The day was Nov. 20, 1999, and Karen Keith and her husband at the time, Rudy Gonzales, were preparing for the opening of In the Mood Ballroom in downtown Temple. 20 years later, Karen celebrated many years of hip swaying and memory making amongst old and new friends at In the Mood Ballroom’s 20th Anniversary Ballroom Dance on Friday.
The original ballroom, situated at 13 S. Main St., was home to many businesses over the years but has remained In the Mood Ballroom’s main headquarters for the past 20. Following the first five years of being open, Karen said the question of “What was I thinking?” became an inquiry of the past.
“We stayed tried and true; we stuck to our guns of what we believed in and what we wanted to do,” Karen said.
In 2010, Karen’s mother purchased the two buildings next door (15 and 17 S. Main St.), where she planned to live; remorsefully, her mother passed away later that year. Following her mother’s death, Karen used her inheritance to convert building 15 into studio space for her dance lessons and renovated building 17 to be leased or sold.
In 2016, Karen sold building 17 to Benny’s Ristorante Italiano, divorced from Gonzales and now has 19,000 square feet of business space, which doubles as she and her husband’s, Mike Goshen, living quarters.
“Living at work has its advantages and disadvantages; the advantage is you’re always at work; the disadvantage is you’re always at work,” Karen said.
She emphasized that teaching dance is one of many aspects of her business. From advertising and planning, setting up and scheduling the music for events to ballroom maintenance and upkeep, Karen said the dance instruction is the “fun part,” while the rest is the “stress part.” Nonetheless, she said she would not change a thing (other than winning the lottery before they opened 20 years ago).
Life can bring a “bombardment of problems and issues,” Karen said, so she considers dance a stress reliever, which is one of the lessons she incorporates into her dance classes.
“Check your garbage at the door, as I say, and come in and have fun for an hour or two,” Karen said. “Come dance for an hour, two, three and, when you go out it’s like ‘oh, I feel better; I have a different perspective,’ you’ve let some of that tension go.”
From beginners to professional dancers, Karen encourages anyone and everyone to take a dance class. With a choice of group lessons, private lessons or pre-wedding classes, In the Mood Ballroom offers multiple dance styles for guests to choose from and learn.
Whether you have prior dance experience or not, it is the leading and following that Karen says creates ballroom “magic.”
“That’s the part I try to add into the lessons, not just teaching ‘plop plop, fizz fizz’ here’s your step; I teach leading and following because that’s the magic part,” Karen said. “Learning steps, learning even beats sometimes isn’t hard; it’s learning how to truly lead and truly follow and make it be that beautiful, one unit.”
Although ballroom dance is her passion now, Karen said her life’s journey has consisted of many job titles, such as retail management with Zale Corporation, working in the finance department at Dell, bank teller, bookkeeper, waitress and more. Each led her to be the businesswoman she is today, and her favorite aspect of owning and operating her own business is “that I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself.”
Likewise, the energy she puts into In the Mood Ballroom is reciprocated when she witnesses guests having a great time at her events and lessons.
“It’s a casual environment; people come to sit and socialize and dance; they come to meet people, make friends, keep friends, make new friends, bring their old friends and just have a good time,” Karen said.
As a testament to that statement, longstanding friends Carrice Wunsch and husband and wife duo Charles and Marian Bergmann have been dancing with and supporting Karen for over 20 years. The Bergmann’s assisted with In the Mood Ballroom’s renovations prior to its 1999 opening, and Wunsch and her husband, who is now deceased, attended In the Mood Ballroom’s inaugural dance.
It is evident that the power of dance runs deep in this friendship brought forth by In the Mood Ballroom, as the Bergmann’s met on a blind date, and Marian said she was won over by Charles’ ability to dance. Likewise, Wunsch went to a wedding dance on a blind date with the man she would be married to for 54 years.
“We danced from then on,” Wunsch said.
Similarly, the Bergmann’s took any chance to hit the dance floor, so when Charles faced two amputations, not even that could keep him away from the ballroom.
“I took six weeks’ worth of dance classes here [at In the Mood Ballroom] in February so I could learn how to walk; I don’t have a left leg or a right foot, and somebody told me to take dance classes to learn balance; I’ve been walking ever since,” Charles said.
“Isn’t that wonderful?” Marian said. “He can’t dance, but he can walk.”
If Marian and Charles’ story was not enough to convince you, then Marian offered one last appeal.
“It’s a wonderful place, and dancing is such a social thing; you young people don’t know what you’re missing if you don’t dance,” Marian said. “Take dance lessons, get out and dance, it’s good exercise, good for your heart, good exercise socially.”
For more information on upcoming events at In the Mood Ballroom and the pricing of dance lessons, visit the In the Mood Ballroom website at https://www.inthemoodballroom.com or call (254) 773-7088.