For me it all started with Swing. I was 16 and Swing was in. Everywhere you went the “Daddies” were on the radio, the Swing craze had hit again, and it didn’t miss me. Unfortunately there wasn’t a social dance dedicated to Swing at the time so I went to the local Ballroom Dance event on Friday night. At first all I did was Swing. I had a good friend who I went to High School with and we would practice our lifts and tricks in the halls at school until we were told we’d get kicked out if we didn’t stop. Which of course we didn’t, just moved it out onto the lawn.
After about a year of going to this dance I realized that I had learned most of the Ballroom & Latin dances sort of by accident. I just went to the basic lesson and then let the different leads drag me around on the dance floor until I got my feet under me. It was exhilarating! I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t really care at the time. I became more interested in the Latin Dances and all the sexy hip motion so I studied as much as I could but hit a bit of a plateau being in a small town and all.
I then found Argentine Tango. What a love affair we had, and still are having… I was taken in by a local instructor who taught me as we danced for hours and hours. I had to break a lot of bad ballroom habits, but as I did I actually learned how to follow the ballroom moves even better. The sensitivity that Tango offers gave me a completely different perspective on dancing that I still hold with me today.
After graduating from High School I had a few months of being lost before a friend of mine happened upon a job ad for Dance Instructors at Arthur Murray in Portland. I interviewed and auditioned and they hired me. I then learned another part of dancing that had been missing: the other half. You know what they say, walk a mile in the other persons shoes. Well I did and let me tell you what I learned! Learning the leaders part for me is still the part that makes me understand what I’m doing better than anything else, and I think vice versa. While working for Arthur Murray I was honored with Rookie of the Year, as well as Top Teacher for three consecutive years. I was able to certify in their Bronze & Silver levels of both Ballroom & Latin styles and was working on my Gold level. All my students placed either first or second in their competitions and I was able to learn and train with some of the best dancers and coaches in the world. Bob Powers and Julia Gorgikova (13 time undefeated US Rhythm Champions as well 3 time World Mambo Champions and hold the record for the most United States Championships ever held by a couple), Joey Fusina (Owner of San Diego Arthur Murray and youngest owner ever), as well as many others.
I then decided I wanted to go back to school to finish my degree in Dance at the University of Oregon in Eugene. While I was there I studied Modern, Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, African, and Bellydance. From my education at the U of O I was able to learn more about how the physical body works and moves. My understanding of anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology expanded as well as my interest in these fields. Because of this I now feel I have a much better understanding of posture, alignment, balance, and strength which I try to add in my teaching as much as possible.
I have now moved back to Portland and have magically fell in love with West Coast Swing. I’m quite surprised really that I hadn’t done more of it throughout my dancing career but at least now I’ve found something to challenge me yet again. The connection in WCS is a very playful and free one that if taken advantage of can be like going on a roller coaster. Where Argentine Tango is all about connection of the centers while pressed up against each other, I find WCS to be more about how the two bodies can tell the story of the music with all its ups and downs and twists and turns.
I now teach Ballroom & Latin at Portland Community College and a few community centers around town, as well as my own private group classes and private lessons. My teaching is focused primarily on Ballroom & Latin Social dancing and how to lead & follow with good posture, alignment, etiquette and a smile. For me the people are what make the dancing what it is, so meeting new people, making new connections, burning calories, and challenging myself is why I dance. Why do you?
Whether you want to learn for the first time, or just need some new inspiration, please feel free to contact me and I will help the best that I can.
Here are some of the dances that I teach:
Argentine Tango Samba
Viennese Waltz Mambo
East Coast & West Coast Swing Country Two-Step
Jive Country Swing
Night Club Two-Step
Group Lessons (small and large)
Special Occasions (such as you have to learn how to Salsa for a hot date on Saturday)