Ballroom Dance and the Wedding Industry: Amanda Wolf

Ballroom Chat: Episode #1April 13, 2020Samantha Stout
A conversation between Samantha from Love.Live.Dance and guest Amanda Wolf, owner of Studio 101 and Pittsburgh Wedding Dance. We talk ballroom in quarantine, the move to online teaching, how the wedding industry is changing and adapting, and where we see dance instruction can improve for the better.
Ballroom Chat on Apple PodcastBallroom Chat on Spotify PodcastBallroom Chat on Google PodcastBallroom Chat on Stitcher PodcastBallroom Chat RSS Feed
--:--
--:--

Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Our transcripts are automatically generated from our audio podcast with only small modifications for readability. Since the transcripts are automatically generated from our podcast conversation, they will contain errors.

SAMANTHA: Hello! Happy Monday morning, everybody. welcome to our first Monday stream and podcast show. I am your host Samantha. I'm the owner of Love.Live.Dance in Salt Lake City, Utah. Today for our first ever episode, I have an amazing guest with me. She is the owner of Studio 101 and Pittsburgh Wedding Dance in Pittsburgh, PA, a former rising star finalist in American Smooth and American Rhythm, and really the woman that I owe my career to.

So please give a warm welcome to Amanda Wolf.

AMANDA: Hi,everyone.

SAMANTHA: I feel like I need one of those cheesy DJ sound boards so that it just has like a woo or a clap.

AMANDA: That would be fun.

SAMANTHA: Thank you guys so much for tuning in. If you are finding this later on down the road, you can watch these live and chat with us every Monday at 10:00 AM Mountain Standard Time over on twitch.tv/lovelivedance, or you can find it after the fact on both YouTube and wherever podcasts are available.

How did you get started in Dance?

SAMANTHA: We are talking getting your start in the industry. So for those that maybe don't know who you are or don't know about you, how did you get your start in the industry and what are you currently doing?

AMANDA: Oh, gosh. Do you want the long story or the short story?

SAMANTHA: Whichever you would like to tell this morning,

AMANDA: I got into ballroom dancing in particular when I was about 16 years old. I had been a dancer through various disciplines, ballet, jazz. Surprisingly enough, I don't think you even know this Samantha, I was in a really bad car accident and actually had some pretty bad head injuries and had about six months where I was really struggling. I had memory loss, memory issues, and I could not be a member of the dance teams I was on. I just couldn't remember things and it just became really difficult. But my parents and I knew that dancing was really important to me, and it was going to be part of any type of therapy to get back. So ballroom dancing came into play where you know, you can be led, you don't need to remember routines. At least in the beginning stages. And I latched onto it. It was great.

I was part of a really great studio. It was owned by my mentor, national finalist, Brianne Hill, and she really got me into the business and was a great mentor for me. Without having that guidance in the early stages of ballroom dancing, I don't think I would've ever let it become a career. After I graduated high school, I turned professional and joined their studio. I was an intern, and became a teacher who was trained, and then i got into selling dresses. I started working for Dierdre of London and later worked for Doré, and I was sponsored by both. I got to travel all over the place, and I met some of my pro partners doing that.

I competed with various partners before meeting my long time partner, Andrew Pueschel, which brought me out to Pittsburgh. I was only going to stay a year or two in Pittsburgh.

SAMANTHA: I hear that.

AMANDA: And here I am 12 years later. So, yeah, it's been quite a ride, but that's actually how I got my start in the industry and in teaching.

SAMANTHA: That's awesome. So you've been dancing for?

AMANDA: Oh, wow. Yes. Professionally, it's many years. I turned professional in 2004. So I've been at this for a while. My whole adult life has been something in dancing.

SAMANTHA: That's awesome though. That means that you really found kind of your niche and you found what makes you happy in life. Hopefully.

AMANDA: It does.

What is Studio 101 in Pittsburgh?

SAMANTHA: So let's talk about Studio 101 and Pittsburgh wedding dance. So one is like social competitive end of the world,

AMANDA: More social I would say. Pittsburgh, It compares to other studios and cities I've taught in has a very unique. Ballroom culture and community. Here it is almost exclusively social dancing, which coming from the Milwaukee Chicago area, it was very different for me. everybody competed. It was, you know, we had really strong hometown competitions and competitions. It was just, that was a way of life. You know, for most of the studios that I had ever been a part of in the different cities that I taught out of. So coming to Pittsburgh was a little bit of a, of a shift for us. it is the city that you can go dancing five to six nights a week with like a group of 80 to a hundred people, and it's not that huge of a city. I mean, we've got a stronger social dance population then. In New York city or some of these bigger cities.

It is a way of life. And with that, yeah, creates, it's just a really unique culture here for dancing. so I would say that my studio has been. Yeah, mostly social dancing, but also the competitive, force has been the stronger, actually amongst our staff. we, while we are a city that is very social, the staff is very competitive. really, really well known professionals in West coast swing ballroom, salsa. those teachers are at it going out, competing professionally. It's awesome. So.

SAMANTHA: That's fantastic. And I think that kind of, I mean, at least from my perspective, when I was watching, you know, you and Andrew and, Sarah and

AMANDA: Brad,

SAMANTHA: Brad, thank you. It's like, wow, that name just escaped me. but when I was watching you guys. You know, going through it and performing and competing, it was the sense of like, okay, I need to get my dancing there. That's, that's the aspirational goal, if I can get to that level. Yeah. So I think it's awesome that the staff still continues to compete and perform and kind of push it to that next level.

AMANDA: Yeah. That's cool.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. so for those that are tuning in, hello, welcome. if you have any questions as we go along, please, by all means, pop them in the chat. We'd love to hear from you. but so Aamanda and I go way back. Actually, I got the notification on Facebook today that my first spring in-house with Fairmont State University was 10 years ago last week.

AMANDA: Really? 10 years ago.

SAMANTHA: It was spring of 2010. What a different world it was.

AMANDA: Wow. Welcome to the double digit years in the business.

What is it like to teach school children?

SAMANTHA: Terrifying. I went to Fairmont State University and was part of their ballroom club and eventually their ballroom team. At the time, Amanda and her partner Andrew were kind of like real coaches. Our coaches that would pop in once every so often and be like, no, you gotta lock this in a little bit more. This is not going to cut it.

So what do you remember? Like what, what do you take away from that teaching experience in a university and you've gone on to continue to teach with middle schools and high school. So what is that coaching experience been like compared to the traditional in studio experience?

AMANDA: Well for me, I had a really great mentor that shaped the path that I took in ballroom dancing. So I always feel that whenever you have a really great mentor and you have had that experience, that it's kind of your duty to pay it forward and to be that for another person. At least one person, if not several people. And that just is kind of who I am as a person. I like to share that.

So I guess with the teaching college kids, it was so awesome because as compared to teaching, let's say the middle school program where the high school programs is, you know, that these people can take it and run with it. Now it's not, Oh, in 10 years, maybe they'll join this field that we're all in, in this industry. It's just knowing that immediately, you know, these people could make an impact and be part of this in this industry. So within a year, within six months, and I really liked that, that we could benefit, you know, the next. Group of professionals. I loved, I loved working with everybody and the, and the hunger and just the drive was really awesome.

I really enjoyed working with everybody and I think there was also just a really good group of people. I think you know, it, you and that core group of students. You guys all wanted it, and that is so necessary. because you can teach great and you can give great information, but unless you have, your captive audience is ready and you know, and really harnessing that, the power inside of themselves to become great.

It really is. I think it was, I think it was just, I, I accumulation of a lot of just really, it's a lot of good energy going on at that time.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I, I'm very lucky that I kind of came in with the group that I did because if you look at like myself, Theresa, Gabe, Jesse, Christie, like we all actually went on to dance in our jobs, which was not at all what we were majoring in. But I think the experience of being part of that team, and again, seeing you and Andrew and Beth how she was running the studio. That was the moment where I thought, okay, you really could do this if you put your mind to it and put the hours in and you wanted it, which was awesome.

AMANDA: Very much so.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. so, so my first competition experience with Fairmont State was Ohio Star Ball.

AMANDA: That's a big one. Yeah. You guys did.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. That was like, let's just throw you in the deep end with the worst waves possible and see what happens.

AMANDA: Yeah.

How Would You Describe Ohio Star Ball?

SAMANTHA: Well, we survived. That was the important thing.

How would you describe Ohio Star Ball for folks that maybe aren't familiar with it.

AMANDA: I would describe Ohio star ball as more of an experience than just a competition and there's many ways you can experience Ohio Star Ball as a spectator. You know, there's multiple ballrooms you can check out at one time. there is. The best in our industry there. I mean, there's, it's a really awesome way to see what ballroom is, as a spectator, if you go to the Ohio star ball.

So whenever I've had clients that want to see it, you know, they go from the small studios to, Oh my gosh, it usually just blinds them. but in a good way, usually, opening up a world of. Possibilities, you know, from the vendor areas of being so rich with, you know, selection and being able to see the best of the best, I think is really, really great.

As far as competing. it's an experience as well, I would say. you know, and as long as people that are going there are, I think, aware of what. Is to come for them. If they are competing there. it is not, I would say probably not the easiest one to jump into for your first one, because it can be very overwhelming, but it also depends on the person's personality. You know, if they're a dive in head first kind of person, then yeah, that's, that's probably the perfect first competition. but, yeah, I think it's a, it's Ohio start ball's an experience. And I think it can be a great one. I think it can be a scary one. It just kinda depends on where people are in their journey of dancing and also just kind of, you know, the people, they are so, yep.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, it was, it was definitely both ends of the spectrum. I think for me it was the, Oh goodness, I'm up against 230 other couples that are all dancing the same level. What in the world am I going to do? How do I stand out on a a heat, one dance floor that has 12 couples on it? How do I make my mark in this moment? but then also it was so inspiring seeing the professional show later that evening and being like, this, this is dance. This is incredible. I don't remember if it was the first Ohio or the second Ohio, but there was a showcase because. During the professional final rounds. most of the pros, all of the pros do a showcase performance.

AMANDA: Yeah. If you're in the final at Ohio Star Ball part of the cumulative score is a showdance number as well.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. And one of the standard couples. Did a reverse lead and follow. As part of their routine. They were like in frame and traditional frame and she was in a tux jacket and the midway through one of the turns, they switched and she led for a while and then they switched and went back and I was like, there are a lot of showcases that have stuck with me over the years. I feel like that one, for whatever reason, I think it was so early on was just like. A light bulb moment in the back of my head. It's like, that's awesome.

What is it like being a wedding dance instructor during Covid-19?

So we talked about how you got to Pittsburgh, a little bit of competitive background teaching background. let's talk wedding season.

AMANDA: Oh. Gosh. Let's dive into that.

SAMANTHA: So, so before we get into like what normal wedding season typically looks like, let's talk wedding season currently

AMANDA: wedding season currently. it's wild. I, I, I guess I'd been in this for 15 years. I do. A lot of weddings. I do any probably on average about 70 wedding couples a year. you know, and involved in a lot. I go to a lot of the weddings, to make sure things go okay. I'm a really hands on instructor for that and I can't say I've ever known a crazy, more volatile season than this season. You know, we had the close of that venue. We had two locations in Pittsburgh. a number of my clients were affected by that. and that was a huge blow. that was crazy. And then it's just what a month later, be dealing with all of this is just, it's absolutely wild. hard for many of my couples to wrap their minds around, hard for me as a studio owner not necessarily knowing. When things will be back to normal. So scheduling has been a bit of a nightmare. I've been kind of just shifting people two weeks, you know, and then reshifting people and reshifting people. because I think it's also necessary for couples to have hope. And even if it's something on the books that we probably all know might not happen it, I think it feels good to have at least.

Something on the calendar that is a little bit more exciting to look forward to. And I'm hoping that that we will all be back open soon. I will never complain that I'm too busy during wedding season ever again because Oh, yeah. I think it's, it's interesting. I think there's just, there's a lot, a lot of uncertainty right now, and I think that that makes things hard.

SAMANTHA: Yeah, definitely. I, I feel like. Normally in April, we would start to hit the point where it's like, I am capped out. I'm teaching my 40 hours. I can't take on other clients. Who can I hire on to help? but this year being like, well. Hopefully I'll see you May 1st. Maybe I'll see you June 1st

AMANDA: right.

SAMANTHA: Hopefully we will be back by July 15th. I don't think you need to reschedule your August wedding yet, but I don't know.

AMANDA: Yeah, it's, it's tricky. this is surprisingly enough also the year that I think everybody in the wedding industry, we were really banking on this being the year. Because 2020, absolutely great ring to it. I know several brides that delayed their 2019 weddings to 2020 because they want to be married in 2020. It looks great on invitations. It has a great ring to it.

SAMANTHA: you could do a roaring twenties theme. It's very, there's

AMANDA: so much that went into having it in this year. my venue owner friends, and colleagues that, Made amazing, you know, put additions on to their venue spaces, you know, made this the year that, you know, their venue was taken to the next level, knowing that, you know, this year was going to have more couples getting married then really than any other year. definitely for the foreseeable future. So I, I, I really feel for them that, you know, here they've made these great improvements on their venue. And now nobody has cashflow. And who knows when things are going to be back up and running. It's it's an unbelievable time. It's just, it's very hard to imagine so.

SAMANTHA: Definitely. Definitely. we have a question from the chat. Are you just expecting that everyone will push their weddings to the fall and winter?

The answer to that is there's only so many venues and there's only so many days of the week. So if fall and winter were already booked to capacity, which I feel like a lot of the venues were booked years ago in advance, Unless venues start getting creative. I don't know if you can push those weddings.

AMANDA: I actually was just kind of a couple of weeks ago. another little side note is, this was actually the year I was going to be getting married,

SAMANTHA: so I was going to ask if you had set a date.

AMANDA: I did. I did. We were actually going to be getting married on July 18th, and when this all started happening, we kind of made the decision to push it, not only because we were concerned that, you know, things might still be restricted but financially, going into it, I didn't want to be as stressed as I would be because I still have studio rent that's going out every month and all that good stuff. but in talking to our photographer, and. Again, just like some of the colleagues I have in the wedding industry, we were all kind of thinking that everything would just shift to fall. but like you just said, Samantha, you know, there's only so many days that you can have weddings. we actually have been seeing a lot of weddings postponing from the fall because, financial reasons, you know, if you're having a wedding in the fall, usually a few months beforehand is when. Those wedding bills start coming and if people aren't able to pay for those, those weddings aren't going to happen.

Or also, you know, parents that are paying for these weddings have lost a lot in the stock market and it makes a hundred thousand dollar wedding. High end wedding seemed really silly and not, not a priority. So we've been seeing, believe it or not fall weddings shifting as well. You know, for, for a number of reasons. I have a cousin actually that was going to be getting married on May 30th, and they just postponed their wedding to September and they're getting married on a Tuesday.

SAMANTHA: Wow.

AMANDA: Because there are no weekends available. And, so I think what this means for the wedding industry is that, you know, get ready to have midweek weddings have, you know, there's only so much that can be done. So if it does all shift to fall. We're all not going to be just really busy on the weekends. I think, you know, if things do shift to fall, they're going to have to happen on days other than Saturdays and now days other than Fridays and Sundays. So, I think, I think we're going to see a lot of really interesting things, but I think that could actually good.

I think it's going to shatter the idea that your wedding has to be on a Saturday. It has to be this way. It can't be any other way. I think we're gonna start seeing some really creative. Options for celebration, and I think that's actually kind of cool. I'm really excited to see what this could bring. I think this could actually be a good thing for venues that now are completely empty from Monday through Friday, typically, are going to have some life in them throughout the week.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. And I, and I feel like the event rental space is probably going to be very successful as a result of this as well. I know I've had a couple of clients that were set to get married either this month or the next month that just decided we're going to do a courthouse wedding. So that way we've got the piece of paper. And then we're just going to throw a big party in our backyard and like six months when all of this calms down. So folks that are doing tent rentals and DJs that are traveling and dance floor rentals and, and all of the bits and bobs that aren't tied to a specific location, I think are going to be very successful as well.

AMANDA: I think you're right. I think, you know, if you can't find the venue you want, the venue is going to be your backyard. And I think, yeah, there's something kind of awesome about that. I, and bringing it back. I don't know about you SAMANTHA, but I know whenever I deal with like the parents of these couples and I asked them, what was your wedding like?

What did you dance to so many of them. Reply that, Oh, you know, we had a really small wedding, or we did dancing and it was in the basement of the church, and weddings were just really simple 30 40 years ago. And we're really truly about the couple, not necessarily the party. And I think there might be some of that coming back and maybe for good reason.

Yeah, I think, I think it would be very interesting to see what this kind of does.

SAMANTHA: Definitely. Definitely. So how are you adjusting and adapting to all of this craziness?

AMANDA: Oh gosh. So successfully and I have it all figured out. I'm taking it day by day. You know, I'm trying to right now, plan for the worst, but hope for the best. There is. A lot of talk about how this is going to affect social gatherings and for a studio owner. That's scary. That's very scary because a lot of our clientele are at the at risk age group for for this and yeah, the last week I taught my group class. you know, everything was changing day by day. We had no idea how quickly what a week would do and this was right mid, mid March. I had pretty much everybody in that class saying that they weren't going to come the next week, because they're all at a, that, that risky age or they just didn't see the risk is and see the point of the risk. So I don't know how much. Unless there's a vaccine and everybody's cool, how easily this is going to snap back for something like ballroom dancing.

I mean, that's, talk about the nitty gritty of that. Come into a class and switch partners every three minutes, five minutes in and hold everybody's hands and then get your faces really close to each other. I mean, I laugh about it because if not, I'll just cry. But, it really is. A high risk activity, and that's a shame.

SAMANTHA: It may encourage people to do proper head shaping though.

AMANDA: Yeah, I was thinking about it. I like that idea. I like that thought. I do think that people that are. Hardcore dancers are the people that dance is a part of their life. I don't think that's going to change for them. I think they, they, You know, when we do come out of this, I don't think the fear will be as strong in them as far as people who have never danced before.

That's something that I worry about. yeah. You know, somebody who's never danced before. Switching partners is a bunch of people's already a weird thing when you are just thrilled. I mean, being a beginner and now adding that to the mix, I worry about that for myself. By studio, my teachers, our industry as a whole.

I think it will be. It will be interesting to see how, how about ballroom dances comes, comes from this, you know, social activities where you have to have physical contact.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I feel like as instructors, we're going to be changing our methodology. I know, I was talking with Hannah on Saturday about this. I am probably going to be more reluctant to actually get into frame. With my students because normally, like with social dance clients or with wedding dance clients, if, if the couple that is working on something is running into a roadblock, I would normally be like, okay, let me lead you. Let me follow you and let me feel what's happening and then I can help you both. But I have a feeling that that's going to happen less and less and less as a result of this.

AMANDA: I agree. You know, it's, it's hard. I'm a very hands on teacher. I mean, to me, I could explain a way or I could get in there and fix it, and that's like a person and the teacher. I am. so I mean that, that, that was tricky. I mean, that's a thought. And, coming out of this, Figuring and how as teachers and as professionals, as the people that are going to be instructing how everybody dances, it interacts as far as dancing. We set the stage for that, what our best plan is for that. And that's something that I've been thinking a lot about.

It's tricky. It's a tricky industry to be in at this point, I guess you could say.

What are your thoughts on online dance lessons?

SAMANTHA: Definitely. Definitely. from the chat, maybe fitness classes, since nobody can go to the gym currently. So like line dance or la blast or old school aerobic classes. and then thoughts on taking your classes online for either lessons or groups.

AMANDA: Online. I actually have been doing some online virtual classes, for groups. we've been teaching, or I've been teaching more techniques, than necessarily patterns. And I've been, I started off the first week teaching more pattern based, but it very quickly and easily went into technique based because.

There's a lot that can come from that. And I'm trying to encourage my students and dancers to actually see the gift that we are given in this, that it's not. Oh man, I don't have a partner. I can't do this. but shifting it to, I don't have a partner, so what can I do better now? And the times at which I would say throughout my career that I have made the most leaps and bounds was actually when I was in between partnerships. It was just me. It's just me to focus on. There was not a partner there to not distract in a bad way, but a distraction from my own dancing because you are working on your dancing together. You don't think just about your own dancing when you have a partner in front of you.

So being alone right now, and you know, being really just accountable for every misstep, every balance issue, every spin that you're not doing perfect. You have yourself to work on with that. I think right now there are so many awesome, amazing instructors that you would normally have to fly in or fly to to get any type of coaching. Like Dance Vision. They've been posting amazing, world-renowned coaches for teaching. I mean, when have we ever had access to technique like that and instruction at our fingertips for free?

So teaching virtually, I think, has really broken a lot of barriers for us mentally. The first week that this all happened, I was kind of in a blur and didn't want to actually think about having to do that. I think mostly because I feel that I would not be able to provide the same level of quality instruction because I'm not there to see. so for me, I was very hesitant about doing it, and I still am because I'm still used to my way of fixing things, which has always been in person. And I think it's a paradigm shift and I think it's a mental shift that we all need to as instructors.

Really come to terms with how, you know, we can be just as effective while not in person. And I think it is possible. I think we all just need to figure out how that is going to happen. and I know for myself is getting out of my own way to do that. not be my own roadblock. And not letting my frustration that I can't fix somebody's frame physically, I have to use my words literally like a two year old playing it in the best way that they can then do it themselves. And who knows? Maybe that eventually will be the better way, even when we are all together, you know, and being able to do that. Maybe this will strengthen my teaching in the long run. So I'm really trying to, to, See things in that light, because I, I think that's really the only way we can at this point.

Otherwise, it's just, you're left with frustration, but you can't do it the way you always did.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I love that. I love that. Focus on the positive and, and see this as an opportunity to grow either as an individual dancer or as an instructor. yeah, like you mentioned, Dance Vision and Dance Today have both released an incredible amount of videos.

AMANDA: Another great thing is as instructors, we get to be the students again. It was always a good feeling.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. And just listening to how someone at that level would explain the technique that I feel like you and I are probably teaching our students just in a very different way. So sometimes hearing the little differences, the little nuances that they're focusing in on, or they're keying in on, it's like, Oh, I never thought of explaining a Rumba walk in that exact order or that exact way.

AMANDA: Yeah, I have a friend that's, she posted some, you know, some short exercise and I was like, I love the way that she explained that. I love that. Like, I'm going to use that. And I think there's a lot of, ways that. You know, people, other teachers, you know, we can share information and share what works. And because maybe the way that that person's explaining it is the way that your student needs to hear it. And just because it didn't come from your mind organically doesn't mean it's not going to be helpful.

So I think there's a lot that, you know, we can. All come together and do as a, as a whole?

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. The more that we can share knowledge with each other, I think the more that we're all gonna be successful and be able to provide a really great product to our students, which is really the goal at the end of the day.

Will online dance lessons stay viable once we can get back into the studio?

Do we expect online instruction to continue as a viable model even after all of this is over?

AMANDA: Ooh, that's a good one.

SAMANTHA: I'm torn on that. I. I feel like I will continue to have online lessons as an option for my students, but for me in person is always going to win out. I think.

AMANDA: I agree. I, I think that, it could continue at a higher level, especially for professionals. I know this has actually been going on for quite some time. Send a video of yourself to your coach and get progress checks. I still think that's going to happen. I think even more so now. you know, being able to have the access to people that aren't right near you. I think actually that could be really awesome.

So I think, maybe not for the beginner level. but at the higher level, I think that actually will still be happening. there's so many apps and coaching programs that, you know, you can, for a variety of not even just dancing, has been really helpful. So I think it still will happen. I'm not sure, and you know, and it's actually, it's funny because when I first opened up, You know, in, in Pittsburgh, gosh, 12 years ago now. YouTube did not exist. No. If you wanted to learn how to dance and much of my career, if you wanted to learn how to dance, you had to go to a studio and learn from an actual person. And you know, it was amazing. By the time I opened up studio 101 I didn't know.

Hindsight is 2020. I did not realize. How much technology had actually had an impact on the way a studio can run. You know, you don't, you're an introvert. Well, that's why you don't have to go to class anymore. there are, you know, why pay $10 for a class when you can learn online? they're really. It changed the industry, I think, more than anybody wanted to admit . and whether we realized it or not, it did have a pretty huge impact.

SAMANTHA: Oh, absolutely.

AMANDA: It really did. And I don't think I really realized that until I had to realize it. I would say, Because you know, it brought education to so many. if you lived in an area where there was no studio, it didn't matter anymore because you could pull it up on your computer. So I think good and bad, and for the studios, because less people in the door means bad numbers for studios, but yeah, good in the fact that it was able to be distributed to the masses and not just small town or big towns and big cities and access to those studios anymore. So

SAMANTHA: yeah, I do definitely think it's interesting how much YouTube and just online culture has both positively and negatively impacted ballroom dance. I feel like it, you know, YouTube videos along with Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars of kind of reinvigorated this interest in our industry. but along with that, I feel like at the end of every single beginner lesson, I have to write down the list. I know that you're going to forget what we just did. You're going to go home, you're going to go on YouTube. Please look for something with "NDCA DVIDA Dance Vision" in the title of the video. Otherwise, don't use it because it's not exactly what I'm teaching. And that doesn't mean that it's incorrect. It's just not the same thing that I'm currently teaching you.

AMANDA: International Rumba instead of American rumba and yes.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. And then I get the panic text message like, yeah, am I supposed to have hip action?

AMANDA: Right. Or, or the wedding couples that pull up, you know. Something that is very much done by two professional dancers and is not attainable. A few lessons and, yeah.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. Trying to explain the, okay, these are former Blackpool champions. This was their actual wedding choreography. Let's talk about all the ways you aren't going to be doing this,

AMANDA: I'm a great teacher, but I'm not a magician. I can't, I can't proof, make that happen. And in a few lessons, those are things. Yeah. The things you can chuckle about for sure.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. But I've gotten less dirty dancing requests over the last couple of years.

AMANDA: I feel that that was a generational thing. The last one I did. Was probably five years ago, and I'm totally okay with that being the last one I ever do in my lifetime. because it was like a few a year were requesting that and always the man had never seen the movie and had no idea what he was signing up for. And until that last thing, you pull it up on YouTube and they're going, Oh, hell no. So yeah, I haven't had any of those in several years, which I am. I'm totally all right with. Yeah.

What do you wish wedding couples would think about or ask at their first dance lesson?

SAMANTHA: So, so what would you, what advice would you give to engaged couples that are thinking about first dance lessons? Maybe they've, they're in them or they've put them on hold because of all of this. What, what do you wish couples would either ask their instructor or would think about before coming in for their first lesson?

AMANDA: I think, well, what would be helpful is for everybody to. Think about how they want dancing to be a part of their wedding, knowing that their wedding might not be the original picture they had in their head dancing can be a part of anything, and I've always kind of followed the philosophy of the first dance isn't for everybody else. It's for you. And therefore, because it is for the couple, it doesn't necessarily need to have. The 250 person wedding to make that dance just a special. I have had three couples now get married in their living rooms with the zoom meeting, just like we're right now.

SAMANTHA: That's awesome.

AMANDA: But they still do their first dance. And I, that makes my heart just so happy because that's what I would want for them all along is that that dance isn't necessarily. A performance. It's that moment to share between the two of you guys right after you get married and you're like, Oh my gosh, here I am in the moment. so I, I'm really excited for that. I would say for couples that are getting engaged is to, know that your first dance doesn't have to be forgotten or not happen because you're not having the reception that. You will plan to have. it can be great no matter what. that dance can, is between the two of you guys, whether it's a hundred people watching through their computer or they're in person with you. so I would just say to couples, You know, don't feel like it can't happen because you're having the small wedding. you know, dancing can happen, and can be enjoyed for you and your fiance no matter what the situation is.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I feel like that's such a good point for couples to really absorb is. You can either have a first dance for the audience, in which case you're going to be putting a lot of pressure on yourself to perform at a certain level and have it be entertaining, which if that is what you want for your wedding, if you want it to have that show, feel like, by all means, do that. But I feel like the couples that I have been most successful teaching and the couples that have had the most positive feedback about the experience was it was just a moment for the two of us to have an hour once a week where it was just us. And then on the dance floor, it was just a minute and a half where we didn't have to worry about the cake or the flowers, or has uncle George had too much rum or you know what, whatever other chaos of the day.

It was like that was a minute and a half that they knew that they had. By themselves.

AMANDA: Nobody's coming up asking for a picture. Nobody's talking to you. It's literally the two of you guys. And I always joke that, when my couples stop seeing it as a performance and see it as. That moment of calm in a crazy day, they probably will want a 15 minute dance routine, right?

They will probably want a 15 minute song of just being able to breathe and relax and just be the two of them. so yeah, I think that as long as that is the mindset, I don't think. A first dance will ever go by the wayside. I think, if it, if the mindset is that it has to be this performance, then maybe, but I, in my opinion, that's the wrong way to go about it anyways, but that's just me.

I'm not saying that the people that want to be a performance are wrong. It's it. Just know that the couples that seem the happiest are the one that actually have the most performance quality. Dances are the ones that don't set out for it to be that way.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. I think that's the difference between Pittsburgh and Utah. I feel like when I was teaching in Pittsburgh, it was very much like I have no dance experience. I just want to be comfortable with my fiance. In Utah, because there's such a ballroom culture, I feel like I get a lot of couples that are like, I was BYU gold 10 years ago and I want to show people that I can still do it.

AMANDA: That's a great point. That's a great point. Yeah.

SAMANTHA: But I do think like picking the right song and choosing a mood that's very much unique to the two of you. It means something. You're going to listen to it in 15 years and still have an emotional reaction to the song or seeing the dance. I think that that's kind of the secret sauce to making a really good first dance.

AMANDA: I agree. I agree.

What are the wedding songs for this generation?

SAMANTHA: Question from the chat. If dirty dancing is out, what is this generation's terrible movie that gets referenced?

AMANDA: Right? Right.

SAMANTHA: I don't think it's a movie. I think it's a particular singer. I feel like it's just Ed Sheeran.

AMANDA: I was just going to say.

SAMANTHA: This generation is just Ed Sheeran. Last generation was dirty dancing.

AMANDA: Yeah. Ed Sheeran all the way. Every wedding season has that one song that's just done to death, you know. Sometimes it comes from a movie, sometimes it doesn't, but yeah, Ed Sheeran. I don't know if he was intending to advertise to the wedding industry, but he sold a lot of records because of it.

SAMANTHA: So he's been very successful in that niche.

AMANDA: Right.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I feel like obviously he's dominated the last five years. Leon Bridges I feel like is going to be the next year or two.

AMANDA: Yeah. Coming home, was a great album and I've done a few weddings to his music, which I, I, I will take all day long. I am a big fan of his. yeah.

SAMANTHA: So from like a. Ballroom to wedding dance a through line, I guess. What do you rely on as kind of your foundation for wedding students? Do you have a go to style or basic or do you just strip all of that out and have a wedding dance that you kind of use as your foundation?

AMANDA: yeah, I, I would actually say that's how I stand apart from the rest. That I, I alter ballroom to make it a appropriate for a wedding. because there are so many factors that make typical ballroom dancing, not work for a wedding dance. And I can always tell when I watch a video or YouTube video when an instructor gave the couple. Syllabus ballroom stuff, and not that there's anything wrong with that. I really don't. I just think it, it's not the best way because there are so many factors that come into play. things that look really great, almost social dance floor, ballroom dance floor. Can look really stupid when the girl's wearing a ballroom dance or a wedding dress, I should say the guy's wearing a tux that doesn't allow proper movement.

So I change a lot to make. Oh really great wedding dance. Knowing that what makes a great wedding, dances, pictures, things that are going to make that dress fly. And sometimes that is some really kind of crazy footwork to make her dress fly. You know? Those are, that's what. I know a lot of photographers suggest me for their clients because they know they're going to get great pictures with my choreography, and that's what people book them for. So that's how I've been able to kind of create a network. You know. In the wedding industry for me. So, for instance, crazy foot work doesn't show up too well. when you got a wedding dress that's going to hide all that, it's just going to look silly. things that if she was wearing a short skirt would be fantastic don't really work when she's got a dress that weighs 20 pounds and all of the beading is in the back and she's off center in her spins now. And that's what I can also tell. Like one, a man's choreographed it because he's never worn a dress and it's just no way that they would know that, Hey, this dress is gonna be back weighted and this spin is not going to work for her on the day of.

And with the wonderful tradition of the man can never see the bride in her wedding dress before. The wedding day is awesome in some ways. But as far as getting. Ready to dance and be okay once you get out there. kind of sucks. Yeah. There's a lot of changes that I make. I used to do a lot of boxed up choreography or waltz choreography that kind of has changed to more of a combination of things, knowing that to achieve the shapes on the floor and in their bodies that I want to achieve. And knowing that I only, I can, I have this goal that I have to do in two lessons. so for me, there are some things that I think somebody may be watching me would be like, Hey, that's not ballroom.

but knowing that there's always a reason for it. Like when I have girls go into frame, I don't put their hand where. Ballroom would say it should go. I put it where the ring is going to get the most attention cause that's going to make a really great picture. And then that's going to bring people my way.

So, Yeah, there's, there's, there's always a method to my madness, but I wouldn't say that I am super ballroom in my teaching for weddings. I think, you know, you have to see it in a different light because it is a different light. It is not a performance at a showcase. And that's, to me, any new instructor getting into the industry, knowing that weddings are going to be their bread and butter for a long time.

That's what I would say. that would be the, any advice that I would give. It's just this how it's different and then choreograph based on that.

SAMANTHA: And, and like you said, there are so many factors that adjust dramatically what you could or could not do. because the dress bustled is the dress not bustled cause I've had a couple of those, straps versus strapless.

If the gentlemen is doing like a very traditional, Middle Eastern wedding and they have a tunic, they cannot raise their hand to a 90 degree level, not going to happen. so how do you do spins or twirls to show off the dress in a way that he can only lift his hand to here or long sleeve dresses that have the same limitations,

AMANDA: man, they're coming back.

SAMANTHA: Oh yes.

AMANDA: That, yeah, that creates some, some challenges and, but I think that that's the sign of any great teacher is, you know, using those restrictions to create something else. I actually love it. I, my favorite is when somebody comes with an impossible wedding dress and the guy's wearing a tunic and like has no arm moves.

I actually love that because it sends my mind. In my creativity in a way that I normally would not have gone down. So I actually love, love when that happens.

SAMANTHA: or the songs that you just listened to and you're like. I have to turn my ballroom brain off because if I'm trying to find a beat that works, it's just not with the song.

So what else can I do?

AMANDA: I can make anything work as far as music cause I've had everything come my way. I love how you just said you had to turn ballroom brain off and I, but I think that's what makes a really great choreographer, is being able to, no, when. To turn certain aspects of their training off and turn uncommon ones on. I think, I think that's what really, it just how you can react to challenges, I think is what can set you apart from the rest.

SAMANTHA: Well, and I also want to key in on something that you said earlier, which is really important for any, you know, young, professional that's just getting into this industry as an instructor. The best partnership that you can make as a wedding dance instructor is with a photographer or a videographer, because getting an idea of how your dances are going to be filmed and photographed and changing your dances specifically with your photographer in mind, I think really will set you apart. . but, but pairing with a photographer and really thinking about like, where is your front? Are you going to have all of those big picture moments facing a certain direction? and coaching your students on, make sure that every time you do this, you're thinking about hitting the dip. This direction. So that way you aren't forcing the photographer or the videographer to run around and potentially miss a moment.

AMANDA: I really can't stress that enough. Choreograph with the photographer in mind, always. I have taught workshops to photographers on how to position people, to create a really nice, dip how to do that. Because a lot of times, you know, photographers, they're amazing at what they do, but they're not dancers. So they'll just tell their couples, do a dip. Well, gosh, we've seen some bad dips out there. And, Or how to place the couple. So you know, the bride looks very slim and she will share the heck out of that picture because she loves how she looks in it.

That is a really great partnership to have, more so than, believe it or not, even wedding planners, wedding planners are another, great wedding industry, colleague to snuggle up to and get re, really close to because they work. With our couples as often as we do their weekly checkins, they create a really strong rapport with their clients. So, being in the good graces of any wedding planner in the area, is great. Especially the, the photographers really though. because they will, they will work for you. I mean, photographers have so much competition. Their Instagrams are gorgeous. Their grids are so thought out. They are fantastic.

And because of that, if you can get your work. In any of that, on their grids in, you know, increasing their, chances of people booking them. Oh, heck, you can do really amazing things with your business. with that alone. I think there's a lot that can be done.

So, yeah. Make friends with photographers, it's always a good thing. And yeah, think about where front is, when you're choreographing, think about how. That is going to be, you know, if you know that music is ending and the dip is going to hit at this point, make sure that the couples know where to direct that picture.

So, So the photographer doesn't have to run and chase to get the picture. Cause if they miss it, they miss it and that's not fun. So,

SAMANTHA: yep. I think that's actually a really good place to kinda end it is, you know, way to be successful, ways to be successful in the industry. different partnerships to kind of seek out and different things to, to think about when you're choreography, works with winning students. So. anything that you wanted to talk about or plug before we, end the stream?

AMANDA: Oh gosh. just try to say sane and, try to be, you know, keep an open mind and. You know, and just know that you're not alone. Every business owner right now is going through this. don't be afraid to call up somebody that you know, that's also in that boat and just talk, check in on if you don't own a business, checking on the people that do a little bit of support means a lot to a lot of them.

So even if you just are saying, Hey, thinking about you, I think that's, it's something we can all do. So.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. Absolutely. so if you want to follow AMANDA, if you want to give her some love, studio 101 PG H I think across all social media platforms.

AMANDA: And then, Pittsburgh wedding dance on Instagram.

SAMANTHA: Excellent. Well go give her a lot of love. Thank you so much for being my first guest. thank you guys for tuning in. Again, we're going to be doing this every Monday at 10:00 AM M S T over on Twitch dot. TV slash love live dance. So please do stop on by and say, hi. my guest for next week is James Cook, from the Utah West coast community.

He's an incredible dancer and I'm so excited to have him on, so hope to see you guys then. Thank you again, AMANDA for two for stopping by and talking with me today. and have a lovely rest of your week.

AMANDA: Thank you guys.