Mari Iverson Morton spends her days running her two Iverson’s Furniture consignment stores in Sarasota with her son, Barry. After hours, she rolls up the rug to indulge in a little West Coast swing dancing.
Morton got into swing dancing 15 years ago after enjoying country-western line dancing. The two are similar in that neither is danced in a circle, although a Wikepedia entry on West Coast swing reveals such intriguing steps as the “sugar tuck” and the “chicken walk.”
“You’re constantly holding hands with your partner,” explains Morton, who travels all over the country to compete in swing dancing championships. “It’s fairly fast, at 120 beats a minute, and your partner twirls, swings and sometimes dips you.” (Swing dance has been made newly popular by the TV show So You Think You Can Dance.)
Since only a handful of people in Sarasota do the West Coast swing, says Morton, she travels to Clearwater every weekend to dance with the 40-member West Coast Swing Club of Tampa. “I even bought a little townhouse up there,” she says. It’s Jack and Jill—“we pick our partner’s name out of a hat and compete to the music,” she explains. “The challenge of dancing with different partners makes it more fun. It’s good exercise and there’s a nice camaraderie among really nice people.”
Morton moved with her family from Minnesota to Sarasota in 1957 at the age of 10. Her parents opened their upscale furniture consignment store, then called the Bee Ridge Thrift House, on Bee Ridge Road just east of U.S. 41—the same location it occupies to this day. She opened a second store on Clark Road in 1981.
Morton competed against hundreds of people in the U.S. Open Swing Dancing Championships in Anaheim, Calif., last Thanksgiving—it’s the state dance of California, believe it or not. “You compete for a little bit of money and a trophy,” she says. “I’ve never won anything major; if I place in the top 10 I’m really happy. The fun of it is going.”