Dancing Sparks Lifestyle Change for Army Officer


FORT MEADE, Md. – The benefits of dancing for recreation have put a new spin on life for an Army Reserve officer here.

Lt. Col. Anne Marie Theriault, a civil affairs officer with the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, said she has had a love for dance since she was a child.

“I took dancing as a child, and then when I grew up, I did a little bit more social dancing,” she said. “About two years ago, I started taking formal ballroom dancing lessons.” The colonel’s beginning in dance was more than just a passing childhood phase. She said that her early experience included ballet, modern and jazz dance styles.

Theriault’s interest in ballroom dancing started after she returned from a deployment to Iraq. She said that while she was deployed, she had opportunities to take part in dancing events such as salsa dancing at her forward operating base.

“Now it’s strictly ballroom,” Theriault said with excitement in her voice. She takes ballroom lessons at studios in Columbia and Silver Spring, Md., in a variety of styles. “Smooth and rhythm are the styles I practice,” she said. “They include the waltz, tango, cha-cha and rhumba, while the rhythm part includes American-style ballroom.”

Since renewing her dancing passion, Theriault said, she has competed nationally and locally. “I do an annual competition in Las Vegas, and also did competitions in New York and Virginia last year,” she said.

Theriault, who said she has finished close to the top in her competitions, said it makes her feel good to be able to compete and perform at her level, especially given that some of her competitors have been competing a lot longer than she has.

As Theriault’s interest in ballroom dancing grew after her deployment, she said, one particular factor increased her enjoyment and participation. She uses it as a key component of her fitness routine. “I joined Weight Watchers and lost about 30 pounds while doing normal exercise routines like running and aerobics, but decided to try ballroom dancing after the deployment,” she said.

Since she incorporated ballroom dance into her life, Theriault said, she has seen pleasing improvements in her fitness. “It’s one thing to lose the weight,” she said, “but maintaining the weight loss is more challenging.” Her flexibility also has improved, she added, and strength in her core muscles has increased.

Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a strength and conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, said he agrees that dancing is a good routine to stay fit.

“Anything that you can find that you enjoy that keeps you active, I highly recommend it,” he said. “Keeping fit does not have to be kept in the standard forms or routines of working out. With dance you get speed, agility and balance. You can get more out of it than people realize.”

Theriault quoted singer and actress Jennifer Hudson in relation to her quest to stay fit. “Nobody’s perfect,” she said. “Even in keeping fit, you still have to live.”

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