In my career teaching thus far, I’ve had the enormous pleasure of working with quite a few people who have all shaped me in some way or another. Below I’ve listed some (not all) of those who have helped shape my philosphy as a teacher and who demonstrate some of the best things about ballroom dancing.
Thinking back, Jan was my first real student. I’d like to think we had a lot of fun together. She is a very experienced student and I was a mortifyingly inexpereienced teacher who knew a lot about dance and would jabber on and on forever. I’m very grateful she listened. The best thing I learned from Jan was about mindset: you don’t have to know exactly where you’re going in order to enjoy the journey. Because dancing can take you to different places mentally, physically and spiritually and Jan was the first person to really show me that one must truly be open to that experience in order to learn. I still dance her Latin rumba routine probaby once a month to see if I still remember it. I bet she does.
JOHN & MEG
A recent and very notable success story that started on Thumbtack.com. This awesome couple was getting married (still going strong!) and had big ideas for their first dance. They never blanched at the big ideas I threw right back at them. They were very much an ideal wedding couple. They made sure to be aware of the fact that they were putting on a show for their friends and family without falling into the trap of wanting to “perform” — they built a routine that allowed them to show off their real personalities and how they interact as a couple. They rolled with the punches and when I finally saw the video of their special day I was blown away at how fantastically their hard work paid off. I’m so proud of them!
Susanna has been dancing for quite a while now and every time I see her, she reminds me of one of the best things about ballroom dancing: that you’re never done learning. I myself have been terribly guilty many times of thinking I understood things as well as I could and that I was done. For better or worse, the truth about learning any art is that there is no end to the ideas and concepts and seeing how they relate to one another and most importanltly, the artist. Susanna is the epitome of sticktoitiveness. Most students are quite eager to “get it” — to understand a concept well enough to never have to give it any substantial thought again. She reminds me every time I see her that there’s a differance between repeating things for the sake of practice and the revisiting and reviewing ideas in a different way. To be a success, we’ve got to do both.
Another fabulous Jan I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. Decades from now, people will look back at this website and realize the truth that the best dancers are named Jan. The best thing about Jan is her attitude: she truly can do anything. We shared a number of things incommon including a fondeness for waltz music but more importantly the desire to find meaning everything new we enocunter, no matter if it’s a basic figure or an advanced concept. I loved teaching Jan because everytime we had a lesson, I felt like I was wrapping up a new gift for her and each time it felt like she gleefully accepted it. Just because something is easy or difficult doesn’t make it good or bad — it’s what you make of it that determines it’s value. And an attitude like Jan’s is more valuable than gold.
THE DANCE HOSTS
Shoutout to the group of Dance Hosts at my first studio, Linden Street Dance. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Dance Hosts are folks who commit to taking classes, attending parties and helping out in exchange for a little extra instruction. All of the instructors at the studio would help show the Dance Hosts the ropes and when it was my turn, I made sure to give them what I thought to be most important: being unafriad of a challenge and allowing hard work to inform your dancing. The best illustration of this was one night after playing around for a few weeks, the lot of them ended up spinning around the floor with beautiful Viennese waltz reverse turns. Did they neccessarily need to know Viennese waltz? No. Did all of their ballroom improve from this distillation of rotation and speed? Immensely. There’s no reason to dumb down one’s dancing in the name of pragmatism; attempt something new and see how it can inform all that you do.
ROB & ERICA
Two of my favorite people. Perhaps my favorite thing about them is how they respect ballroom dancing for what it is. They pay attention in their lessons, they don’t turn on each other or look for easy outs — which is really all a teacher can ask for. I think they approach ballroom from the best angle: a beautiful thing that can be studied and accomplished with some hard work and some gumption. There is no ego involved, they just appreciate ballroom’s magic — which makes it all the more magical.
I don’t know if I’d call Sandra my “student” as much as my “worthy adversary”. Truthfully, Sandra was the office manager who put up with my nonsense/complaining/jabbering so the students wouldn’t have to. She took one for the team. Additionally, aside from parties we did get to dance together in earnest once. Long story short, the showcase approached and was lacking in fun, fast-paced numbers. The samba we had kinda joked about doing suddenly became terrifyingly real. I guess the life lesson on that is when you only have a few hours to put together a routine put in a lot of shimmies and be otherwise shameless. Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.