September-October 2010 | LORD OF THE DANCE

Professional dancers Rene Ostarek, far right, and  Bronislava Vrtalova taught more than 90 dance enthusiasts the fox trot during the inaugural Ballroom On The Beach  at The Princess Royale in June.
Rene Ostarek and Bronislava Vrtalova with John MartinProfessionals Sarah Davis and Mike Nichols at Ballroom On The Beach in July.Dancers take to the floor at Ballroom On The Beach.



Whether you’re a novice or an expert, Ballroom On The Beach brings the motion to the ocean

Written By: | Photographer: Stephen Cherry and Grant L. Gursky

Just because John Martin didn’t give up his day job doesn’t mean he’s forgotten about your nights. And thank goodness he hasn’t, because the entrepreneurial-minded member of Martin Fish Co. has opened, of all things, Ocean City’s first and only ballroom dance social, called, aptly, Ballroom on the Beach.

Both handsome and strikingly blond, the essence of John Martin superficially suggests more of a surfer-dude than an old-school, rough-hewn fisherman of the Atlantic. Yet, in his dance regalia, he appears every inch the graceful Casanova, and is ready to help you enjoy a night of fun and dancing.

And believe it or not, the dude is good. “I love dancing… my whole family loves dancing,” Martin said. “I’ve actually been dancing for quite some time, but I started really getting into pairs dancing after the popularity of shows like Dancing with the Stars, which I really enjoy.”

So, in November of 2009, Martin began taking ballroom dance lessons in Wilmington, where the popular activity is more readily accessible.

“It was hard at first,” Martin admitted, “and I remember actually being somewhat scared the first time someone asked me to fox trot, but I did it anyway. Well, after three Friday nights dancing up in Wilmington, an instructor approached me and offered me a lesson, and I haven’t stopped since.”

Martin, who not only moves well on his feet but thinks well on them, too, didn’t take long to figure out that such an organization would be something Ocean City could truly embrace.

“As much as I enjoyed my time in Wilmington,” said Martin, who has since won or placed at least three times as a newcomer in pro-am competitions, “I knew that an area as well developed as ours had nothing like this. So my immediate goal became to bring ballroom dancing to the shores of Ocean City.”

And so he did.

After a phenomenally successful inaugural event on June 11 – which saw nearly 100 residents from various counties in attendance – the follow-up came on July 31. Open to both singles and couples, the four-hour event offered everyone a chance to dance and covered everything from the waltz, fox trot, jitterbug, quickstep and swing to the samba, cha-cha, rumba, salsa and the hustle. Martin’s program has even been structured to include a 45-minute lesson in advance of the open dancing on one particular style of dance.

On this warm night in July the tango was featured, as led by Wilmington-based professional dance instructors Sarah Davis and Mike Nichols, winners of the 2009 Ohio Star Ball. Many in attendance found it invigorating to see people ranging in age from their early-20s to well over 60 – including some of the community’s more prominent citizens – come together to enjoy such a unique event.

“I think it’s just a fabulous addition to the multitude of events that Ocean City has to offer,” said Melanie Pursel, executive director of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce and an attendee of the event. “It’s exciting to see so many people enjoying themselves and learning the proper technique of dance. As ‘Ballroom on the Beach’ continues to grow, I can easily see it drawing people from the Mid-Atlantic region.”

Pursel’s words seem prescient, especially when one considers that seasoned ballroom dancers and community leaders like Salisbury’s Rick and Kathy Fahey, of Peninsula Roofing Company, Inc., came to OC that night to cut the rug (actually a hardwood floor) and have some fun.

“Kathy and I like that it’s in Ocean City, where previously there’s been nothing of this kind,” said Rick, who, from what onlookers could see, was almost as good on the floor as he’s reputed to be on a roof.

“We also like their infusion of more contemporary music and the caliber of professional talent they use,” added Kathy, who knows whereof she speaks in light of the fact she is the president of the Salisbury Cotillion Dance Club, a 95-year-old a ballroom-dance organization out of Wicomico County. “The dance exhibitions [the professionals] give are really fun to watch and a very good part of the program overall.”

Each Ballroom on the Beach event offers free snacks and non-alcoholic refreshments and provides a cash bar for those who favor a small dose of liquid courage before venturing out onto the dance floor.

The next Ballroom on the Beach event dances down Coastal Highway from The Princess Royale to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on October 23. Advance tickets are available for $15 per person. For more information, call John Martin at 609-851-0146; write to him at, or visit him online at Ballroom on the Beach is also on Facebook.


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