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June 20, 2014

#DWMFAM Stories: Kenny Herbert

“STEP BY STEP, DANCING — AND DANCE WITH ME — IS HELPING ME FEEL COMFORTABLE IN MY OWN SKIN AGAIN.”

I remember bumping into Kenny at our 2014 Summer Invitational in Stamford, Connecticut. Usually he’s dressed in a button up shirt and nice pants whenever I see him inside our SoHo dance studio. This time, I see him wearing a short sleeve shirt, exposing his tattoos, some biker gear, and holding a helmet.

Now at this point I don’t know Kenny well enough to ask him about his weekend attire. Besides, I was on my way to practicing with his primary teacher, Leanne, for the pro-basic dance competition. 

“I didn’t know Kenny rides bikes,” I told her. “He doesn’t seem the type.” He seems likes a nice, timid, professional man. I see him as someone who enjoys golfing or fishing or smoking cigars at his leisure.

“There’s a lot you don’t know, Alex. He’s like a super athlete and really jacked! He does all of these crazy marathon competitions. You should talk to him,” Leanne responded.

I took her advice.

So later that week, I had a chance to chat with Kenny about his extracurricular activities, why he started dancing, and what has changed since. After hearing that he had just finished a 375 mile bike ride (no, not motorcycle, BICYCLE) that spanned two days,  I immediately knew I had to feature him on our “#DWMFAM Stories” series.

Before his dance lesson, Kenny sat down and revealed what many men think, but are too afraid to say out loud. He spoke about overcoming a bad breakup and facing discomfort in a social setting, especially one as intimidating for men as ballroom dancing.

He also told me how… actually wait… I think it’s better if you hear it directly from him. Check out his email to me and the video interview below.

This is what he had to say:

“I’m 54, recently divorced, and I spent 2013 rebuilding my life. I started with getting back in shape: running, biking, triathlons, obstacle races, anything and everything. By the end of the year I was in tremendous shape, but something was missing. I needed something more than athleticism.

I signed up for dance lessons. I didn’t really know why, but I was very isolated and I had this gut feeling that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and learn something new about myself.
I told Tonja I wanted to learn to be more graceful, to develop some elegance, and so she taught me the waltz. Within weeks, I started paying attention to my posture, to the way I carried myself.
Recently, I took a yoga class, and the teacher asked if I was a dancer. I was surprised, to say at the least. But he said I moved gracefully, which I’ve NEVER been called before, and which I only got from DWM.
The other key aspect of dance, which came to me only after I started taking lessons, was the sensuality of dancing. I hadn’t experienced that in years, and I realized I didn’t even feel comfortable in my own skin. It didn’t matter that I was athletic and in great shape; sensuality comes from within, and in my humble opinion dancers simply exude sensuality.
How has Dance With Me helped? Six months ago, I had trouble walking through the door. Three months ago, I had trouble dancing one short dance among a dozen dancers in front of an audience. This month, I danced many times in a competition and began to enjoy it. And now I’m learning a solo [showcase] dance with my teacher and I’m excited about it.
Step by step, dancing — and Dance With Me — is helping me feel comfortable in my own skin again.”
-Kenny Herbert

Watch the video:

Kenny is LITERALLY twice my age. Exactly twice… but probably three times as fit. In fact, he’s going upstate to bicycle 630 miles around Lake Ontario in a few weeks to qualify for a 750 mile race in France next year!

Did I say he’s 54 years old? FIFTY-FOUR.
Kenny, you’re my hero.

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF KENNY’S STORY? HAVE YOU CONSIDERED DANCING BUT ARE TOO SCARED TO TRY IT OUT?
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Leave a Reply

  • Sylvia Fgueroa Jun 21, 2014

    Kenny story has truly inspired me.I’m 52 and somewhat complexed about my stomach.I luv dance with every fiber of my being.Kenny has inspired me to work harder at getting fit.Thank you

  • Diana penaloza Jun 21, 2014

    I do ballroom dancing already but did not attend any lessons.just watching people dance and that’s it.Maybe i can be his partner?just saying

  • Princess Danielle Martin Jun 21, 2014

    54 and working it, I love his “Go Getter Spirit” and just putting his self out there and trying new things, really makes you want to at least try what you may be afraid of doing, that you may be good at. ..really really makes me want to learn ballroom dancing, I’ve always wanted to=).

  • CandyK Jun 21, 2014

    Kenny – you are an inspiration . . . keep up the great work and ENJOY for those of us who can’t be there!

  • Rhonda Bognanni Jun 21, 2014

    Yes a few years back Maks made my daughter, Amanda Blankenship come true! She won a contest and was able to dance with him. She is36 and has Downs Snydrome .She is a good dancer and he did the cha cha with her! I’d love to let Maks know and all the other people who dance into our hearts that it is a gift to share . It’s like music it unites us no matter what race color belief abilities or hurdles we must overcome! When he won this year her phone rang like crazy ….for everyone knew her second wish had come true he and Meryl won! Thanks for sharing all the stories! I have a few wonderful pics of him and her! My name. ,,Rhonda Bognanni Amanda’s mom!it would mean so much to her if you could do a little post! Xo thanks

  • Tithi Chatterjee Jun 21, 2014

    Plzzzz….maks India is waiting for you…do something for us…plz..open a dance class or an institute in Kolkata…plzzzzzzzzzzzs…………

  • Tithi Chatterjee Jun 21, 2014

    We should take a lesson from kennys life…its very encouraging…hats off man…

  • JANE RENNA Jun 21, 2014

    He is a inspiration. I love how he stepped out of his comfort zone and tried something new. I need to get the courage to do that same thing. I am 53 years old and am a recipient of a kidney transplant in 2012. The Kidney that was donated to me within 6 months my body started to reject it. Now im on alot of anti rejection meds that are made of alot of steroids so i gain so much weight i lost my self confidence… Stupid huh? I should be greatful im alive but yet im embarrassed to go anywhere.. Also my feet have been damaged as well and my heals are to the point that when i walk alot they split and hurt.. Im suppose to be restricted in my walking but of course im stubborn about that and refuse to listen .. MY passion is music and dance.. I remember watching my parents dance at weddings and such . They loved to waltz and jitter bug.. Every saturday nite ( in the 70s ) lawrence welk would come on and my father would grab me or one of my sisters and start teaching us the waltz in our living room. All my life i so wanted to learn to ballroom dance like my father but disablities and being on social security disablity has stopped that dream.. I have a small hope that i will finally learn to dance like that . Watching the last DWTS and watching a miracle with a double amputee dancing.. she gave me that hope that one day i will dance like that… RIght now im just trying to get the courage to start living again.. One baby step at a time… Thank you for listeing and thank you for knowing that i have to try to change what i can..

  • Sally Baker Jun 22, 2014

    I love your stories about people and their experiences with dance and the things it has done for them. However, it kind of makes me sad, as I can’t find any place to take dance lessons near me, and I really want to learn to dance. I have always felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable in my body. I used to be a runner, but I can no longer do than. I walk instead.The Community College here teaches a couple of dance classes, but you must bring a partner with you. I have been single for the last 30 or so years and moved to a new community a few years back when I retired. I have not been able to find anyone who would be my partner for classes at the Community College. I am 73 and the nearest town of any size if 85 miles away. Do you have any suggestions? Videos of steps might work, but I will eventually need to dance with someone.

  • Kenny Herbert Jun 24, 2014

    When I had to start over, I chose to live by the following: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” (Socrates) I refused to get drawn back in to old fights, and every time I got frustrated with my situation, I instead focused my energy at the gym or on my bike or reading or SOMETHING positive. I realized how much one can control their own outlook just by focusing on “building the new,” rather than allowing negativity, pessimism et al. to darken one’s outlook.

    And dancing, of course. ?

  • JoAnne Latta Jun 29, 2014

    What an inspirational story! So happy that you took the plunge and went for it! Congratulations Kenny! I can’t tell you how much ballroom has improved my life. I don’t know what I would do without it! I just wish I could immerse myself in ballroom and really become exceptional! Perhaps my chance will come. Keep up the good work. May life continue to bring you all the happiness it can offer.

  • JoAnne Latta Jun 29, 2014

    Keep dancing and letting your life be filled with happiness and fun. Congratulations on your success!

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