Beth Smyth once danced in competition. Now she does it to share her love of dancing and teach others. Her ballroom dancing lessons are offered in Port Washington.Beth Smyth used to wear glitzy costumes and glide in the arms of her partner through intricate waltzes, fox trots, rumbas and tangos, smiling at judges who were critiquing her and her partner’s every move and nuance.
It was similar to the popular TV show “Dancing With the Stars,” she said.
Today, Beth is more likely to dance in her Port Washington living room with her husband Josh, who spent three years in Afghanistan and Iraq with the U.S. Army airborne infantry.
She also dances with her 18-month-old son Lincoln to soothe an owie, calm his fears, rock him to sleep or just have fun.
Life has changed for Beth, who moved to Port Washington two years ago after her husband’s discharge and shortly before their son was born.
But her love for dancing hasn’t diminished.
“It’s always been part of my life. I absolutely love to dance,” Beth said. “I would love to compete again. You get that nervous, excited feeling.”
For now, she said, she’s content to teach others to dance.
Beth is offering ballroom dance classes through the Port Washington Park and Recreation Department and the Port Washington Senior Citizens Center (see related article).
She also gives private lessons and enjoys choreographing routines for couples to dance at their weddings.
“I really feel God gave me these talents and I’m blessed,” Beth said.
“I enjoy teaching people to dance and seeing the changes that occur. Their confidence and posture improves. They realize, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ That’s fun to see.”
Beth and her three siblings, who were homeschooled, grew up with music and dance. Her mother taught ballroom dancing and ballet in Chicago. Her father is a musician who plays guitar, bass and percussion.
Beth’s first love was ballet, which she learned from her mother and got additional instruction in when she was 13. She studied ballet and modern dance at the Columbia School of Art and Design in Chicago for one year.
She and Josh were friends and dated for a few years, but it wasn’t until he joined the Army in 2003 that their relationship changed.
“He sent me a letter from boot camp asking me to marry him,” Beth said.
Josh said he joined the Army because he was uncertain of the direction his life should take. Things became clearer when he was faced with going to war, he said.
“You don’t always get a chance to keep the people you love around you, and I wanted her near me,” Josh said.
They were married Dec. 27, 2003.
“The next day, we packed up and moved to North Carolina,” Beth said. “My family is close-knit and it was hard to leave. Josh and I really had to rely on each other.”
They were together until Josh was deployed to Afghanistan in 2005.
Beth moved to Pewaukee to live with her parents and started taking ballroom dance lessons at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Brookfield.
“I couldn’t find a ballet instructor who wanted to put in the time with someone older, which is why I switched to ballroom dance,” Beth said.
She soon became an instructor and competed in studio and regional dance shows.
Her first year, she earned first-place awards for rumba and waltz, second-place for fox trot and swing and fourth-place for bolero and Viennese waltz.
Beth rented or borrowed expensive costumes for competitions.
Her ballet background helped, Beth said.
“Especially the posture,” she said. “I like the smooth waltzes, tango, rumba and fox trot. The cha-cha, swing and salsa are fun, but I like the smoother, graceful dances.”
Beth taught her brother Mark Kramer and his fiancée to dance and choreographed a rumba for their wedding.
“They were excellent. People came up to them afterwards and asked where they learned to do that,” Beth said.
Beth returned to Fayetteville, N.C., in 2007 when Josh returned from Iraq. However, he was home only one week before he was sent back to Iraq for another tour.
Beth taught at Roland’s Ballroom Dance Studio in Fayetteville.
Her husband is a good dancer, Beth said, but their time together has been so limited that dancing was not a priority.
When Josh was discharged, Beth was six months pregnant. The couple looked for places to rent near her family.
“We heard nice things about Port Washington, and I found a place to rent on Craig’s List,” Beth said. “My parents looked at it and said it was nice. So we packed up and here we are. We love Port.”
Beth earned a degree as a surgical technologist while her husband was in the service.
Josh works at Costco and is studying information technology, specializing in network security, at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
When Lincoln is sleeping, they sometimes turn on the music, turn down the lights and dance in their living room.
Beth and Josh Smyth danced with their son Lincoln. Photo by Sam Arendt
Learn to DanceBeth Smyth, a professional ballroom dancer and instructor, is offering dance lessons at the Port Washington Park and Recreation Department, 201 N. Webster St., and the Port Washington Senior Center, 102 E. Pier St.
The sessions will include waltz, rumba, tango, swing and other dance steps.
Registration for the following classes at the park and recreation department can be done in person or on-line at www.ci.port-washington.wi.us/ParkandRecreation.
• Ballroom dance for people 16 and older will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Fridays, April 16 through May 7. The fee is $32 for Port residents or $40 for nonresidents. A partner is preferred but not required.
• Junior ballroom dance for children ages 10 to 16 will be held from 6 to 6:45 p.m. Fridays, April 16 through May 7. The fee is $30 for children who live in Port Washington or $37.50 for nonresidents. A partner is not required.
• “Dancing With Your Child” is for any adult and child to learn the hustle, salsa and swing. Classes will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, April 13 through May 4. The fee is $30 for adult residents and $37.50 for nonresidents. There is no fee for the child.
Call the Port Senior Center at 284-5821 to register for the following classes.
• A free introduction to ballroom dance for people 18 and older will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School cafeteria, 1403 N. Holden St., Port Washington. Refreshments will be served. Registration is required by Monday, April 19.
• Ballroom dance lessons for people 18 and older will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. five Thursdays, May 6 through June 3, at the senior center. The fee is $35 for senior center members, $60 for couples or $40 for nonmembers.
For private lessons, contact Smyth at (262) 510-7700 or