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Updated 28 minutes ago

By age 78, most people are at least thinking of slowing down, if they haven't already. Not Jerry Gresko, who owns and operates TDI Gresko Ballroom Dance in downtown Greensburg with his wife, Judy Gresko. When he's not on the dance floor, he's not exactly standing still, Judy says.

“You've heard the saying, ‘jack of all trades, master of none?'” she asks. “Jerry is a master of them all.”

The South Greensburg resident paints, writes and works on cars, but through it all — even a 40-year corporate career — he's never stopped dancing.

Question: What keeps you going?

Answer: I've always had a lot of ambition and I can't sit still. I'm 78 years old, and I can dance all day. I think if you put your mind to something, and you like what you're doing, you'll do well.

Q: What sparked your interest in dance?

A: I remember going to school dances and being a wallflower — I was a James Dean type with a cigarette. But I'd see these guys with a girl on each arm and I'd think, “Gee, how did that guy get all those girls?” It was his dancing.

Q: So when did you learn?

A: My first lessons were in Fort Lauderdale. I was just out of the service in 1960 or '61, and I was working as a lifeguard. The girlfriend of my friend, who I went to the bars with, said, “Why don't you go to the Fred Astaire dance studio and say you want to be a dance instructor? They'll teach you for free.” So two of us went up there and said, “We'd like to be dance teachers.” They said, “Can you dance?” We said, “No, but we're willing to learn.”

They put on a mambo and we picked it up just like that, both of us.

I was there less than three weeks when they gave me a student. I said, “I can't dance that well yet,” and they said, “You know more than she does.”

Q: Do you have a favorite dance?

A: I like them all, but I do have preferences. I learned to love the paso doble and the tango. I think it's because of the influence it has on the person dancing. In the three minutes you're dancing, you marry with that great music and become one with it.

Q: What's changed in dance over the years?

A: Ballroom was very strong in the '60s and then it dropped off as open dancing came on the scene and became more creative. The twist was a dance where the partners are separated, although Chubby Checker always felt that it was a couples dance. You dance it together, even though there's no touching. Contact dancing came and went, but “Dancing With the Stars” brought contact dancing back. It's been good for ballroom dancing.

Q: You and Judy participate in the local Dancing With the Celebrities events. How do you prepare your partners, especially the first-timers?

A: I tell my students that you have to have theater in your mind when you're dancing. There's a lot of theatrics in it. Even dancing a swing, you have to be looking at one another, and attracting one another and making it fun. The cha cha is a dance that revolves around a tease, so if you put the theatrics in it, it looks great. And that's what people have to do to win.

Q: You also teach martial arts. How does that relate to dancing?

A: Did you know that Bruce Lee was an avid ballroom dancer? You can go to his website and read about his dancing. He was a great cha cha dancer; he won a cha cha gold cup in Hong Kong in 1958 before he came to the United States. He came to Los Angeles in 1959 and the first thing he did was open a dance studio.

A lot of his skills in martial art come from the ballroom, the skills of balance and movement. Bruce Lee has a lot of ballroom movement. You can see it in his hands — he probably learned that from the cha cha. His back stance comes from tango.

Q: I have two left feet. Could you teach me to dance?

A: Everybody has the rhythm. Your heart beats, right? The four/four timing for a typical foxtrot or even the swing — feel the beat of the music and feel your heart at the same time. Your heart will actually beat to the beat of some music. So you have the rhythm.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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