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Local Fred Astaire Is One Year Old

No baby steps for this franchise

“I still recall the DJ at our wedding pleading with the guests to join the dance floor to rescue us from our first dance as husband and wife. Now, 30 years later, I am happy to say we rocked the dance floor in our routine,” gushed Carol Hiller. Along with her husband, Hiller was a contestant on Feb. 24 from Manhasset’s Fred Astaire Dance Studio at Long Island’s first ever Fred Astaire Long Island Winter Ball at the Huntington Marriot Hotel. As the youngest studio represented, the Manhasset studio just turned one-year-old; they were praised for their accomplishments in such a short period of time.

Ukrainian National Champions Eugene Yeremenko and Marisa Yatsenko run the studio on Park Avenue just off Plandome Road. When asked why Manhasset was able to garner so much praise in such a short period of time, Eugene remarked, “Our students love to have fun and they just brought that to the dance floor.” And Marisa added, “Ballroom dance is incredibly fulfilling for individuals and couples. It’s great exercise and the best stress reliever I know. You can’t help but smile while dancing.”

At the winter ball, friends, family and fans of ballroom made up a very lively and supportive audience of approximately 200 people. Noisemakers were passed around to sound off as fellow studio members danced by.

“When I started lessons at the Fred Astaire Studio, I told them I had two left feet and needed to learn some dance steps for an upcoming reunion. But,” continued Eileen Tyrrell of Port Washington, “fast-forward to now, I just performed a specially choreographed foxtrot created for me at the winter ball.  I now look forward to learning the salsa and the west coast swing.”

Amateur couple Carol and Bill Hiller from Manhasset performed with Eugene and Marisa. “We are having the time of our lives dancing together.” said Carol, and her husband Bill quickly added, “And…I’ll admit we also love our ritual of stopping by ButterCooky in Manhasset to eat a slice of chocolate cake after a lesson.”

 Sienna Bent, 13, Manhasset resident and a student at the Waldorf School in Garden City, performed with her instructor, Alex Costa. When she did her dance moves - torpedo and flying fish - the crowd erupted in cheers. “I love dancing,” Sienna acknowledged, “It is so much fun, I could do it all day. In fact, when I have to clean up my room, my mom just turns up the music and I dance and clean at the same time.”

Family and friends traveled from great distances to watch the performance. Jennifer Gareis of Los Angeles and the CBS Bold and Beautiful soap star was in attendance to watch her sister Rebecca Bent, brother-in-law, and niece perform. “Yesterday we had a family dance class with Eugene and Alex in their studio. And honestly, after learning the basic moves, I had a really hard time sitting in my chair and watching. I can’t wait to get back home and find a dance studio. I totally understand why dancing is becoming so popular, it’s beautiful, you get a great workout, and it just makes you feel happy.”

Eugene and Marisa’s students range from early tweens to 70 plus. Also in attendance were Patricia Cosgrove, Jo-Anne Behal, Rebecca Gareis-Bent, and Bruce Bent II of Manhasset and Millie Munich of Floral Park.

At the end of the competition, Eugene and Marisa gathered their students and their families in a huddle to debrief. “I feel so inspired by everyone’s effort,” said Eugene, “today we showed everyone Manhasset could really dance.”

In addition to lessons for individuals and couples, the Manhasset Fred Astaire studio offers group classes and holds regular Friday night dance practice parties for their students from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. with refreshments served. The Manhasset studio can be reached at 439-5477 or visit www.fredastairemanhasset.com.

The next dance competition is in Las Vegas, NV in April and student Mark Lefkowitz, Locust Valley, and Bill and Carol Hiller will be participating.