By Grace Glenn
There’s no ballroom dance craze in North Brooklyn to speak of—no clubs and a dearth of classes (even in the schools)—and Henry Cross noticed. For the 26-year-old instructor and former competitive ballroom dancer, purveyor of boogie, swing, and the two-step, he sees opportunity. And stepping up, he’s begun to introduce the traditional styles and forms to seniors, adults, and children.
Cross teaches ballroom privately and also to groups throughout the five boroughs, including (formerly) to seniors at the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center. He is also a certified yoga instructor and the program director at Hosh Yoga, a yoga studio on Guernsey Street in Greenpoint. After volunteering there for about a year, the founder Hamid Elsevar Hamidzadeh and he discussed his involvement with new and expanded programming at the studio, and in October they launched a program called Hosh Kids, tailored for children 18-months to 8-years-old.
What makes this new venture something to boogie about is that he wants to make the classes affordable, so that families don’t have to sweat the cost. That’s why it’s called “Health Wellness and Movement for Kids as a Right of Life, Rather than a Luxury.” He calculates that the cost for each class averages about five dollars.
“As long as the instructors and the space are paid for, I’m happy,” says Cross, who reveals that his time with Hosh Yoga is a labor of love. And not just for Cross, all 20 instructors at Hosh (a sliding scale donation studio: $5-$15) are volunteers as well.
Bringing ballroom to untested waters is nothing new for Cross. His previous employment was as program development director for Fit for Life, a Bedford-Stuyvesant–based vendor for the city Department of Education, where he supervised dozens of teachers teaching hundreds of students.
Cross, originally from Miami, started dancing when he was 10 years old. His single-parent mom enrolled him in a ballroom dance class. He admits he was resistant at first, and felt weird about dancing with girls and being made to do certain moves. “Picture asking a 10-year-old boy to do hip breaks and cha-cha-cha, it looks absolutely silly—the arms, the style. But then you grow out of that.”
He stopped ballroom dance during his high school years, but when he attended college at Catholic University, where he was studying history and politics, he started dancing again at the encouragement of a friend. He competed and toured for several years around the country and a few times overseas.
He thought he was going into politics, before the dance took over, but his political skills serve him well now, as local ambassador of sorts of ballroom dance.
Teaching kids, he says, is where he derives the most joy. He likes inspiring kids’ imaginations. “When they see the dance, and realize they can do it, it helps them know that anything is possible for them,” he says. “It teaches lessons about life.” He describes one of his own experiences with a mentor: “I was always a very strong dancer, but tense, and one of my mentors told me to blow all the air out of my lungs, deflate the body, let it go. It’s no big deal, but in essence what he did was show me that I didn’t need more steps or technique, I just needed a state of mind.”
As far as his jiving with his newly adopted community of Williamsburg, where there’s a hopping nightlife, he says, “We know that people like to drink and dance here; well what about drink and boogie?”
In that spirit, WG News + Arts and Henry Cross have teamed up to sponsor an event (for adults) hosted by Modca Café (North 3rd Street, on March 2, 8-11pm): A Night of Boogie and Booze. It will include a short performance with Henry and partner, some instruction, and then lots of dancing. Modca will cater a special menu ($5 voucher for food included in cost of ticket). For your tickets, call 917-304-6213 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Space is limited. Call soon. For more info about Hosh Kids, visit hoshkids.org, or email email@example.com.