Walking on Sunshine

Posted by

I see many of you are now caught up so that’s my cue to do another post.  No, seriously, I want to expand a bit on my post about Sunny although this is likely to ramble a bit before I get to my main point.  Assuming I have a main point.

We have a series of leadership commitments at work.  These are things that we are supposed to guarantee all employees and so it is supposed to be things that us, as people leaders (their words, not mine), must do.  The first is something about everyone needing a leader who truly cares about them.  Nothing particularly wrong with that sentiment and it jives with other things I’ve read.  After all, in your day to day activities as a small cog in a giant organization, it can be easy to feel overlooked and insignificant so having someone who listens to you and takes the time to get to know you can make you feel better about coming to work.

There is something similar at place at the Famous Franchise.  The motivation is different.  They want your money and so they want you to feel comfortable and welcomed.  And, I have to admit it is nice to feel like Norm from Cheers when you walk in and everyone says hi – even getting shouts from instructors who are on lessons.  It is like coming home to my dogs who are always happy to see me.  Of course, the dogs don’t want anything in return (well, except for food since my arrival usually means it is dinner time) so there’s is perhaps a more pure expression of joy and happiness.

The pure cynic in me would suggest that all of this extra friendliness is something akin to “love bombing” that a cult would use to keep you captive.  One could probably argue that ballroom dancing bears some similarity to a cult except we don’t hang out in airports looking for donations (old joke).  The sorry thing is that it does work.  It makes the studio feel like a more comfortable and welcoming place and that is hard to replicate at other studios.  That, plus the people I’ve met do make it harder to break away even if there may be better options out there.

But you do have to wonder how much of it is real and how much is Memorex.  Take this Quickstep, for example.  Certainly, the Famous Franchise has a financial incentive in having me do this.  The more dances you do, the more lessons you need, and the more money they make from you.  The unwritten rule of the Famous Franchise is to spread you among different instructors (except for OwnerGuy’s super competitive student who only dances with him).  So much the better if you do different things with them since then they can argue that you need lessons each week with each instructor to keep the learning going.  That’s probably also the reason why they push more dances because the more dances you sign up for, the more lessons you need and we know where that ends up.

How much of it is real with Sunny?  Hard to say.  I do think there is part of her that sees me as a salvage project she can save and restore to my former glory.  At her skill level, that isn’t going to happen but I see that as part of her motivation.  There is clearly the financial side of things because I’m nothing if not dependable and steady income is better than couples who don’t stick around.  I still think she’s got a bit of a chip on her shoulder and wants to prove something about herself with the dancing.  That’s part of the reason why I think she’s picked some of the more complicated steps to toss into our routine.  I suspect some part of this is her wanting to show what she can do with no help so she tries to learn from the video rather  than just starting with OwnerGuy.  Part of it is OwnerGuy not having the time to really take a lead part in their training or approving steps before she teaches them which I really think somebody should be doing.  Its a complicate mix of stuff.  At the core, she does like dancing with me (and, really, who wouldn’t?), but there’s lots of other things along for the ride that feed into her motivation.  Some is financial and some are more personal.  At least, that’s what I’m picking up but who knows if I’m right.

So, why do this?  Well, I do like the Quickstep.  But, there is more.  Doing the Quickstep with Sunny again gives me the opportunity to do three solo routines at the upcoming Showcase.  That one plus the Peabody and Viennese Waltz with Kid T.  Three solos and the Famous Franchise gives you a little plaque as a reward.  I really don’t need another one of those but I’m hooked on the performing.  Yeah, its an addiction.  Something about the moment you stand there after they’ve announced your name and you are waiting for the music to kick in.  Love it.  Love the crowd reaction.  Love how it makes me feel.  Love putting on costumes and playing a different character (who knew).  Yes, it can be nerve wracking but maybe that rush is what I need from time to time.

Here’s the other thing.  When we did just some basic Quickstep heats, I got some nice feedback from the other students.  Including a guy who doesn’t offer a lot of compliments but it means they were watching and liking what they were seeing.  There are certain dances that seem to fit and maybe that is true of us and Quickstep.

So, yes, I’m paying for the Quickstep to do the routine.  I’m intentionally vague on the future and other dances.  We’ll cross that bridge at a later date.  When I put it this way it does feel like that Bob Seger song “I used her, she used me, but neither one cared.”

Longer term, I don’t really see much of a future until her dance skills are better.  Even then, I can anticipate a major issue we are going to have.  Despite not understanding the video, she gets focused on the details.  It is all about making the dance technically perfect.  That’s where I used to be and can still be from time to time.  But, the more I do this, the more I’m all about the feeling and emotions that the dance brings up in me and in the audience.  Weird, ain’t it?  It also comes down to me being more of a “get the gist” person rather than wanting all the details.  Probably why I’m never going to be truly successful at this but so be it.  I just want it to flow and feel great and move with ease and we aren’t there yet.  I’m totally speculating here but I feel like there are some trust/control issues there.  Following does require giving some control to the other person and trusting them to move.  As an instructor, you do need to step in from time to time and back lead so she’s got those conflicting thoughts in her head.  It just means that she doesn’t feel as free in certain spots where she’s still doing her part rather than responding to what I’m doing.

There will be a big challenge coming up though.  At some point, I’m going to have to force the issue and let her know that Quickstep is the only dance we are doing at the Showcase.  And then after Showcase, there will be another day of reckoning as we figure out the next steps.  I have no desire to hurt anyone but how does one relay thoughts like this without it coming off bad?  It seems awfully egotistical of me to say “she’s not at the right level for me, bring her back when she’s got better skills.”  But we will leave that for another day.



  1. Wall – You’ve brought up core issues I’m sure everyone who dances at a franchised studio wrestles with. The biggie, of course, is, “do those teachers really care about me, or is is all about the $$?” I think the answer to that varies with the individuals involved. One of our dancers died recently, and the manager and the decedent’s main teacher went to the service. Both had tears in their eyes. So, I infer they felt a genuine attachment to that particular student. Is that true in all cases? Of course not. I’m a college teacher and, overall, I like a few of my students a lot, most a little, and some not so much. Yet, I strive to come across as friendly and fair to all of them. When dance students and teachers do genuinely connect, is that conditional? Of course it is. All relationships are conditional, including spousal ones. Another factor to consider is the “love bomb” of respect and admiration teachers get from their students. I suspect that is why so many put up with the poor pay and family-unfriendly hours. Every teacher I interviewed for the book said he or she loved their job – and I believed them. Bottom line: I’m soaking up the great feelings I get at the studio, and not asking too many questions. I’m allowing myself to enjoy the feeling of belonging, and the terrific fun of dancing with attractive, vibrant young people. I’m getting what I pay for, and calling it a win-win for everybody.

  2. I was in a situation similar to you when I was at the famous franchise. I was repeatedly having to dance with the manager for showcase and competition events. He had a tendency to forget choreography, and the two of us just did not gel well. Finally, after a particularly disastrous performance where I was completely embarrassed by his forgetting choreography, I put my foot down. It felt bad to have to be a bit harsh (but I had video proof), but I just stated clearly–I would not pay for any more lessons, showcases, or competitions with him, as I did not feel that was a good use of my dance dollars as I could not dance my best with him. It was put to the test at the next showcase, and I refused to do any work with him and volunteered to do less dances. Needless to say, I didn’t dance with publicly again. I felt bad to have to put my foot down, but in the end I had to do what was best for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s