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Senior partner performs at ballroom dance competitions

September 9, 2015
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Kightlinger & Gray attorney Peter Velde and his wife, Doreen, have participated in four dance competitions together, both local and regional. (Photo submitted)

While Indianapolis attorney Peter Velde practices consumer litigation by day, he can often be found ballroom dancing by night. Velde, a senior partner at Kightlinger & Gray LLP, has spent most evenings taking ballroom dance classes alongside his wife, Doreen, for the past two and a half years.

“My wife and I have always danced, and so we decided that maybe it might be a good idea to try to dance properly — we ended up enjoying it,” Velde said.

According to Colton Cassel, manager of Five Star Dance Studios in Carmel, ballroom dancing is also known as “partnership dancing,” and it includes dance styles such as the waltz, foxtrot and tango.

Velde and his wife contacted Five Star Dance Studios and continued their journey in dance after almost 30 years of taking to the dance floor together just for fun. As their lessons progressed, studio staff proposed participating in competitions, and that’s where Velde found himself next.

“Pete and Doreen kind of like to do it all,” Cassel said.

dancing-008-1-1col.jpg Velde also dances at competitions with his instructor, Jennifer Alexander. (Photo submitted)

“They’re very active in our studio,” added Jennifer Alexander, an instructor at Five Star Dance Studios. “It’s very rare for a couple to be competing, (but) it’s something they really wanted to do.”

Velde has participated in four competitions alongside his wife. In July, they traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for their first regional competition, a two-day event that Velde says has been the most memorable competition to date.

“We went down on a bus as a group together. We were able to socialize and everybody was supportive of everyone else,” Velde said. “It was just a fun time.”

“They did phenomenal,” Alexander said of the performance. “They got great scores; so many people gave me compliments (about them) afterward.”

Although regional competitions include a larger audience and more opportunities to dance during various heats, Velde also enjoys the more relaxed, community-like feel of local competitions. At these events, the Veldes compete against dancers from both their home studio and surrounding Indiana dance studios.

“In a sense, it’s kind of like belonging to a country club where you get a group together and everyone is friendly and congenial. ... We do things from time to time,” Velde said.

While partaking in competitions and dance classes has allotted Velde the opportunity to meet new people, it has also provided other benefits.

“It is good exercise,” Velde said. “You have to remember a lot of things — and so from that standpoint of keeping your brain engaged, it doesn’t really feel like exercise.”

Although they practice ballroom dancing four to five nights a week for at least an hour, the dancing duo arrives at competitions unaware of what songs will be played. When it comes time for their heat, Velde must take lead, recall the steps, and quickly pick up the tempo and beat in order to stay in rhythm.

According to Cassel, the health advantages of dancing go beyond just helping with memorization and exercise.

“We have many doctors, lawyers, dentists and even high school kids that come in here (to the dance studio),” Cassel said. “It’s for anybody. Many statistics (show) ballroom dancing is Alzheimer’s preventative and dementia preventative. It’s crazy how many benefits there are.”

And as for the competition aspect, Velde believes he has gained skills that carry over into his profession.

“You’re out there and you’re in front of other people – it kind of equates with being able to stand up and talk in a courtroom or do a presentation for a client,” Velde said. “For me, it (helps with) personal skills. It’s like any other competition; you’re nervous before you start, but once you do you’re good to go.”

Velde’s dedication to dance shows through his performances, but it can also be difficult to juggle with other aspects of his life. Just like anything else, though, Velde insists it all comes down to time management.

“It’s somewhat hectic because in the fall I also coach football,” he said. “I’ll go to work, football practice and then dance. It’s a lot, but I just budget my time. It gets me out of the house and keeps me active.”

Velde may often have a full schedule, but it works to his advantage in more ways than one.

“Because Pete has been involved in sports and coaching, one of his strengths is listening to the information given and taking it,” Alexander said. “Pete tends to pick things up extremely quickly and a lot of that is because of his sports background. It’s refreshing to have a student like that.”

At his most recent competition, a local event called the Five Star Classic held in August, Velde and his wife performed exceptionally well.

“They did great,” added Alexander. “They set the bar for couples out there.”

As he looks forward, Velde sees himself dancing for many more years to come. And while he appreciates the numerous benefits that go along with his hobby, his love of dance stems from something else.

“The thing I like most about it is dancing with my wife.”•

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