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Dancer's answer: create own ballroom

Open house Sunday will show off new space for terpsichorean turn

WHITE CITY -- Bill Grimm created the Evergreen Ballroom to meet a demand for self-propelled entertainment and because he needs a place to dance.

So he bought a building -- no more than a metal shell -- in an industrial park at 6088 Crater Lake Ave., about a mile north of Vilas Road. And he created a ballroom.

The centerpiece is a 3,000-square-foot maple dance floor. It's mounted on springs, just like the floors used by professional basketball teams.

It's wonderful, said Esther Freeman, a founder of the local chapter of the U.S. Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association. It's like you're flying, like you're in another world.

The facility provides seating for 100 people and space for 150 to dance comfortably.

I built this because I was tired of going to dances that were so crowded there was no room to dance, Grimm said. That's one reason we're trying to keep this opening kind of low-key. There could be nothing worse than making a big hoopla and have 600 people show up that we can't handle.

Richard Houston, an award-winning drywall sculptor, gave form and texture to the interior of the building with a design 190 feet long, titled From Earth to Spirit.

It was 430 hours worth of work, Houston said. The goal is to draw you in so you're part of the design and not a separate entity.

An open house is scheduled from — to 5 p.m. Sunday. Visitors will have a chance to see the facility and meet local dance instructors.

I originally planned to rent it out for lessons and events, but it looks like I'll have to put on some of the dances myself, Grimm said.

He plans to offer a casual dance from 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays (not tonight -- check Tempo for listings or call 826-8000).

Dancers will be invited to dress up, if they wish, for dances on the third Saturday of each month at the suggestion of Lynda Hall, Grimm's partner and the ballroom's business manager.

She's also responsible for the color scheme, other art and for providing an assortment of dance-related accessories.

The Evergreen Ballroom will sell soft drinks and provide free water, but it isn't equipped for food service. People who rent the facility are welcome to arrange for catering, Grimm said. However, it's a no-smoking, no-alcohol facility and he'd like to see it used primarily for dance.

He's planning to offer a pre-instruction orientation so people can learn some of the terms and basics before they start tackling steps.

My intent is to make it easy for people to enjoy dance, he said. You don't need to be John Travolta or Fred Astaire.

He's dedicating the ballroom to his father, Fred Grimm. His parents met at the Frog Pond Grange near Wilsonville and Grimm remembers sleeping on chairs while his parents were dancing.

After his teens, he abandoned dancing to pursue a career, first as a marine fisheries biologist, then in high-vacuum physics and pre-computer chips. He taught math and science for 10 years and worked as a programmer for Apple Computer for 11.

My wife wasn't interested in dancing, but when I became single, I found it was a fun thing to do, he said. In the (San Francisco) Bay Area there was quite a crowd into ballroom dancing. You didn't have to become involved. There was no alcohol or smoking.

It was a safe environment.

But he longed for Oregon, if not the rain, and moved to the Rogue Valley to retire.

I couldn't find any ballroom dancing where I wasn't the youngest one there, he said.

He became president of the Amateur Ballroom Dancers' chapter and redoubled his efforts to find a suitable site to dance.

Ultimately, the answer was building his own. This will work for ballroom, country, square dancing -- everything but tap.

Bill Grimm wants to have plenty of room when he gets out on the dance floor, so he bought a building and turned it into the Evergreen Ballroom. Partner and Ballroom business manager Lynda Hall helps him show off the valley's new dance palace. - Photo by Bob Pennell