Lake Norman Magazine

Fall in love with dance

12/30/2010  For our romance issue, we are doing a story on the dancing lessons offered at Havana Social Club.  Todd Sumlin -
12/30/2010 For our romance issue, we are doing a story on the dancing lessons offered at Havana Social Club. Todd Sumlin - Todd Sumlin

Editor's note: Read to the bottom of this story for a special marriage proposal!

There’s a reason why newly married couples begin their celebration as husband and wife with a first dance. There’s a reason why so many movies portray love on the big screen through dance scenes. There’s a reason why the words dance and romance rhyme! People have been in love with dance for centuries, and there’s a place in Cornelius where the love of dance takes center stage. The Havana Banquet and Ballroom, formerly the Havana Social Club, may have a new location and name, but the staff’s interest in teaching Lake Norman residents the art of dance remains the same.

The Havana opened nine years ago in the Kenton Place complex, a unique rental hall that also offered dance lessons to children and adults. When the club’s lease expired last year, co-owners Harold Carrillo and Yusimi Cruz looked for larger venues. The vacant Palace movie theater just across the parking lot was the perfect option. Built in 2000, the 12-screen movie complex with a lobby decorated in an Egyptian theme remained a Cornelius icon after the theater closed in 2003. Many residents lamented its possible demolition.

Havana Club’s staff saw an opportunity to expand its banquet rental business and dance lessons. They leased the theater, stripped away the hieroglyphics painted on the walls, ripped out the concession stand, and renovated the ticket booth into a boutique that sells dance clothing and accessories. The newly named Havana Banquet and Ballroom opened last September. The ballroom is the perfect setting for hosting celebrations from birthday parties to weddings. The room is open and inviting, with the dance floor being the center of attention.

Carrillo may be a business owner, but he is also a dancer, and enjoys sharing his passion for dance with others. And who knew there were so many different dances to learn? Latin dance includes the Salsa, Cha Cha, Merengue and Mambo. Smooth dance features the Foxtrot, Tango and Viennese Waltz. That’s just to name a few. From the Jive to the Jitterbug, the Quickstep to the West Coast Swing, Carrillo and and his staff get you moving to the beat of them all.

Newly engaged couples take advantage of the lessons with plans to wow their family and friends at their wedding receptions. But it’s not just engaged couples who enjoy the lessons. “Dancing has always been so popular,” says Carrillo. “We don’t market to particular groups or ages because everyone likes it.”

Couples can sign up for private lessons, choosing from a variety of lesson packages. Three to four lessons, each lasting 45 minutes, may be what you need to waltz across the floor for the first dance at your wedding. If you and your partner hope to be the next Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, consider registering for a more extensive private lesson package.

Couples or individuals can also sign up for group lessons offered almost every weeknight. Check the website’s monthly calendar for a list of dances. Every Thursday evening you can join others wanting to learn the Salsa. Stop by at 7 p.m. for beginner lessons or join the advanced group that meets at 9 p.m. On other evenings the staff teaches dances like the Tango, Cha Cha, and Swing through group lessons. The atmosphere is fun and welcoming. It’s great for a night out with friends or the opportunity to make new friends with others who share an interest in dance.

And just who is dancing at the Havana Banquet and Ballroom? Thanks to reality shows like “Dancing with the Stars,” everybody is. “Dancing has always been popular with women,” says Carrillo. “But thanks to reality shows, we’ve seen an increase in the number of guys who want to learn.”

Havana offers a free lesson for anyone wanting to sample the instruction first. If you’d like to see the end result – and enjoy a night on the town in the process – attend one of the Showcases offered three to four times each year. The Showcases give clients the chance to show off their new moves to family, friends and others who want to check out the scene. A seated dinner is served and followed by the dancing. “Everyone is welcome to attend the Showcase,” Carrillo says. “It’s a chance to see how much fun dancing can be, and gives our clients an opportunity to show off all that they’ve learned in their classes.” Look for the Valentine’s Day Showcase being held this month.

If you enjoy watching dancers on the screen or always wanted to Foxtrot across the floor, the Havana Banquet and Ballroom is the perfect place to have some fun and perfect your dance moves in the process.

To see a photo gallery from Havana Banquet & Ballroom, featuring Harold Carrillo and dance partner Dana Stout in action, click here.

Want to go?What: Havana Banquet and BallroomWhere: 8325 Copley Drive, CorneliusContact: 704-892-7000More info:

Editor’s note: While in our photo studio for the cover shoot for Lake Norman Magazine, Harold Carrillo, the co-owner of Havana Banquet & Ballroom, decided he wanted to propose to his girlfriend and dance partner, Dana Stout. He wanted his words to appear with our article and photos. Since this is our issue dedicated to love, romance and weddings, we were happy to accommodate. Please check our site at to find out how Stout reacted! – Editor Leigh Dyer

My Love Dana,

I always heard my dad say something about the day he met my mom; a slow-motion moment of five seconds that feels like five hours, and in this moment he said he fell in love. For many years I tried to understand that little moment, but after I meet you everything made sense. I can say with the utmost pride, I have had my moment of love; the moment that everybody dreams of, the moment that answers everything and multiplies the fate, the moment that lasts forever.

Thanks to you, I experience the most beautiful moments and emotions along with the greatest feelings that I have ever had for somebody. Thanks for teaching me so much about life with your innocence. God has blessed me with his beautiful daughter and down on my knees, with the most pure love, I want to ask you: Dana, will you marry me?

--Harold Carrillo

Click here for Kelli Robinson's follow-up!