LawReader User Mickey McGuire Dances His Way to World Title

LawReader User Mickey McGuire of Prestonsburg, (and his dance partner) Jessica Bryant of Louisville were named world champions by the United Country Western Dance Council in January.
AT 57, PRESTONSBURG LAWYER SURPRISES EVEN HIMSELF –  It has taken only about a year to perfect this partnership, but it is one in which the duo are so in tune with each other, no words need be spoken.
That’s probably a good thing because who wants to share the dance floor with a couple of Chatty Cathys?
Then again, who wants to share the dance floor with a couple of world champs?
That’s what happens any time Prestonsburg lawyer Mickey McGuire and Louisville real estate agent Jessica Bryant trip the light fantastic.
Fair warning: Anyone who isn’t an equal terpsichorean heavyweight had better sit the next one out.
It took five dances, elaborate costumes and a lot of calluses for the couple to be named World Crystal Champions by the United Country Western Dance Council in January, when they competed against dancers from Europe and England at the international competition outside Stockholm.
Competitors had to perform five to eight individual and different dances, each lasting two minutes.
Judges gave points for each dance, then added then up to decide the winner. Strategies varied according to the strengths of each team. Some dancers tried to rack up the most points by performing all eight dances. Others believed in keeping their dance card to the bare minimum, focusing precious practice time on the smallest number of steps.
Fortunately or not, the McGuire-Bryant team didn’t have to worry about a strategy.
“We only met last May,” he said, so he and Bryant stuck with the bare minimum of five dances — waltz, cha-cha, swing, nightclub or bolero, and country-western. “We didn’t have any more time,” he said.
Getting to take the gold home takes more than being able to smile while doing the box step or not hyperventilating during the cha-cha. Judges look for poise, connection between partners, costumes and choreography.
“It’s the whole package. They are looking at the entertainment value. Do we draw your attention?” he said. “The two partners should move as one. When my foot hits the floor, hers should be there at the same time. It takes hundreds and hundreds of hours. It is a very competitive sport, no less than tennis and golf, only this is one you do with a partner.”
Enduring such a high-pressure contest was not what McGuire had in mind when he got into ballroom dancing 15 years ago. He thought it would just be fun and a better alternative to going home and falling asleep on the couch in front of the TV.
Yet, in a few years, he grew more adventuresome and started making the four-hour round trip to Charleston, W.Va., every Monday night after work to take even more lessons.
“I loved it,” he said. “I felt invigorated. I felt exhilarated.”
It was this teacher, Lorinda Nease, who taught at her Steppin’ Out Studio, who saw his latent competitive streak and persuaded him to try out in the newcomer division in a contest in Harrisburg, Pa. McGuire took fourth place.
“After that I was hooked,” he said.
Though McGuire might be light on his feet on the dance floor, he’s not a lightweight when it comes to training, approaching his workouts as if he were an Olympics-bound athlete.
At least twice a week he heads for the gym for muscle-pummeling endurance sessions. But it’s his biweekly yoga class that he thinks gives him the edge at age 57.
“I am dancing against such younger people I have to be better than they are. They can be as young as 30, even 19,” he said. “They are fast and flexible and quick. The yoga really keeps the flexibility in my body. Working out in the gym makes my muscles stronger but sometimes stiffer. Yoga will also create strength but elongates them.”
Most weekends McGuire heads to Louisville to train with Bryant for four to six hours at a time to perfect their precision. It’s at the end of those grueling practice sessions that McGuire feels out of step with his own muscles.
“I’ll get out my driver’s license to make sure I’m not 80. I knew I was 57 when I walked in here,” he said.
As hard as he trained for the championship, McGuire was just as sure the pair wouldn’t win after he got a look at the other teams.
“There were couples from Italy and England, and we thought they were awesome, really, really good. We concluded that we were not going to win, thank you very much, judges,” he said.
So instead of hanging around the ballroom watching someone else take the prize, he went sightseeing with his two college-age children. That was fine with his partner.
“She said, ‘You go on and spend time with your children. If we get a T-shirt, I’ll bring it to you,’” he said. “That night as we walked into the hotel, somebody congratulated me. Then someone else, and I thought, ‘Wow, we must have taken third.’”
As he walked into his hotel room, he saw what a misstep in judgment he had made. There in his suite’s sitting room was a table full of first-place trophies.
“I couldn’t believe it. I absolutely couldn’t believe. I was absolutely overwhelmed.”
And then, McGuire did something no world champion dancer ought to do.
“I froze.”

Author: Benita Heath
Contributing Culture Writer  Reprinted from Lexington Herald-Leader

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