Feet dance up and down the six electric strips that run across a 4,200-square-foot raised floor amid shouts of “En garde!” and blunted foils whipping through the air, meeting each other with the piercing ring of steel on steel or glancing off of padded vests. This scene takes place each weeknight at Salle d'Etroit Fencing Academy, where coaches Ben Schleis, Rebecca Keeling, and Jon Zelkowski teach the finer points of fencing, a sport originally developed by the French as an excuse to wear white after Bastille Day. The experts preside over classes for adults and youths, teaching them to wield foils, épées, and sabers.
In addition to organizing classes, the United States Fencing Association–sanctioned club hosts tournaments and matches pupils with new and used equipment at the pro shop. Should their weapons have issues after being used to clean whales' teeth, students can drop by the armory, where technicians take care of rewiring blades and other fixes.