Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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A dance studio can be an intimidating place.  How many people walk by, see what’s going on inside and want to come in, but figure they can’t dance so why bother.  Crossing that door for the first time is scary.  All the thoughts that run through your head. “I can’t dance” “I’m going to look stupid” “All those people are going to laugh at me”.  OK, maybe you didn’t have those feelings but, trust me, a lot of people do.

Funny thing is that once you get inside, a dance studio can be one of the most supportive places around.  You start out just dealing with your instructor and they are always nicer than you expected and always telling you how good you are doing.  They are the ones who see you at the door and say “hello” and generally look happy to see you.  (It might not be as true as you think but it is an easy illusion to buy into).

If you go to group classes or start talking to other students, you’ll find that everyone has been in that same place.  That first day of walking into the studio with all the fear and anxiety and having no idea how it was going to turn out.  Kind of makes for an instant bonding experience.  Of course, at the Famous Franchise, we bond over the cost of the lessons as well.  Everyone knows they are expensive and everyone knows what it costs to stay there so we joke about being called to the “money room” from time to time to sign our lives away.

Even if you don’t become friends outside the studio, there are friendships and bonds that are established within the studio.  You look forward to seeing people again.  You get to catch up on snippets of their life.  The whole place becomes comfortable – even for an introvert like me.  Walk in the door and you feel very much like Norm from Cheers (you knew with the title that I was going to have to work that in somehow).

Well, now I’ve got my second studio and I’m going through some of the same things again.  This time, I know how to dance, but there was still that little bit of anxiety the first time I showed up.  After a few times, you start to see the same faces and I’ve learned a few names.  The people at the door know my name so I’ve been recognized.  The feeling is different but it is becoming more comfortable.

I know that they do these community groups and parties without an expectation that you’ll become a student there but sometimes it just feels a little weird to show up only for those events.  Hilde takes advantage of other group classes so she’s a little bit better knows but I’m just her dance date.

(Sorry, going to have to go out on a tangent here.  Can’t help myself, my mind just starts making all these random connections.  I started thinking that a guy who dances has a marketable skill.  Then I went off on a tangent thinking about how I could rent myself out to studios with a shortage of guys.  But then I realized I’d have to be younger and a bit more buff to make that work.  Plus, I’d have to be willing to actually ASK strange women to dance.  Yeah, not going to work for me but this is just how my brain works from time to time.)

OK, now back to the story.  The crowd was down a bit from the last two weeks probably due to the Easter weekend.  After a couple of minutes, she did the first rotation and Hilde was partnered with a guy who was unaccompanied.  There was another older gentleman who ended up with a more advanced student and that left me as kind of a floater so I got to dance with the instructor a lot.  Funny thing was that there was never another rotation so Hilde stayed with her guy.  No problem since we aren’t a couple but you know me, it took me a little out of my comfort zone especially having to dance with the instructor although I got some good tips.

The other funny thing was that at one point, the older gentleman and the more advanced student came over next to me and they get me to start helping him.  First, I tried shadowing him while he was dancing, but then he thought it would be best if we danced while he tried to follow my footwork.  You know I’m all about helping other dancers but this did seem a bit strange.  Can’t really explain why except I wanted to say “I’m not one of you, I shouldn’t be helping”.  Had another couple ask me a question about the guys footwork on another part.

And this got me to thinking as well.  We bring all of our baggage and past to every encounter with another person.  It is sometimes easy to forget that they just see a small part of that.  None of these people really know about my history at the Famous Franchise or the struggles I’ve had.  They just see someone who they think can help them.  Why is that weird to me?  I can expect that at my studio because everyone there knows I’ve been there for years and I’ve got that learned sage thing down.  But this is just after a handful of times showing up for group class.  Yeah, I should just go with it because there is no reason why it should feel strange and yet it does just a bit.

At the end of the group class, I got to be demo boy to do the whole thing with the instructor.  Normally, she pulls the more advanced student and leads her through but, for some reason, they pulled me to demonstrate the whole thing.  At my other studio, I’m all about this as well and I don’t mind being the demonstration dummy.  Here, it was still a bit unnerving.  I just kept telling myself “don’t screw it up”.  I did momentarily forget a part towards the end but she helped me through it.

Does that make this studio closer to a second “home”?  Yes, it actually does despite the fact that it triggered some mild panic and some weird feelings.  Again, these people just see me for what I’ve presented since I first walked through that door.  If people trust me to help, then it does mean that on some level they’ve accepted me and I’m not some stranger.

Anyway, the dancing with Hilde was good.  I am reminded of something Len Goodman used to say on DWTS.  He would sometimes talk about attacking the floor and that’s a good description of how she dances.  I wonder if it is due to her background which is mostly dance exercise where you have to go full out because you’re trying to do cardio.  It means that she builds up a lot of momentum in her steps but I think that means she misses some of the subtleties of the lead.  So getting her to move takes a lot more force because I have to stop that momentum and then direct her in another way.  I think it is good for me because I do at times get a little too gentle with the lead.  Dancing with her is fun but it is a a work out.

The crowd was down from last week but there were a lot of couples who sat out most of the dances.  I noticed a lot of eyes on us as we were dancing and that made it easier to feel like an intruder.  Hilde does go full out and I hope that wasn’t keeping people off the floor.  At one point I think I mentioned something about taking it down a notch (mostly around the big arms) and she just said she dances with passion.  Then she tells me that so do I.  Not sure what she’s really looking at.  I see pictures of me and I usually have some goofy look on my face that doesn’t say passion.  Oh well.  Turns out that she is going to be free every Friday and not just every other Friday.  So this story shall continue.



  1. “Normally, she pulls the more advanced student and leads her through but, for some reason, they pulled me to demonstrate the whole thing.”
    Ummm, maybe because YOU are an advanced student too!? Obviously, I’ve never seen you dance, but I’m guessing that your dance skill shows more than you think it does. People ask you for your help because they can tell you’ve done this before, and they watch you dance because you’re a good one to watch. 🙂
    You’re absolutely right that we bring all of our baggage to every encounter, but the other person isn’t aware of any of it! They just see the present us. It’s weird and fascinating to try to see how we look to others who don’t know our history. I wish I had a magic mirror that would show me as other people see me.

    1. No, your answer is too simple, it can’t be right. 🙂 I like the magic mirror line. I’ve got a post I’m about to do that builds on that theme.

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