Elsa_JimJim Helmich has been an independent contractor with Plymouth Harbor since September 2014, when the Wellness Center opened. He teaches line dancing every Tuesday from 10:30-11:30 a.m. In addition, Jim operates his own dance studio, Ballroom City, where he offers private lessons in a variety of dance forms.

It is no surprise that Jim comes from a musical family — his mother was a Sweet Adeline (the worldwide women’s chorus that formed in 1945, singing a cappella barbershop harmony) and his grandfather was a singer on early television. Jim began playing classical piano at age seven, and as a teen he sang in both the church and school choirs. After high school, Jim moved from Ohio to Sarasota to attend New College of Florida. He was a pre-med student with the hopes of becoming a veterinarian. However, after one conversation with a neighbor, the course of his career was changed for good.

Jim’s neighbor was an undefeated U.S. ballroom dance champion, and when he opened his own dance studio in Bradenton, he asked Jim to join him as a dance instructor. Although he had never danced professionally before, Jim says he was a quick learner and received a great deal of on-the-job training. The rest was history. He spent nine years working for local dance studios, including the Fred Astaire Dance Studio, and has now owned Ballroom City for 15 years. He is certified in dance instruction through the National Dance Council of America, and competes in numerous ballroom dance competitions each year.

In addition to social and mental stimulation, Jim explains that dancing offers many health-related advantages. According to a 21-year study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, funded by the National Institute on Aging, dancing is linked to a number of health benefits and may even help reduce the risk of dementia. The study followed seniors 75 and older and showed reduced stress and depression, and improved balance, endurance, cardiovascular health, and mental capacity.

“How I’ve seen dance improve people’s lives is amazing,” Jim says. “It’s all about having fun, and I try to make each day as positive as possible.”

If you’re interested in learning more, make sure to stop by Jim’s Tuesday morning class. You can also find his contact information in the Wellness Center’s Preferred Professionals brochure.