If you have ever stumbled across a bunch of folks doing the polka on public access television, you’ve already been introduced to Dan and Yvonne Viehman. The pair hosts Polka Spotlight, which airs on public access stations across the Twin Cities (and in a few other states across the United States), including Channel 12 in Plymouth.
The Viehmans met in 1995 on a blind date. The date was, of course, an evening of dancing.
“We figured the worst thing that could happen is we would dance all night,” Dan says with a laugh. “And that’s a pretty good night,” Yvonne adds.
That evening led the pair to start dancing in competitions, first with country western dancing, which was Dan’s forte, and later ballroom dance, which was Yvonne’s area of expertise—she has been ballroom dancing since she took a class at Moorhead State; when she moved to the Twin Cities in 1990, she continued dancing. Dan picked up dance when he was 31 years old, taking a class called “cowboy aerobics.” He wasn’t sure what it was, but it turned out to be a country western dance class, which he figured would be a great way to meet women. It worked in a roundabout way, because it led him to Yvonne and that blind date.
The pair got married, and continued to dance together in competitions and around town. They got the idea for a public access TV show when another already-established program called Polka Spotlight was looking for guest hosts when the regular host was unavailable.
The duo took the spot in 1998, filling in on occasion, and continued filling in until 2010, when the original host retired, and they took over Polka Spotlight for good. By that point they were more comfortable in front of the camera and had established themselves as polka pros, though they are not certified instructors and have continued their “day jobs”—Dan as a marketing manager for a credit union and Yvonne as a legal assistant.
Polka Spotlight is filmed the second Saturday of every month. It is a live filming, so there is no editing. Sessions last two hours, divided into two one-hour shows that are aired at various times on public access channels. Each show features a different band, and the goal is to showcase dancing. People can call in and request songs or dedicate dances to loved ones who are celebrating a birthday or another special occasion. Some dancers are regulars, but anyone is welcome to come to the studio and enjoy a day of dancing—advanced polka skills not required.
Many of the viewers and participants are elderly, and it gives them the opportunity to relive the past, when going out dancing on a Friday or Saturday night was the norm. “For those [watching] in nursing homes, it is great to reminisce and bring back memories of dancing,” Yvonne says.
Barb Nolan Clark is the community TV manager for Northwest Community Television, and she has watched the show become more popular through the years since its launch in 1995. “It provides such an amazing service to the older population,” says Clark. “We field phone calls from viewers who are so ecstatic to have this available.”
The Viehmans feel honored to be able to provide something that is special to so many, especially those who might not be able to dance anymore. As Dan says, “The best part is bringing the joy of dance and music to so many people.”
Polka Spotlight airs at 7 p.m. the third Monday of every month on Channel 12, and 11 p.m. Thursdays or 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Fridays on Channel 20.