Category: Ballroom Dance World

“Guilty Pleasures Week” on DTWS!  Can this be any more perfect for me to talk about?  I am all over this theme!  Yes, I’m guilty of singing in the shower and while driving to work (yes, I’m that girl on 280 Northbound). I have no shame letting it all out and thinking “What student can I get to dance to New Kids on The Block? Britney? *Nsync?” Mmmmm….And the show had the “pre-Jonas Brothers” band Hansen as the house band singing more guilty pleasures songs between commercials.
Chris & Cheryl: TANGO score 22
“Don’t Stop Believing”, can this night get any better?  Bruno and Carrie Ann are on drugs and Len was spot on! (Happy Birthday Len)  I was so impressed with Chris’s toned and relaxed shoulders throughout the routine.  He looked strong but yet was flexible when need be, which is a challenge for most guys that have alot of muscles.  He needed to have a way higher score, give me a paddle board!
Romeo & Chelsie: WALTZ score 28
Who doesn’t love a hopeless romantic? Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion would have been a great routine to pull off, but I felt it fell short. Don’t get me wrong, he totally pulled off the facial expressions and created a feel of the story, but his transitions, once again, is the small detail that would put him above Hines, in my eyes.  But Carrie Ann’s 10? I told you she was on drugs. She claimed that it was a magical night for Romeo, I think not!
Ralph & Karina: PASO DOBLE score 24
Ok, when Karina put in the famous “wax on, wax off” arm styling, I was thinking for the love of God, pleeeeease tell me they are dancing to “You’re the Best Around” from The Karate Kid. Oh but no, an even better song, “Everybody Dance Now” (ps. it’s one of our teachers’ favorite songs.  Don’t tell Dustin I told you America).  Now for the actual performance….. Loved the way it started with the high energy and even I was getting pumped up and wanted to start dancing around my house.  I know you all are wondering my thoughts on Karina’s fall.  The combination of tripping over Ralph’s foot (which was not mentioned) and landing on his coat which made her slip and fall, all I can say is poor thing! Once again kids, the professionals are humans too!  Even as frazzled as she was she knew she had to get back up and get back into it.  Once that was, the routine picked up from where it was left off. For those of you who think knee spins and that last run to dip was not a big deal, it was! Those elements are difficult and great job to Ralph for pulling them off.
Hines & Kym: VIENNESE WALTZ score 27
Oh, Boys II Men songs.  Taking me back to the good old days of high school and all things cheesy. But his routine was far from cheese, I loved everything about it.  The choreography was one of Kym’s best and amazing.  If I’m being super picky, I would say watch for the footwork during the pivots, no spinning on the heel.  Now, any ladies who want to volunteer to take the place of Hines’s pillow?
Now the ladies….
Kendra & Louis: SAMBA score 25
Some may agree, some of you may not, but that was by far her best dance ever!  Finally, we were able to see her shine and have fun and not march around like last week. Her voltas were a little weak, but you have to give it up to her letting loose on the dance floor.
Chelsea & Mark: QUICKSTEP score 28
OK, I love this one. Super cute and fun from beginning to end, I couldn’t help but smile the whole time. Yes, Mark, I have nothing but positive nice things to say tonight. This one was deserving of the score but was hoping for a 29. Go girl!!!

Kirstie & Maksim: SAMBA score 26
Yes, welcome back to the competition Kirstie!  I mean come on, dancing to Britney’s first hit “Baby, Hit Me One More Time”?  Loved it and her dancing. She tends to look down, which shows a lack of confidence from time to time, but when she makes eye contact with Maks or the crowd, it’s hot! I would like to see her hold her feet to show off the “1 a 2″ rhythm better and more twist action during the stationary copas.  As for the famous Shadow Samba Rolls……..not bad.  Usually, I’m against these patterns because they are so hard to do correctly, but I am not hating them on her (Rachel, don’t pass out!).
All in all, I think every week needs to have this theme.  At least I was fully entertained. So who is going home America? I think with the combination of a low score (compared to everyone else) and a feeling that America has been trying to get her off the show.  We’ll send home Kendra.
But, then again…Who knows.  See you in 24 hours with my thoughts about the results.

The Loss of an Icon

Arthur Murray was an icon in many ways.  He helped revolutionize the way people viewed dance and industrialized the way businesses marketed with his mail order foot prints.  He created the first dance studio to become a franchise.  Second oldest only to A&W.  He gave many people opportunities to help be successful like himself including yours truly.  But as many great icons often do, he created others that were just as iconic.

A beauty to say the least, Ms. Doris dances here for Ziefeld Follies.

On a sunny Saturday in April 2009, Cari and I had the pleasure of visiting the state of Florida at a convention that paralleled no other; Arthur Murray’s Franchisee convention.  The excitement of meeting with your peers is always exciting, but none came close to the special delight of our guest speaker.  Enter Doris Eaton Travis was her name and dancing was her game.  A one on one interview was held and we had the pleasure of being in her presence.

When looking around the room, I could see so much talent and wisdom.  Anything you ever wanted to know about Arthur Murray and about dancing was right at the tip of your fingers.  All it took was one question.  But all of our tongues were silent.  Silent with the spectacle on stage.  Not many of us can say we knew Arthur Murray personally, but we could come close with 6 degrees of separation.  Doris was 1 degree from knowing Arthur Murray, the man, herself.

Let me tell you a little about her accomplishments.  At the age of 14, Doris became a girl for the famed Ziegfeld Follies as the youngest girl ever to be in the show.  From there she never looked back.  She continued to perform on stage and in films throughout the 20’s and 30’s.  It wasn’t until 1936 when she started working for Arthur Murray himself as a tap dance instructor.  According to her, she bugged Arthur to teach her countless times.  Enough so that he decided to put her in an instructor training class just to keep her quiet.

Unfortunately that did just the opposite.  Her hunger for learning and ballroom dancing grew.  She learned step after step.  She did such a great job that Arthur noticed her one day and asked “Why isn’t she teaching?” and made her a teacher right on the spot.  From there she modeled herself after both Arthur and Kathryn as an entrepreneur and helped Arthur accomplish his dream of Franchising his studios so that the world could enjoy dance as much as he.

TIME OUT!  In case you don’t know, here’s a bit of history.  How many woman can you name that owned a legitimate business in 1941?  You could probably name only a few.  In fact Doris was the first woman in U.S. history to own her own business (talk about history maker).  In a time of MAN, she was the only WOMAN.  As if being the first wasn’t enough, it wasn’t for Doris.

TIME IN!  After creating the first business, she went on to own over 30 franchises.  And if the question is “Did she own them all at once?”  The answer is YES!  I would imagine at this point in time she sat down in one of the many offices she had in the midwest studios and asked the question “I think I should start something new with all of this time I have free now that I own over 20 schools?”.  Because what happened next could only come from a self chat such as that.

Arthur Murray was successful in the 50’s for having the Arthur Murray Party on TV.  It was a television show dedicated to teaching people dance and introducing them to new styles of music and dance around the globe.  It was so successful that Doris, having the Broadway Star roots run through her body, decided to have a Television spot of her own.  It was just as successful as it’s predecessor and another star was born.  Although it wasn’t anything like today with hit shows like Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, in my personal opinion it had much more class.  Watching such cool dancers do such cool social dance moves far outweighs the likes of plastered makeup on almost forgotten contestants trying to win a trophy.

Have you ever been dancing and see the old guy in the corner.  He doesn’t look like much, but he has a line of dancers waiting for him because when he busts out a move, it required the combination of no blinking, a video camera, a group of dancers in a half circle watching with their mouths wide open and 70 years experience.  I’ve had that pleasure.  I was the one who was caught in the middle of it all, not knowing what was going on and in a flash I turned around and there he was, challenging me.  Challenging me with the coolest move I’ve ever seen.  So cool that I asked him to show me and he resulted in pushing my hand away, backing up, opening his palms and asked with his body “What do you got?”  He turned away and with his back turned I scratched my head and thought as I looked to my Counterpart Bobby and stated “I think I just got smoked by the Old Guy in the club.”  I laid in the fetal position for the next five minutes.

How does that relate to this story?  It doesn’t.  Just kidding.  That old guy was everywhere on her show in the form of young instructors, men and women that adorned the studios for Ms. Doris in the midwest.  In fact I would imagine, her show was the first to have the phrase cool used to describe it as something other than the refrigerator.  Now that’s cool to be called cool for the first time!

3 of a Kind: Doris, Cari and Juan share in common the joy of a life changed by Arthur Murray

Flashback to the conference room of the famed Fontainebleu in Miami.  There we sat as Ms. Travis finished her interview.  She rose from her chair to a thunderous standing ovation, strutted a couple of dance moves to show us all that she still has it and proceeded to allow us the privilege of taking a photo with her one last time before her exit.  Over the years she accomplished much.  From joining Arthur Murray and owning her many studios to having her television and Broadway career.  From getting her bachelor’s degree at the University of Oklahoma graduating cum laude at age 88 to being presented with an honorary doctorate at 100.  This woman had done it all.

Her final curtain call came on the day of May 11, 2010.  Fresh off the celebration of her 106th birthday.  She will forever be missed and remembered the world over.  This column was created to share with others that which she has shared with us.  Created to share her wonderful life that touched so many.  And as for this person, she couldn’t have made a bigger impression as an icon.

I guess now she gets to bug Arthur once more to figure out how she can get a franchise in the sky.

It was a cold and rainy evening on the eve of Dance O Rama.  Those coming in on wednesday were surprised to see the sight of their fantastic weekend, become so gloomy.  It was what they saw back home on the east coast or a normal April day in England.  Even those from California were wondering if they had arrived in California.  But that’s what’s expected.

On the eve of a Dance O Rama all is grey, even the minds of those who will participate.  Grey with thoughts of performing to the their own expectations or those expectations of others.  It’s expected to fail the eve of any event, just ask any veteran, that’s how you know you’re ready.  And ready we were in San Jose.  So much in fact that we willed the grey to end.  We willed the light to shine and the sun to rise and on the day of Dance O Rama, a bright Thursday appeared with the sun on everyone’s faces and the smiles of everyone around.  It was here.  San Francisco Dance O Rama has arrived.

Love, Chaos and Dinner at the Famous Teatro Zinzanni

We were fortunate enough to spend a fantastic evening at the fabulous Teatro Zinzanni for a glorious evening of Love, Chaos and Dinner (their slogan).  Arthur Murray packed the house with more than 2/3 of the crowd.  Enough so that the actors had to mention us in their act and boy did they receive a thunderous applause every time they did.  Food was enjoyed, dancing was had by all and fools were made fun of as they were picked from their seats and into the jester isle.  A fabulous time indeed.

When Friday morning crept around, it was early, but not early enough to steal the hunger of a dance competitor.  We were hungry for the art of dance at 8 am.  Who does that?  San Jose Arthur Murray does!  From 8 am to 1am we danced.  We left it out all on the floor. The day began with Solo Routines.  We rocked it.  Country Western, did that with a hat!  Smooth freestyles, did that!  Rhythm Freestyles, did that!  Bachata?  Did that too!.  There was no limit to the dances we were capable of.

We even had time to take a break for a little Country Western party where a legendary duo of Arthur Murray antics choreographed an award winning formation where the gentlemen and their lady counterparts entered in a duel of dancing to the death.  It was close, but by unanimous decision the Gentlemen won.  Yes it’s true, even the judges said so and should you question or would like to challenge the decision they can be reached by pager.

Saturday brought much excitement to the table.  Open freestyles allowed the students to do their fantastic routines and Scholarships showed off their  dancing to the next level.  The evening was a huge success.  Talk about dressing to the nines.  I think Arthur Murray Dance Studios invented it.  Everyone was decked out in their best to celebrate a wonderful culmination of dance events and camaraderie.  When asked what they thought about the whole weekend, a San Jose student replied “The weekend?  It was…Sexy.”  I couldn’t have agreed more.  Sexy was San Jose Arthur Murray’s middle name.  Sexy were the jackets we wore all weekend, it was our cheering and demeanor.  Sexy was the way a certain San Jose Franchisee walked when escorting her fellow Franchisee and husband as he received a Top Instructor award.  Sexy?  We were brimming with it.

All in all, San Francisco Dance O Rama was a huge hit.  It was the success that we had all hoped for it to be.  And when Sunday rolled around, we could only reminisce of the great time we had the nights before.  We remembered the laughs we had, the good times (we tried to remember the bad times but there weren’t any) and the hardware we came home with.  We knew the next week was awaiting.  6 a.m was around the corner and our daily routine of shower and a coffee were whispering in our ears.  We knew work was calling and regular life would be exactly where we left it, on the front door step next to the mail we hadn’t collected in 4 days.  But for this one weekend, we all had the experience that can only be matched by another.  Until the next one my friends.  We want to thank everyone for participating and hanging out with us crazy people all weekend long.  We had a blast and would do it again in a heart beat.

But this is something that we will always have in our hearts.  As cliche as this may sound, we truly left our Dancing Hearts in San Francisco.

In the world of Ballroom Dance, there are many professionals that are talented enough to grace the floors of high level competition.  Arthur Murray is proud to boast a good percentage of them.  However there are few that grace the tongue of the Hall of Fame.  And even fewer that etch their name into the history books.  Arthur and Kathryn Murray are two of those people.

I wish I could say I had the pleasure of knowing Arthur and Kathryn personally, but since their passing before Cari and I entered the business, I can only hear stories from those who had.  Being with Arthur Murray for 13 years, I am glad to have met a lot of figure heads that represent our company well.  One of those people is not only a Legend to the company, but a Legend to me.

Ask not what you can do for Jacques, but what can Jacques to for you.

Since you see the photo next to this text, you must know that I’m talking about the one and only Jacques De Beve.  Jacques has been with Arthur Murray for 55 years.  That’s an accomplishment within itself.  What’s more of an accomplishment is being part of helping the company grow for almost 100 years.  Jacques would be the first to tell you one of the many stories from the days of before, but allow me to tell you a story about him.

When I first started in this business, Jacques was one of the first coaches I met.  I remember his white beard and tan skin (nothing has changed).  I’ll never forget his inspirational wisdom that day.  He said “Juan.  You’re going to be great in this business.  You’re ugly, but you’ll be great!”  That was probably the best thing that he could have said to me.  It motivated me to do so much.  And with those little words, he helped shape a person that ultimately became a good dancer, teacher and franchisee (I don’t mind saying so myself).  Not only did he do that with me, but also for the many students in the studio.

We have coaches that teach us how to dance and we have coaches that guide us towards the right path.  He’s the latter.  He’s the guy that can take one look at you, read your mind and figure out what you need within the first 10 seconds of meeting you.  That’s what he does.  He’s Master Planner.  If you’ve ever wanted help in finding out what to do with your dancing, where to go, help with clarifying goals and help motivating yourself to reach those goals, you call Jedi Master Jacques.

One glance and you may think, what can he show me?  The last person that did that now resides in the local insane asylum because Jacques blew his mind away and he couldn’t find it again.  But don’t let his dapper good looks deceive you.  He may not be able to dance like he once could (Which by the way was awesome if you ever got to see it.  We don’t call him the inventor of “Dirty Swing” for nothing), but he can get you to dance in a way to achieve immediate results.  Just ask the students that he’s worked with already.

It’s been four years since Jacques has graced the walls of the Arthur Murray in San Jose and we are so proud to have him in our studio again.  You’ll know exactly who he is upon walking in the studio.  He’ll be the one with all the people around him like a moth to a flame.  He’ll be the one surrounded by laughter and joy.  He’ll be the one working on lessons giving feedback and showing students the path to a better dance life.  He’ll also be the one in a suit with white hair and you’ll find yourself saying “I don’t know who he is, but he sure looks great and one day I’d like to be him when I grow up.”

If you missed yesterday, you can catch him today.  But I’m certain we won’t see the last of this Arthur Murray Legend.

After a day like showcase, you would expect to relax and take a day off.  Not San Jose.  Not our students and staff.  We live in Silicon Valley and with a tough city we have tough people.  Tough people that like to get their hands dirty with the techniques and philosophies of the sport known as ballroom dancing.  A day off is for the procrastinator of dreams and our dreams came true knowing that we had superhero like coaches coming in on Monday and Tuesday.  Superhumans like Ron Christy and Snow.

If you’ve ever had a coaching lesson, then you know what it’s like.  For those that don’t, let me give you an idea.  It’s like Luke Skywalker meeting Yoda.  he got all the training from Obi Wan, but when he needed something more he was introduced to Yoda.  Luke thought he knew what it took to be a Jedi, but Yoda’s training opened his eyes to more than the average Jedi can see.  He made him train harder and gave him things that other Jedi’s could not.  A master coach is the “Yoda” that gives you material and techniques that only a Jedi Master Coach can.  And just when you think you can’t do more, they push you a little further to become the Jedi they know you can be.  A coach gets you to do things in a shorter period of time than it would normally take.  That’s the Magic of a Jedi Coach.

The first Jedi Coach we had after showcase was Ron Christy.  What can we say.  He’s a man made of almost steel with an almost steel head and can almost see through anything.  He can however see what we need to work on.  Students had a blast working with him one on one and in his workshop.  Have you ever witnessed a miracle in your life?  That’s what takes place during a lesson with a coach like Ron.  He not only astonished and amazed our students, but our staff as well.  We had a field day trying to understand the man known as Ron Christy.

The next day, a Snow storm came to town.  Jedi Coach Snow had her first day here in the San Jose studio and it was much anticipated.  Each lesson went by faster and faster.  Time flies when you’re in a blizzard of excitement of dance.  She worked with students of all levels and the feedback was incredible.  We even had a student ask “When are you coming back”, within the first five minutes of the lesson.  We constantly talk about how much you learn and improve when you have a coaching lesson.  Snow was the example.  Students walked away in amazement of how advanced techniques were simplified and applied during the lesson.

Arthur Murray San Jose has Jedi Coaches coming in once sometimes twice per month.  Check the calendar and see when the next coach is coming by and schedule fast because Jedi Masters are high in demand.  Don’t be left out of the opportunity a coach can bring to your dancing life.