Arthur Murray North Seattle Blog

The Dance Story of Keith McDonald Part 1

Posted by Keith McDonald on Feb 20, 2017 1:37:56 PM

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     Students of Arthur Murray Dance Schools have interesting stories about their dance journeys. Let us introduce the dance story of one of Arthur Murray student - Keith McDonald.

     Like many painfully shy, small-town teenagers of the 90s with access to books and computers, I spent most of my high school years in front of computer screens while my contemporaries played sports, dated, and went to prom. This lifestyle eventually had its upside. I graduated into the dot com boom of the latter half of the 90s with the golden ticket of a computer engineering degree and a job offer from IBM in the big city of Toronto, Canada.

     I took the scary leap from small town to big city, but then settled into a routine of work and obtaining an part-time masters degree for the rest of my twenties. I pursued solo activities like cycling and photography, aerobics and tai chi. Hitting my thirties with little more to look forward to than more of the same, I took a risk and accepted a job at Amazon in Seattle.

     I had no idea I could be so happy. For the first time, I had co-workers I could relate to and a sustainable pace at my job that gave me my evenings and weekends back. I did away with TV and explored a potential new hobby that my father and uncle had suggested years before: ballroom dancing.

     In my teens, when girls asked me to dance, I always said, "I'm sorry, I don't know how." I was finally going to learn. I signed up for a $50 series of salsa lessons at an independent studio and stayed for maybe two minutes before I got so intimidated by the room full of people who seemed to already know what they were doing that I forfeited my $50 and went home, never to return.

     Six Ways to Ask Someone to Dance

     Fortunately, this wasn't the end of my dancing story. Months later, I saw a $100 Groupon for the Arthur Murray Dance Studio of downtown Seattle that included a mix of group lessons and one-on-one lessons with an instructor and I thought, "Maybe if I take these one-on-one lessons first, I will be good enough to eventually attend a group class without running away." So when my birthday rolled around and my parents wanted to get me a gift, I told them about the Groupon. But then I got focused on buying and furnishing a new home in Seattle and forgot about the Groupon for nearly a year. Was I really that forgetful or simply fearful of repeating the embarrassing salsa experience?

     Arthur Murray Way - The Easiest Way to Learn to Dance

     The expiry date came near so I called the studio and booked a lesson. A woman named Karie called me and told me that she would be my instructor. My first lesson was on a weekend, giving me time to bike from my new home in West Seattle to the studio in Queen Anne. This beautiful young woman took my hand and told me to just walk with her on the dance floor. She then showed me how to do an "excuse me" step like you'd do in a crowded theater to get to your seat. We did this pattern of walk-walk-"excuse me" side-by-side a few times and she informed me that this was dancing.

     Karie encouraged me to take the group lesson right away and, as afraid as I was, there was something about her confidence in me that made me do it. To my surprise, it was nothing like my salsa experience the previous year. The instructor started with the absolute basics, the other students were just as new to dancing as I was and everyone, instructor and student alike, was so supportive I felt no fear.

     Get Your Intro Dance Lesson

     It wasn't long before Karie was encouraging me to attend a "practice party". I would be asking random strangers to dance. What could be more intimidating? But I stayed after my lesson for the party and experienced a second surprise: I enjoyed it. I did the dances I had learned from class with the students with whom I had learned them and, when a dance was new to me, I did it with an instructor who would simplify it so that I could at least move my feet.

     I was hooked. I signed up for a set of twelve private lessons, twelve group lessons, and a party every week. I would be exposed to most of the dances the school taught. I quickly got to know my fellow students. There is nothing quite like dancing with someone for breaking the ice and getting comfortable talking to them.

     The twelve lessons were over before I knew it. I then spoke with Karie about what my goals were and we talked about the full bronze program for making me a skilled, confident social dancer. Karie asked me how many lessons I thought it would take for me to reach this level. I had been exposed to every dance in just twelve lessons, so I figured that I was maybe ten percent of the way to a level of skill for use in social situations. I was off by almost an order of magnitude.

     So the question arose. I was having the time of my life, but the sheer number of lessons I would need would make this an expensive hobby. Maybe I would be better off with an independent studio that charged for group lessons and had cheaper private lessons. But then I did the math.

     Arthur Murray Seattle often held ten or more group classes per week, all free if you were taking private lessons. I knew that attending all ten every week wouldn't be a problem for me, time-wise. This put the price on par with or better than any other studio, with the added bonus of knowing what I was getting, since I had already gotten a taste of it over twelve lessons. I liked the teachers. I liked the students. It was a no-brainer. I signed up for Bronze I, the first of four social levels.

     To be continued...


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