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Ballroom dancers raise money for patients with chronic illnesses

Karolina Wysocka, 24, and Marek Wasaznik, 50, of

Karolina Wysocka, 24, and Marek Wasaznik, 50, of the Ballroom Dance Factory in Patchogue performed an international waltz during the inaugural Enchanted Evening Ballroom Show and Benefit Dance at the Polish Hall in Riverhead. (Aug. 31, 2012) Credit: Michael Cusanelli

Marek Wasaznik twirled his dance partner Karolina Wysocka across the hardwood dance floor Friday night at the Polish Hall in Riverhead.

Dressed in a flowing orange dress, Wysocka flitted across the dance floor with ease, graceful and light.

When the pair finished their international waltz, the crowd burst into applause as the couple gracefully bowed.

No, it wasn’t a scene from “Dancing with the Stars.”

Living Well Yoga and Fitness hosted its inaugural Enchanted Evening Ballroom Show and Benefit Dance. The event raised money to fund free dance and exercise classes for those with chronic illnesses such as cancer, HIV and Parkinson’s disease.

“This is an opportunity for them [the patients] to come to this beautiful hall to dance,” said Lori Newell, 47, the owner of Living Well Yoga and Fitness in Montauk.

Ballroom dance lessons are an excellent way for patients of chronic illnesses to socialize and exercise in a fun and engaging manner, Newell said.

Living Well Yoga and Fitness, based in Montauk, works mainly with victims of chronic illnesses on the East End, such as patients at the Southampton Hospital’s David E. Rogers M.D. Center for HIV/AIDS Care.

“Ballroom dancing teaches us to have form,” said Susan Wojcik, 52, the assistant program coordinator at the David E. Rogers Center. “Balance is very important for people with chronic illnesses.”

The ballroom dancing event featured several performances from local dance instructors as well as a Chinese auction and 50/50 raffle.

“We’ve danced for many years and when you love it, you want to show it,” said Wasaznik, 50, the owner of the Ballroom Factory Dance Studio in Patchogue.

Marek and the other dance instructors who have danced for years showed off their prowess for the crowd of about 150, which ranged from senior citizens to young adults in their 20s.

“It’s great to perform,” added Wysocka, 24, also from the Ballroom Dance Studio. “Every performance is special.”

Many of the evening’s attendees were regular students of local ballroom dancing programs on Long Island. While some of the guests dance for health and medical reasons, others dance purely for the opportunity to meet new people and get out of the house on a Friday night.

“I only recently learned that women like to get dressed up and go dancing,” said Anthony Mannino, 62, of Yaphank. “I mourn for my lost youth.”

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