MELANIE MINTY: Youthful couple strives for neotony on dance floor (video)

SURREY — Neotony. Now, there’s a word for you. Betcha haven’t ever heard of it before. It means "remaining youthful." Neotony.

We should know this word because so much of our society today is geared toward youth and being youthful, or looking life you are at least 10 years younger than your actual age. You know, 40 is the new 30. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise is a good way to remain youthful. Exercise set in a social environment with cognitive challenges keeps your brain young and functioning as well. Yes, dancing combines all these elements. Dance is for everyone, any age, not just young females.

Wendy and George Pytlik are dedicated to building a ballroom/social dance community in Delta. They offer ballroom classes for all levels at both Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre in North Delta and at KinVillage in South Delta. I tried to chat with both Wendy and George, but George admits that, "our schedules are so busy because we work full-time and then teach in the evenings. We work 16 hours a day with only one free evening each week. But teaching is so much fun it never feels like work."

George’s "day job" is a marketing professional providing branding, advertising and web design to a number of companies. This is definitely a high-stress, competitive job, and he brings his artistic side to dance. Always a fitness buff, George got interested in dance after watching a televised dance competition in 2002. He decided to try competitive ballroom dancing. Wow.

Wendy was no stranger to dance competitions in her youth. She was a Scottish Highland dance champion, and has won so many trophies that they have to be stored in a warehouse. When George started ballroom training, Wendy was right there alongside.

She specialized in Latin, but also completed serious training in Standard. Wendy’s day job is receptionist and office co-ordinator, and she is also qualified to teach through the Canada DanceSport Federation certification program under the auspices of Canada DanceSport, which governs amateur DanceSport competitions in Canada. Another wow.

So while George and Wendy and fully qualified to teach ballroom, they have more than just the certifications. They have passion. And there were the BC Latin Champions in the 35-plus age group and achieved the ranking of third in Canada in the 35+ Ten Dance category in 2012. Fantastic. And like many of us, they did not start ballroom dance training until well into adult life. "Oddly enough," says George, "we met in a disco."

Ah yes, some things never go out of style.

This couple no longer competes due to a serious injury Wendy suffered in competition in 2012. Now they are focused on teaching and bringing the joy of dance to Delta communities.

"Guys especially suppress the dance urge, afraid that they’ll look stupid or that it is too hard to learn," George notes. "When people are willing to open themselves up to bring that element to life, it gets me excited. I love helping them discover what they’re really capable of."

To contact George and Wendy, go to their website, at Delta.dance. There is something for every level. Dancing together reinforces partnerships. You learn to trust each other, and it is good for your mind and body. George and Wendy, who have moved from Tsawwassen to Richmond, have been married for 31 years. They are still dancing, and together. ‘Nuff said.

Meanwhile, Surrey Festival of Dance is celebrating its 49th year this season, and the action begins March 26 at Surrey Arts Centre. This month-long competition attracts all ages, from the very young to the mature adult — very mature. There are eight categories of dance and this largest-in-North-America festival began very humbly in 1966 at Doreene Rowe’s kitchen table. That first year attracted about 450 dancers, and today there are more than 9,000 registered for the event. Doreene is still part of the festival and travels down from Penticton to put in her time as a volunteer. She is the epitome of neotony.

Of note, the adult section of the dance festival is on Saturday, March 28, starting at 6 p.m. I know some of the entrants are in to their 80s, and The Golden Girls should be The Platinum Girls now. Admission to watch is only $2 – well worth the price of an evening of entertainment. If you have been thinking you might want to join an adult dance class, you need to come out to this competition night. I will be there, dancing. I am remaining youthful. Neotony.

melminty@telus.net

See video of Wendy and George Pytlik in action: