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Staff by Day, Dancer by Night

News Story

College of Health Professions Assistant Professor Karen “Toby” Haghenbeck shares how she learned to kick up her heels and take a spin around the ballroom.

The cha cha, the rumba, the foxtrot, and bachata—you name it and chances are good that College of Health Professions Assistant Professor Karen “Toby” Haghenbeck, PhD, RN, FNP, has tried her hand—or should we say foot?—at it.

“About a year and half ago, I took up dancing after finishing treatment for cancer,” says Haghenbeck. “Dancing has always been a passion of mine and I ended up liking the classes so much that I just stuck with it.”

Haghenbeck didn’t just stick with it—she flourished. Learning the fancy footwork to dances like the Viennese waltz, salsa, and the tangos—both Argentine and American. As part of her ballroom education, Haghenbeck is tested on her dancing prowess and competes both regionally and nationally.

“In December, I was invited to participate in the national competition for the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Washington, DC, at the Gaylord National Convention Center,” she says. “I did a total of 30 dances and did well. In the closed category, meaning every dance is done by the book, I won five gold, six silver, and four bronze medals.”

In the open category, which involves more dancing to a style of your choosing, she did equally as well, bringing home six blue ribbons, six yellow ribbons, and three red ribbons. This June, Haghenbeck plans on attending a higher level competition in Boston, Massachusetts.

“The most difficult dance I had to learn was the Viennese waltz because of the intricate footwork that’s involved,” Haghenbeck explains. “But my favorite is the swing! For sure.”

Haghenbeck believes that life-long learning is essential for all of us and she believes in sharing that sentiment with her students at Pace. “They know I’ve been participating in dance and that I’m continuing to learn; that I’m learning just like they are,” she says.

For Haghenbeck, dancing is a positive addition to her life for a variety of reasons. It’s great exercise—she’s lost 15 pounds since starting—and she gets to socialize with people who have similar likes and interests. On top of that, it’s a real morale and energy boost.

“The best thing is being able to celebrate life with the people at my dance studio,” she says. “They know I am recovering from cancer and they celebrate every moment with me.”

Want to see Professor Haghenbeck in action? Click here to view her most recent competition video.