Dancing in Silence teaches attendees the soothing side of martial arts

Photo courtesy of Janet Thomas.

By Noah Johnson

Dancing in Silence, Inc., a traditional martial arts center located in Univerity Park, offers a variety of classes including Tai Chi and Qigong.

The business’s head instructor Janet Thomas began learning Tai Chi at the age of 26. She offers classes every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening, and teaches a special Tai Chi class for free each Saturday morning.

People can attend their first two classes for free, then they become $22 per session.

“I’m not seeing this as a means for becoming rich monetarily,” said Thomas, who currently supports Dancing in Silence through her other job at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

Dancing in Silence has grown considerably since it was first established in 2008. When the business first began, few students attended. A woman working at the local University Park Church of the Brethren began to take classes out of sympathy, Thomas said.

People soon began trickling in when a sign advertising the center was placed outside the church, according to Thomas, whose marketing efforts for Dancing in Silence have drastically increased since the birth of the business. The head instructor has handed out flyers, created a website, formed a meetup group, increased the center’s online presence and appeared at martial arts demonstrations in an effort to increase her attendance.

Photo courtesy of Janet Thomas.

Dancing in Silence has since grown to about 27 students, including three University of Maryland students who help teach, Thomas said.

“I’ve learned that there really is a need for and value to learning to control your inner energy source,” said Dancing in Silence student Adrienne Macbeth, who was introduced to the course by a friend several years ago.

All evening classes share a fairly standard routine at Dancing in Silence. Students perform Qigong exercises for the first 30 minutes, These exercises are associated with “strengthening and energizing internal organs,” said Thomas, followed by a walking meditation that focuses on balance and stability.

According to Thomas, students then break up into beginner, intermediate and advanced groups, based on their physical capabilities and ability to retain information.

These classes give students time to practice for the several martial arts demonstrations they perform each year, Thomas said. The next such event will take place on April 29 for World Taiji and Qigong Day.

Photo courtesy of Janet Thomas.

Thomas, who plans on retiring from her day job in two years, has high hopes for the future of her business. Her current goal is to make Dancing in Silence self-sufficient. She also aspires to reach a point where she can both take and sponsor trips through Dancing in Silence, while also becoming more involved with nonprofit organizations.

While “hard style martial arts,” such as karate and taekwondo, provide some competition to Dancing in Silence by offering a more aggressive style of martial arts, Thomas is more concerned about marketing her own business moving forward.

According to Thomas, the biggest challenge so far has been finding a way to escape the course’s “safety net” — her day job that has funded Dancing in Silence since its opening. Thomas has seen monetary results from marketing in the past, which she uses to claim that “the key is to advertise consistently and regularly.”

“Taiji is my passion,” Thomas said. “I’m going to do this until I grow old and crotchety, and lose all of my teeth.”

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