Monday columnist Tess van Straaten takes advantage of a dance lesson at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Saanich as part of her Valentine’s themed activities.

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Enjoy Valentine’s Day fun with daring date nights

From axe throwing to escape rooms to dance lessons, there’s many ways to have fun with a partner

It’s date night and instead of dinner and a movie, I’m standing with my arms over my head, gripping an axe – ready to heave it at the target in front of me.

Don’t worry; it’s not my partner, Shane. He’s safely behind me and I’m focused on the six-point bullseye in the middle of the board at Axe & Grind in downtown Victoria.

“Nothing says romance like heart-pumping, adrenaline-inducing axe throwing,” says Axe & Grind owner Danny Hamilton. “Whether it’s a first date, wedding anniversary or parents’ night out, axe throwing is guaranteed to elicit some laughs, high fives and encourage some playful competition.”

Cody Stoffmaker and Chrystal Boyd get ready for a date night axe throwing session at Axe & Grind in Victoria. Photo courtesy Axe & Grind

Shane and I are both pretty competitive, so the race is on to see who can become a master axe-pert at this quintessentially Canadian sport. Our first few throws hit the board but fail to stick (you only get points if it stays in the board). Our instructor, K.P., expertly shows us how to adjust our stance and reminds us not to flick our wrists.

I try again and the axe lands close to the bullseye in the four-point zone. Shane’s does as well and we’re having a blast. Whacking the axe into the boards is exhilarating and a great stress reliever. By our third game, I manage to throw six four-pointers in a row, but Shane comes out as the overall champion, narrowly beating me by one point. Drinks nearby are on me.

Our next daring date night is spent locked in a small room. We’re at Quest Reality Games and we have 60 minutes to sleuth our way out of the Rosewood Manor escape room. Searching for clues and trying to piece together the mystery is both fun and frustrating at times, and a great test of our teamwork.

We solve some of the riddles right away, but after stubbornly trying to figure it all out on our own, we eventually ask for a hint (you’re allowed two) over our walkie-talkie. In the end, we’re just seconds away from unlocking the puzzle before our time buzzer expires.

Looking for something less intense and more romantic, we take a whirl around the dance floor with an introductory lesson at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Saanich.

“Dance lessons are a great date night because you get to spend time in your partner’s arms,” says studio owner and instructor Daniel Seguin. “You’re learning to communicate through a new form of body language while listening to great music.”

After running us through some basics – men always start with their left foot and women on the right because “women are always right,” jokes Daniel – he teaches a rumba. It’s a slow dance that is the base for many ballads. We learn the box step for it with a ‘boom, chicka-chicka, boom’ count and it’s surprisingly easy.

“There’s nothing sexier than seeing two people moving as one to music without saying a word but their communication is loud and clear,” says Seguin, who’s passionate about dance and the transformative power it can have in people’s lives. “It’s hot.”

Our final lesson is the swing – a fast dance – and by the end, Shane’s twirling me around like a pro as we sashay through another great date night.

Give it a try!

*****

• Axe & Grind has a $34 Monday night date night special, visit axeandgrind.org for details

• Arthur Murray Dance Studio has a $25 introductory lesson, find out more at victoriaarthurmurray.com

Tess van Straaten

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