Dance performance at Asheville's Downtown after 5 taught columnist more than fancy footwork

Citizen-Times reporters Casey Blake (left) and Carol Motsinger performed Beyonce's "Single Ladies" dance on Friday at Downtown After 5. Dance teacher Kathleen Hahn will offer "Single Ladies" classes again in June. / Erin Brethauer/

Written by Carol Motsinger

Want to dance?

The next Beyonce “Single Ladies” 10-week series will start at 6 p.m. June 6 at the French Broad Food Co-op studio, 90 Biltmore Ave. It’s $10 per class or $80 for the full series if paid at the beginning.

 Even after months of preparation for last Friday's flash mob performance of the dance from Beyonce's “Single Ladies” music video, I was so nervous minutes before we pushed our way through unsuspecting crowds on Lexington Avenue, I went into hiding.

 Well, more like my face went into hiding: I never wear serious makeup (I bought my first tube of mascara for Halloween 2010) and decided to disguise myself under red lipstick, mascara and gold eye shadow. 

 My red lips looked as if they were stained by Snow White's poison apple; and the application of my eye shadow reminded me of painting technique of my framed self-portrait my mom displays in her home. The one I did when I was 4. 

 I didn't look like myself, that's for sure, but the more I thought about it after those terrifying 3 minutes and 19 seconds were complete, that was kind of the whole point of me doing this. I wanted to not just look like myself but not really act like myself, either.

Gyrating in front of hordes of people is not something I have ever wanted to do. I went to my first dance class around the same time I smeared paint around for that framed self-portrait. My mother took a picture of me on my way to the first dance class, and it's in my baby book fulfilling a dual purpose: a picture of me going to my first — and last — dance class.

I remember missing my mom a lot and crying. And having to stand on my head (I'm not sure that my 4-year-old memory is right about that detail). So I hated it and crossed my heart and hoped to die that I would never go to another wretched dance class.

That promise certainly didn't prevent me from rocking out to Ace of Base and Madonna in the privacy of my childhood room or making my dogs flip out today when I flail around to Robyn.

But I've never learned a serious dance. Where there were steps! That I had to memorize! When my dear friend and colleague Casey Blake told me about a series to learn the dance back in the fall, with her support, I felt it was time to face my fears and connect with my inner Sasha Fierce.

Kathleen Hahn, our esteemed dance teacher, didn't make me stand on my head once during the weekly dance sessions. She broke down the dance to make it accessible to a range of people, old and young, experienced and amateur. Her positive attitude — and almost comically big smile — assured me that I would stick that really fast spin toward the end of the song.

I did stick it on Friday. And to be honest, I even had a really good time once the beat dropped and crowd started to roar. No tears, but I did miss my mom (I'll send her the video, which you can find on YouTube, by the way).

Hahn and her constant smile are offering another series of “Single Ladies” classes, starting in June. Visit And you never know; there might be another flash mob up Hahn's sleeve.

When I scrubbed off my lipstick and eye shadow almost as soon as we pointed to our ring finger for the last time, I realized that the painted face looking back at me in the mirror still looked familiar.

That self-portrait hanging in the house has a prominent place because of my artistic choices: My straight brown hair is blue ringlets; my eyes are circled by bright golden eyelashes. I painted a big red heart, and what appear to be internal organs, lungs and the like, on my torso.

It didn't look anything like myself now or then. But I was the artist, so I got to determine what I looked like, who I was and even what internal things I want external. I still get to make those choices and to challenge myself, even through things as silly as learning the dance from a 2-year-old viral video, to truly know all the parts of me.

This is the opinion of Citizen-Times staff writer Carol Motsinger, who writes an entertainment column every Friday for Take5. She can be reached at

I Do Dances in Asheville Citizen Times, March 15, 2011

Hitting the dance floor in Asheville is good exercise, good fun

7:55 PM, Mar. 14, 2011 


Kathleen Hahn (right) leads a "Dance and Sweat" class at the Homewood Event Center in Montford. From left Annabell Lisa, Tara Letts, Sam Jones, and Magda Randolph learn some moves for the class, open to all levels of dance experience. 3/8/2011--Bill Sanders / Bill Sanders/

Written by Casey Blake


To find your dance: Dance Asheville offers daily listings of dance opportunities from contra and line dancing events to trance dance and salsa classes. to see and submit upcoming events.
To contra dance: Visit to find English country dancing, contra dancing and other regional dances in WNC.
To belly dance: Mahsati Janan teaches beginner belly dancing classes year-round. Visit to learn more about classes with Janan, or visit for other listings of belly dance opportunities.
To dance like Beyonce and Janet: It's not too late to join Kathleen Hahn for a booty-shaking good time with Beyonce and Janet Jackson. Visit for Hahn's class schedule or to learn more about personalized wedding dance choreography.

 ASHEVILLE — Asheville is nothing if not a haven for alternatives, and fitness is no exception.

 While the area has its fair share of gyms and traditional exercise regimes, locals are also getting fit more creatively: by dancing. 

Unlike hitting the treadmill or elliptical machines, Asheville fitness professionals say, dance can incorporate fun, unusual elements that some exercisers need to stay moving.

“The best thing you can do to make exercise a lifestyle is to find a way to be engaged with how you're moving,” said personal trainer Peggy Emory of Training Partners in Asheville.

“If that means running or lifting weights, that's wonderful. If that isn't what works for you, then go line dancing — that's great exercise. But you have to think outside of the box.”

Emory recommends zumba, the explosively popular dance-fitness craze found in most gyms, but points out that a gym setting doesn't work with every personality, and can't always fill a full fitness void.

“Use belly dancing as a way to move and work your abs in addition to a workout of crunches,” she said. “Or go contra dancing to get your cardio in, and hit the salsa clubs for some leg strengthening.”

Belly dancing is one of Asheville's signature seductive festival dances, and according to belly dance instructor Mahsati Janan, it's one of the best workouts in town.

“Belly dancing is aerobic, it works a lot on flexibility, and it's amazing for core strength,” said Janan.

“But one of the most attractive things about belly dancing is that it's not the kind of thing you have to have been working on since you were a kid. You can become accomplished in this type of dance even if you come into it as an adult,” she said.

“You definitely don't have to be tiny to get into belly dancing, and there's such a celebratory feel of acceptance here. Anybody can love it.”

Kathleen Hahn, a dance teacher, yoga instructor and certified personal trainer, believes in a fitness strategy of fun first.

“The reality for a lot of people is that if you're walking into a class thinking, ‘I'm going to exercise now,' it's a lot harder to get yourself to do it,” Hahn said.

“If you walk in thinking, ‘Oh, I'm just going to a superfun dance class,' it's a lot easier to do.”

Hahn, who runs a company in Asheville that specializes in personalized choreography for first wedding dances, has also embarked on a new teaching style — the school of Beyonce. Hahn leads two class series that teach the steps to Beyonce's “All the Single Ladies” and Janet Jackson's “All for You” music videos.

Hahn also works with a particular brand of dancer in Asheville that not every instructor will dare to tango with: the nondancer.

“I'm usually amazed at how quickly people with no experience can pick up choreography — I think everybody has a hidden dancer in them,” said Hahn, who welcomes dance novices to all her classes. “It's inspiring to help people let their guard down and let loose.”

In addition to the fun factor of a booty-shaking good time, Hahn said a dance session can be more than just entertaining.

“Dancing is really one of the most beneficial ways to exercise if it's done right,” said Hahn. “Dance is very full-body and works a lot of different muscle groups. It can be very aerobic and strengthening, and you're always doing something different.”

Ann Dunn, owner of the Fletcher School of Dance and artistic director of the Asheville Ballet, agreed that dance is more than just pretty movement.

“It's the best exercise in the world, and it combines that with a spiritual and emotional component,” she said. “Classical ballet combines all machines you can find at the gym, but you're not just doing it to stay fit, you're doing it as a human being.”

Even for the less hard-core dance enthusiast looking to shed a few pounds or tone up, Asheville has a beginner class for everything from Afro-Brazilian dance at Terpsicorps Dance Studio to the Western North Carolinian favorite, contra dancing, held weekly at The Grey Eagle and Warren Wilson College.

“Asheville is a place for creativity and doing things a little differently,” Hahn said. “Dancing is about letting loose and being uninhibited, and you don't have to be a pro to do that.”

I Do Dances Featured in Verve Magazine!

Gettin' Hitched?

by Jess McCuan.  photo by Brent Fleury

Kathleen Hahn

Just in time for wedding season, Ashevillean Kathleen Hahn has started a new business, I Do Dances, helping couples choreograph steps to the first dance at their wedding. One of her packages includes a custom-choreographed dance to your favorite tune, two and a half hours of rehearsals and a practice DVD. Hahn, a dancer, personal trainer and yoga instructor who moved here last year from New York City, has never been married herself. But she has been a bridesmaid nine times. "Instead of giving a friend a toast, I would make up a dance for her," she says. The most popular first-dance tunes so far? Ray LaMontagne’s You Are the Best Thing and At Lastby Etta James. For her own big day, Hahn plans to moonwalk to Michael Jackson’s Baby Be Mine.

I Do Dances in Rapid River Magazine: March 2010 issue

Wedding Season is Here Again!


Picking out a song for the first dance is always on the wedding planning to do list, but Kathleen Hahn’s “I Do Dances” contributes to couples’ togetherness by helping them bond through personalized choreography, taking that special moment to a memorable next level. Kathleen evaluates not only a couple’s individual skill levels, but also their tastes, so that their first dance is a reflection of who they truly are as a pair, providing a lasting memory for all in attendance. Personalized instruction and a rehearsal DVD of their dance allow for practicing as much as is wanted or needed in private before the big day, and it is evident that I Do Dances provides togetherness and fun.

“Working with Kathleen was absolutely and simply awesome! Using music we picked, and our little personal quirks, she created a most wonderful dance for us! My husband and I are not “dancers,” but wanted to have a memorable first dance. Kathleen met with us a few times and made a DVD of our dance that we could learn from. It was so easy to learn on our own ... My husband and I were able to get closer through the experience of learning a dance together, and had a lot of fun helping each other do something so out of our comfort zones. I highly recommend Kathleen and her choreography skills!” ~ Adi and Matthew

Vows are a big step, and designing some new steps for the affair provides a positive, connected experience for brides and grooms-to-be, thereby adding to their overall happiness quotient. I Do Dances offers different packages, add-on services and also creates custom dances for anyone in the wedding party. Even pets and friends can be included. Kathleen Hahn’s professional training allows this unconventional phenomenon to flourish. A dancer nearly all her life, Hahn holds a B.F.A. in Modern Dance from North Carolina School of the Arts, and has additional experience in many other forms of dance, personal training, yoga and instruction. For further information, contact Kathleen at I Do Dances at (828) 275-8628 or