Adios, Lady Gator

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Every now and then, you get a reminder that ballroom dancing is not all glitter and sequins.  Owning a dance studio and teaching others to dance is a business.  And, like all businesses, hard choices must be made at times.  Some people, even with a dance background and a love of dance, just aren’t cut out to be instructors.  So I must report that Lady Gator was shown the door at the Famous Franchise and has moved on to parts unknown.

It is always interesting to me how these things are treated.  If you are an instructor who is well liked and leaving on a positive note like 3 of 3, The Body Double or the Statue, you get a mention at your last party so there can be the appropriate amount of hugs and good byes.  Leave on a bad note like M-Dawg or if you are asked to leave like Lady Gator, then you quickly become an UnPerson and all evidence of your presence is sent down the memory hole.  Students whisper about it but there is no general announcement and no opportunity to say good bye.

If you think I’m being a bit facetious about the memory hole, this might change your mind.  I may have mentioned before but the studio is currently hold the semi-annual festival which is a competition between studio to see which ones can convince their students to gain the most points by taking lessons and/or signing up for more lessons.  There are fabulous prizes available for the winning studio.  To entice us, there are themed parties and and gifts for hitting certain point totals.  This is also where they’ve added the Showstoppers where you learn a new routine during the festival and perform on the last night.

Anyway, at the start of the festival, just a short four weeks ago, it was announced that the students would be randomly divided into two teams.  One would be team Kid T and the other would be team Lady Gator.  Whichever instructor got the most points from their students would be awarded some spectacular prize.  To coincide with the start of the festival, there was a giant poster plastered on the mirrors displaying the theme of the festival as well as pictures of the instructors.  One side had Kid T’s name and the other side had Lady Gator’s.

So I got to the studio last night for formation practice and Lady Gator’s picture was not on the poster.  In addition, they had taken a piece of paper and taped over her name.  No visible evidence of her presence at all.  It is possible that was present last week but I was only at the studio on Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving so I may not have noticed.  Naturally, I asked some of the other students and they confirmed she was gone with the most used phrase being “she wasn’t working out”.

Tex offered another insight and he would have a more direct line since he works with Z and she does tend to talk out of school.  I guess he was supposed to be dancing with Lady Gator during his first heat at the last Showcase but she wasn’t around so he had to grab Z.  Don’t think that alone would do it but combined with other things, it might make the case.  I do remember seeing Z giving Lady Gator a test on figures the week before Thanksgiving and maybe she just wasn’t getting it.

What is funny is that back at Medal Ball in September, Z was going back and forth between M-Dawg and Lady Gator talking about which one was her favorite.  To be fair, she had been drinking and she gets chattier when she drinks a little.  Funny how things change.

From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense to me.  You have to invest a great deal of time (and maybe money) into training someone to be an instructor.  I suppose if you get the hint that they aren’t getting it or aren’t working as hard as they should, then you cut your losses as soon as possible.

But it is awkward in another way.  I think studios try to create a welcoming atmosphere to make you feel comfortable which also keeps you coming back.  So even instructors that you don’t dance with on a regular basis always say Hello and you have those down moments when you just strike up the little conversations.  Then, they are gone, never really to be spoken of again.  And I get that part to.  I work in a major corporation and the phrase that is always used is “left to pursue career opportunities outside …” which is corporate speak for “was kicked to the curb and told not to let the door hit them in the ass on the way out”.  Naturally, they only do this when people high enough up the food chain to be noticed are cashed out.  So I understand why a business owner doesn’t talk about having to let someone go.  It does create a somewhat abrupt transition.

So now there are three – OwnerGuy, Z and Kid T.  Its probably not a big adjustment since Lady Gator didn’t have a lot of students.  She was taking some of the load off Z and Kid T so OwnerGuy needs to figure something out pretty soon.

Having danced there since the place opened, I’ve seen lots of changes and lots of instructors.  The studio has gone through several ups and downs.  We were riding high for the last year up until the Showcase in May.  Now, things seem to be in a down cycle.  Who knows what next year will bring?

OK, that’s enough of that.  Next week is Showstoppers and we will debut our Peabody routine and I will do the Waltz with Hilde and we have a mini formation that is Lindy Hop with Peabody.  Next week is also the Snowball dance which is a nice event because it is just dinner and dancing to Christmas music.  (Have I told you how much I love Christmas music?) It should be interesting.


  1. Wall – The departure protocol seems to be the same throughout the Famous Franchise. The total erasure you described is what happens at my studio, too. I know the corporation has its reasons, but when I first encountered the phenomenon as a new student, it hit me right between the eyes. I could not believe no one had warned me the young man wuold be leaving. I actually shed some tears, and he wasn’t even my teacher. I was surprised the seasoned students took the abrupt departure in stride…but now I’m more hardened, too. One thing I feel wonderful about was that when my book was published, I found on Facebook all 6 of the teachers who had left my studio and invited them to a book signing (held at a non-FF studio). All responded, and two showed up. It was absolutely wonderful to see and dance with them again.

    1. That was great that you were able to find them all. It sucks that you just become a little numb to it but it is kind of necessary given the rate of turnover.

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