Keith Dinsmore is serious about school. So is his brother, Ryan Jordan.

Keith, 31, is a few courses away from an associate degree in automotive technology, with a focus on electronics, at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland.

Ryan, 29, just began his first semester at SMCC after years of prodding from his older brother. Before he chooses a major, he said Friday, “I just want to get used to the swing of things.”

He’s not kidding.

Welcome to Jessamyn Schmidt’s modern dance class, where stereotypes go up in sweat.

Where two guys who once staged professional wrestling shows in Keith’s backyard now find themselves bending, stretching and sidestepping their way across the smooth wooden dance floor to the rhythm of Emmylou Harris’ “Bang the Drums Slowly.”

Where “community college” means more than simply learning a trade and getting on with your life.

“I knew I wouldn’t be getting a room full of people who had been studying dance for years,” said Schmidt, 31, a dancer since the age of 6 who this fall persuaded school officials to add a little wiggle room to SMCC’s curriculum.

Now, eight weeks into the three-credit course, even Schmidt finds herself in awe of what can happen when 15 students — including Keith, Ryan and two other brave men — check their inhibitions at the door and, for close to three hours every Friday afternoon, sashay their way toward their ever-expanding horizons.

“There was a moment a couple of weeks ago when they were doing something and I looked around and thought, ‘Wow! They look like dancers!’” recalled Schmidt over the sound of bodies rolling and sliding across the floor. “It was a great, great moment.”

It’s also, for the guys the rest of the class call “The Two Brothers,” a point of no return.

“Ten or 12 years ago, education was more or less a hindrance to me working and trying to support myself,” said Keith. “And now education is the only way I’m going to be able to support myself.”

Ryan nodded.

“Same for me,” he said. “Education then — and education now.”

Keith is the single father of an 8-year-old son. He works three jobs — dishwashing, maintenance and fixing cabs for a Portland taxi company — in addition to carrying a full load at SMCC, where he’ll graduate this spring.

Ryan, who lives in the same Portland apartment building as his brother, works full time behind the cash register of a convenience store. He, too, attends school full time.

Keith dropped out of high school in his junior year. Then three years ago, just after his father died, he decided it was time to get serious and earn his General Educational Development diploma through Portland Adult Education. (He passed the test on his first try.)

Ryan, Portland High School Class of 2001, was the first member of his immediate family to get a high school diploma.

But after that, he said, “it was just jobs, trying to make a living, things like that,” before he finally took a deep breath and filled out a college application.

“I’ve been working on him for four semesters now to get him to come over here,” said Keith, tapping his kid brother on the shoulder.

So here they both are, in modern dance class?

“I tell people I’m in dance and there’s a whole lot of reactions,” Ryan conceded. “Usually they say, ‘Are you serious? That’s for girls! What are you going to do with dance? That’s not going to get you anything!’“

Truth be told, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. For starters, these guys both have moves.

Five years ago, Keith was the brains behind Portland Professional Wrestling, a weekly extravaganza he ran out of his backyard on Huntress Street in Portland’s Libbytown.

Keith wrestled as Richard Cranium, while Hi-Flyin’ Ryan was one of the two dozen or so other competitors.

“It was all about learning how to move your body, learning how to stop your body, learning how to keep yourself safe, keep yourself from getting hurt,” recalled Ryan.

Not unlike dancing.

The two brothers, like all SMCC students, need to complete a course involving some type of physical exercise.

Modern dance not only qualified, but it also promised a class consisting mostly of young women in spandex.

“I liked the odds,” chuckled Keith.

Better still, lo and behold, the two brothers know their way around a dance floor.

Shortly after Friday’s class began, instructor Schmidt had her students pair off and improvise their way from one end of the room to another.

Ryan and Keith, at times seemingly in slow motion, rolled and twisted in perfect tandem until, at the very last second, Keith suddenly rose from the floor and vaulted gracefully over Ryan’s back.

The class loved it.

“That was extraordinary,” Schmidt later said quietly. “I’ve never see two people connect so instantly in an improvisational path like that. Keith did that not knowing if Ryan was going to stay crouched or not. There was this kind of lift and trust at the same time.”

Modern dance studs. Who knew?

Now nobody’s suggesting here that three credits worth of modern dance is going to set either of these two guys on a new career path — although wherever Ryan’s concentration takes him, he does plan to keep dabbling in the performing arts.

But for those who think education means choosing your lane and, start to finish, staying in it, the sight of “The Two Brothers” on a dance floor proves that “learning a trade” need not be as myopic as it sounds.

Come to think of it, who can say that Keith won’t find himself tangled up in a complex car someday soon, channeling Emmylou Harris as he contorts his way to that pesky little relay switch?

“When it comes down to it, I guess your body has to do with everything,” Keith said, standing just outside the dance studio. “The more you focus on your body, the better you should be able to do anything, really.”

Step aside, Richard Cranium.

Meet Dancing Mechanic.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

[email protected]