Twinsburg - The owner of Starz Ballroom, 2700 E. Aurora Road, has been connecting people through dance for as long as he can remember.
And now Anderson Sylvestre, of Northfield, is sharing with the Twinsburg area his passion for helping people find their confidence while learning ballroom dancing.
Sylvestre introduced his second Starz Ballroom, in Twinsburg, with a grand opening gala Sept. 20 that included a formal dance. His Westlake Starz Ballroom will celebrate eight years in October.
"Twinsburg is a great city, surrounded by great cities," Sylvestre said.
Sylvestre came to Ohio from Haiti in 1999 to study civil engineering.
"I wanted to come back and help Haiti," he said.
While attending engineering classes, Sylvestre was also competing in dance competitions and teaching dance, like he did for free in the clubs in Haiti.
After three years of college in Ohio, he realized engineering was not for him.
"Ballroom took over," Sylvestre said. "I could see my life doing ballroom dancing."
He began teaching at a franchised studio in Northfield and entering Pro-Am competitions with some of his students, a practice he continues in his two studios.
In the Sept. 21 Cleveland Dance Sport Challenge, Sylvestre and his student and frequent partner, Nicole Sprenger, won the bronze division, with 27 first-place dances.
"My goal is always keep them in the top three," he said.
When Sylvestre started teaching, his youngest students were in their forties.
With the popularity of shows like "So you think you can Dance?" and "Dancing with the Stars," his current students range in age from 8 to 50-plus.
"If you can walk, you can dance," Sylvester said.
And maybe, sometimes, if you can't walk.
"My biggest moment was teaching ladies in wheelchairs to dance," he said.
A woman in a wheelchair came into the studio with a friend, Sylvestre recalled. The woman loved music.
"She said she wanted to do ballroom dancing," he said. "I never taught anyone like that before."
Sylvestre checked the internet for guidance, and found a syllabus.
"I learned it, and we started doing it two times a week," he said. "It was really fun. It was the most touching thing I ever had done."
One of Sylvestre's goals is to help 12- to 15-year-old kids through ballroom dancing.
"When you go to school and teach kids to dance, you talk about manners and what dance can do for them in the future," he said.
He has young students who were very shy when they started dancing.
"Little by little, that goes away," he said. "You get to know yourself better and believe in yourself."
Sylvestre wants to offer that gift to junior high and high school kids. He would like to see them compete.
Like the Westlake studio, the Twinsburg Starz Ballroom offers private and group lessons. They also have open social dance parties -- the Twinsburg location party is on Thursday, and Westlake is on Friday -- where dance students can practice what they've learned and anyone who loves to dance can drop in.
"Dance is social first," Sylvestre said. "It is the most healthy exercise somebody can do. It's fun, you meet a lot of new friends, understand more about other cultures. It just blends all of us into one."
Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433