Jarvis.

“She competes at the highest levels in International Standard and does quite well,” he said. “I love dancing, competing and teaching. I would encourage anyone and everyone to get involved with it. It’s not hard, and you’ll have it forever — for every wedding you go to and every cruise you go on.

“Dancing has been a good life for me,” Watson added. “It’s not easy to make a living in the arts, but I’ve been lucky. I decided to go out into the community and teach a couple of beginner classes. It’s just my way of ‘paying it forward.’”

Debra Swindler and her husband Phil are among the students in the community education dance class.

“We have always wanted to do it,” Debra said. “Our children are old enough to leave with grandparents without being too much of a burden.

“I like that the class is not real intense or intimidating,” she added. “He is an amazing instructor. He gets the point across and throws in some humor.”

Debra said she and Phil are looking forward to going out dancing on a date night.

“It was my idea to take the class, but he’s enjoying it,” she said. “We want to sign up for the next class.

“I encourage people to come give it a try,” Debra added.

Watson said he plans to teach beginning ballroom dance again through the Washougal Community Education & Recreation program “for as long as anyone keeps showing up.”

“The class will stay at this level, but we will teach different dances so the repeating students are still learning new material,” he added.

For more information about classes, call 954-3838 or visit