Talking with a Titan: Ron Montez

Ballroom Chat: Episode #18August 17, 2020Samantha Stout

Ron Montez is a former 7-time undefeated US Professional Latin Champion, the recipient of numerous awards and honors, judge, adjudicator, and co-organizer of both the Aloha Ball and Las Vegas Lights Dance Challenge. We discuss his early career with Arthur Murray, turning professional, how costuming and performance has changed over the years, and the pros and cons of one-day events versus multi-day events.

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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 and welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Today, I'm joined by a titan of the industry who needs no introduction, but just in case you are unfamiliar with Ron Montez, he is a seven-time undefeated US Latin champion, the recipient of numerous awards and honors, currently judging and adjudicating at competitions and is a co-organizer of the Aloha Ball in Hawaii and the Las Vegas Lights Dance Challenge. Please help me welcome Ron Montez. Thank you so much for joining us today.

RON: You're welcome. I'm very happy to be here with you. Thanks.

SAMANTHA: Thanks. so first and foremost, how are you doing these days? How is, how is life, currently.

RON: Yes. Well, right now, I think I've had more time on my hands and I have ever had, and by the way, thanks for referring to me as a titan. I've never been called that before. I've been called a lot of things, but never a titan. And I think I'm very impressed. Thank you so much.

SAMANTHA: Of course.

RON: It's a strange time as everyone is well aware of. I think there's a lot of time to spend contemplating, thinking, rethinking, deciding things about life that maybe you never had time for before. So, unusual time, for sure.

SAMANTHA: Definitely. I like that idea that it's a time for self reflection and kind of taking quiet moments to think and ponder. As part of that, any reflections that you've been having on the first part of your career or what kind of brought you into this industry? I feel like for me, I've been spending a lot of the last couple of months going, how in the world did I get here? So how did you get here Ron?

RON: Yeah, really. Well, I was a, so-so student. I didn't really apply myself very well. Grew up in a small town. I loved sports. I loved being outside. Eventually, my older sister Bettina became a ballroom dance teacher along with her husband, and they worked for the Arthur Murray studios. So at that point they asked me, would I be interested in trying it out? I said, yeah, I don't have anything on my agenda right now. I'm not ready for college at the moment, so sure.

They took me under their care, introduced me to some ballroom dance movements and then said, by the way, there's a training class for new teachers starting out at the studio. It's a six week course, five days a week, and a very excellent teacher, which she was.

I joined that session, and I never looked back. The teacher was a wonderful teacher too, Nancy Elliot. You know, I'll never forget her. She was great. And so, that's how it started. Arthur Murray dance studios, Tucson, Arizona, a brand new teacher that knew nothing. My students knew a great deal more than I, but they were nice to me and we progressed together.

SAMANTHA: I feel like for new teachers, that's always a rough six months to a year where you're like, okay, I think I know everything, but you definitely know better than me and I've got to come in with an air of authority and pretend like I'm the authority figure in the room.

RON: Oh yes, yes. I know. And that's what happened. We had a very good dance director at the studio, so he also coached me and helped me along and came along on lessons because there were some very advanced lady students in the gold level or a gold star level, and I was a bronze teacher, so there you have it.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. So at what point does it go from teaching for Arthur Murray to let's go ahead and launch this professional career and see where it takes us?

RON: Well, I was a teacher for a number of years, and I think an amazing thing happened. I enjoyed doing what I was doing. I did shows with the fellow teachers and all this, but our boss, the director of the studio, brought in an Australian couple, Barry and Shel Wrightson, who were on their way back from Europe, dancing in the world championships to their home in Australia. They were brought into the studio to train and do some work. I don't know how he heard them. I have no idea, but anyway, they ended up coming to our studio in Tucson, Arizona on their way back to Australia.

Well, I'd never seen this before. It was amazing and shocking to me. A couple who had matching costumes and they had music planned and choreographed ahead of time. They did choreographed routines. They were spectacular and athletic, and I said, this is something I gotta look into. So I talked to Barry and Cheryl and they became friends and they said, well, first of all, you have to get a partner. Second, you have to get training, good training, and you have to go to where there's good teachers. Then you have to enter a competition. So I took his advice and it all started the competitive part of my life.

SAMANTHA: Gotcha. And then the rest is pretty much history.

RON: The rest is pretty much history. I got a partner and started training. I moved to California because the training was better, and I started studying, started competing, and that was about it. The door was open, and I went through it and did not want to look back. There was no doubt in my mind that that's what I wanted to do for sure.

SAMANTHA: So while you were training for your professional competitive career and going to competitions, and as a professional dancer, were you also still teaching Pro-Am at that time through the studio, or did you take a break off from competing and training Pro-Am students to focus on the professional career?

RON: I think that every competitive professional couple earned their money primarily through teaching. So yes, I taught continuously through my competitive career, more or less all the time to one extent or another. When I was traveling, of course I didn't do so much of that, but yeah, I just kept teaching the whole time. we didn't make much money in competitions. More money was spent on training, travel, and costumes. So yeah, teaching was an important way to keep the money flowing.

SAMANTHA: You mentioned that you were surprised by the matching costumes and immediately when you mentioned that I go back to the videos out of the seventies and eighties where, you know, you have the crushed velvet Latin jumpsuit with the matching crushed velvet dress. From a costuming perspective, what is the biggest change that you've seen from that first memory of watching someone come into your studio and do a showcase compared to today? What's the biggest change that you have seen in how the costuming and the styling of these dances has changed?

RON: Yeah, the costuming has gone through several changes. I think for the men, it's much better and more relaxed. We have those stiff Ironman costumes that were horrible to dance in. I'm glad that phase passed. The girls wore more fluffy-type dresses in those days, and now they're more slinky. They can express themselves and their individual individuality more with what they choose to wear. The men don't have to match, they can just wear all black, so it's a lot better. The costume is a lot better. It's a big industry, and it's a way to express how you want to project your personality, your look, your figure, the movements you use. So, yeah, it's much more free nowadays and more creative. Before it was a little stiff.

SAMANTHA: Very very structured. So your titles are all as Latin champion, but as a DVIDA trainee, when I first was going through the DVIDA syllabus, I was actually watching your American rhythm DVDs and instructions. So, at what point did you go from I'm competing in Latin to I actually want to be able to train people and speak as an authority figure in American rhythm?

RON: Well, here's a brief progression. As a teacher, I taught all styles of smooth and rhythm. All of them. And then when I started competing, my first competition was in ballroom in the style called standard dance, not latin. And I loved the ballroom dances and I loved practicing them. And then I ended up doing both styles of ballroom and Latin, 10-dance, refering to it as 10-dance. But then one of my best partners, Elizabeth Curtis, only did Latin. She didn't do the ballroom dances. So we had to specialize in those dances.

Now the international style, there are more competitions in the international style than anything else, and it's an old tradition. American rhythm came on the scene more recently, you know, so I did not compete in the professional American rhythm. I competed in the international Latin. But of course my whole life I did those dances, Mambo, swing, Bolero. Those were a very important part of growing up learning and enjoying dancing, teaching, et cetera. So, you know, as in this country, if you grew up in the chain studios, you were very versatile. You had to be. So you learned to teach all styles, and it just ended up being that my best partner did Latin and nothing else, or she did other things, but that's what we found our success in.

SAMANTHA: With starting your career in that franchise environment with Arthur Murray, at what point did you decide that you wanted to branch off from Arthur Murray or was it just a matter of you found yourself as a coach and adjudicator, and that was the next obvious step?

RON: Yeah, it was a transition. I went into the Navy. It was the Vietnam era and I was drafted, and then I ended up switching and joined the Naval reserve and then came back from the Navy and, lo and behold, Arthur Murray studio was not the Arthur Murray studio any longer. It was the independent school. So I returned to my home base in Arizona as an independent teacher. So this was done for me. I didn't really switch or leave the Arthur Murray organization - it left me. From then on, I remained independent.

SAMANTHA: What was the biggest change that you noticed when going from the franchise system to independent?

RON: Yeah, some remarkable differences. The chain studios are well organized. They have a good procedure for meeting people, for introducing them, for showing them the ABCs of dancing from the very beginning. They have social events, parties, and so it can become your second family. Now, some studios do reflect that same way of doing business. Some do not. The independent studios kind of reflect the owner, what his likes and preferences are. Some of them do look and operate like the franchise schools, but others do not. I mean, I was surprised sometimes when I was teaching at an independent school and someone would come in their front door to inquire about lessons and there was no one there to talk to them. I was like, well, this is not good. A teacher has to leave his lesson and go over. But, you know, that's the way it was. Sometimes the studio had a receptionist similar to the chain schools. So, you know, you get all types. You can walk into an independent school, and it reflects the owner's mentality and what he wants to project.

SAMANTHA: So, having now traveled as a coach through a number of studios over the years, for those independent studios where the owners are thinking, okay, I want to make sure that I'm presenting the most professional experience for my students, and I want to make sure that it feels like a family and has a positive environment for individuals looking to dance without going the franchise direction, what are the biggest takeaways?

You mentioned the fact that having a receptionist behind the front desk is definitely a positive, but what else from an environment or from how you're training instructors to conduct themselves? What would you like to see more of from independent studios?

RON: Recently, we've had an influx of professionals from Europe, from Eastern Europe, Russians, Ukrainians, Polish, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, et cetera, et cetera. And they've come over and some of them are beautifully trained in the international style. So they come in to our business and they're put to work teaching right away. But their skill is in the international style and not necessarily in American rhythm or American social dance. That's how we start most people when they come to dance studios. So I think our failing in our studios is that we did not put enough energy into training them in the American social dance style. To learn what they're about and the history of those dances so that they could become knowledgeable in that direction too, and not just throw them out on the floor to teach what they already know and to try to teach the American of American social dancing with their international training. Which is excellent, but then some cases not so excellent.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. Last week, Jason and Sveta Daly mentioned that from a competitive end, international trained that are also doing rhythm that maybe aren't respecting the difference between those two dance styles. But as far as teaching the American style, I wonder too if that's a cultural difference. I feel like in the US when you think of ballroom dance and the students that are walking through the front door, they tend to be older adults. I believe in those European countries, by and large, ballroom dance is more focused for youth programs. You're talking about training kids in the program.

So I wonder if when you have instructors that grew up teaching 10-dance to children that are then brought into a US studio where the clientele is a little bit older, there's also a shift that has to happen with saying, okay, the American style from a social perspective works really great for older adults because you can slowly warm up the body into moving in these extreme patterns. Whereas international is very structured and strict and the form that the body needs to be in really informs how you're dancing.

RON: Yes. I think of the influx of international-style dancers has been good because they're very beautiful dancers for one thing, beautifully trained. A lot of them realized the value of technique, of the use of the feet and the legs in a way that is beautiful. That has filtered its way into the American dances as well. It's been a good experience and continues to be, and we always have this ongoing debate about, okay, authenticity. Is this dancing authentic? Is the American rhythm dancing authentic? Or has it become too heavily influenced by the international style? That's an ongoing debate that, you know, has no easy answers, but it's interesting nonetheless.

I have my own opinions about certain things and what you do is you as a judge, that's your opinion. The mark you put down is your opinion that you're giving about whether the dancing represents your picture in your mind, the ideal picture in your mind that the dance should portray. So, that's what a judge does. A judge gives his opinion with his pen.

SAMANTHA: As you're judging, do you have a viewpoint on what a certain dance style should look like? Let's take Bolero, for example. When you're judging a competition, would you rank a couple higher that is dancing authentically to the dance, but maybe not with a hundred percent clarity in their footwork or maybe their technique is a 'B' instead of an 'A,' versus a couple whose technique is perfect, but maybe they're dancing it more like an international Rumba than what you would want to see in a true Bolero?

RON: Right. There we have the judges quandry where he or she has to decide which is more important. I think at the lower levels, students at the bronze level, we really value timing, balance, footwork and posture. The basic elements. Of course, a little bit of the performance aspects of personality, of choreography, the interaction between them, the way they project. That, that enters into it to a certain degree as well. But we value the technical at the early stages very much, very highly. When it gets to the professional, we assume already that they have a certain amount of technical experience and that they'll perform that in their dances. Not always, but we assume that that's going to be there. So we quickly evaluate between the technical and the performance aspect, the charm the charisma. The way they relate to each other, the way they relate to the audience, versus footwork, balance, technique. A portrayal of the dance, telling the story of the dance. We quickly in our minds and with our years of experience make an evaluation and rank them accordingly.

One couple may be a better performance couple, and another couple may be a better technical couple. So in the few seconds or minute that you have, you decide which to value more at that moment. Done, simple as that. And then you go back thinking, did I do the right thing? And I go back and sit down and then you wonder, I wonder if the other judges thought the same thing as I, you wonder. I sometimes went back and sat down and thought that no one thought what I thought, I'm sure. And strangely enough, the results come, and a lot of the judges were thinking as I was thinking. Always surprising to me because I always think, Oh boy, did I do something weird there? And then I find out, well, what was so weird after all.

SAMANTHA: There ya go. Well, and I think that's also the benefit of having a five-judge panel for the larger professional comps or a seven-judge panel, or a larger judging panel. To have those kind of balance out so that you have a mid-grade of all of the judges that are currently on the panel right now, this is kind of the average between everyone.

RON: A consensus

SAMANTHA: Yep. Do you have conversations afterwards off the floor with your fellow judges of did you see this, or this was bothering me, or, I wish that this was slightly different?

RON: Not normally. We let things lay as we placed them. If we have a very good friend, one that we chat with about dancing regularly and he's a fellow judge, you might say something to him privately, and he may react. So you may have a little private discussion, but it's not out there in the open at the table. Like, did you see that? Wasn't it horrible? You know? No, that usually doesn't happen. I may say something or another judge may come up to me. We're on really good terms. We have a history together and make a comment and I will agree or add something to it. Yeah. That may happen. But we don't do it out loud and it's not, you know, like shared among the whole group.

SAMANTHA: We were talking a little bit before the stream started, but I wanted to talk about it a little bit more. How are you adjusting to the quarantine period that is 2020? How, how has your business changed?

RON: A big, big change. Tremendous. It's a state of being in suspense. We are all wondering what's going to happen. How great an effect will this have on our business? we're worried some of us about the studios and are they capable to continue to exist. Some of the teachers, they're able to make a living. Competitions are suffering. They've been canceled or postponed. Everybody knows about some of the difficulties. So, people have been trying to do different things. Some of them may even change professions. Others are doing video work and coaching online.

There's an event coming up in the first week of September. I'd say it's actually a three or four day event online, organized by Alex Novikov and in California with the judging panel and everything. So it's an experiment. Hopefully it works, but it's a new way of progressing. A new way to try to keep ballroom dancing alive. It's very trying and very disturbing in some ways.

SAMANTHA: With the move to online, I've seen a couple of different structures. I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, for Alex's event you have to send a video and then the judges are watching those prerecorded videos. Is that correct?

RON: I believe so. We watch the video and we have a form, so we fill it out and then we send the forms in by email or whatever. There are a lot of things I don't know about it yet. I mean, I'm one of the judges, but there are some things I need to learn to tell not to do it right.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I also saw another. The name is escaping me, but they also had an event either last weekend or the weekend before where it was over zoom and they had someone running music. So all of the couples were dancing live on camera to the same songs at the same time. From a judging perspective, do you see a difference in value between the live over the internet versus prerecorded? Is there a pro/con list between those two?

RON: Good question. I think that remains to be seen. We'll have to see how it works. Doing it either way can happen of course, but it's such a new thing. There's going to be some little problems associated with it, but a main thing is it's giving people the opportunity to continue dancing and to get some evaluation, which they want. That's a competitive thing. They want to be evaluated. They want to be placed. So I think over and above all the technical little glitches that can happen and maybe some of the imperfections of the system, dancing is the main thing we're after. People dressing up, dancing to music, expressing themselves and fulfilling something that they love. This is the main thing. So these people that are doing these online things and doing their best to keep the business going and allow an avenue for people to dance is a great thing. I admire them. Let's hope that people join in and give it a try. Let's hope it's a good experience.

SAMANTHA: With that being said, I want to pivot a little bit to the two events that you are a co-organizer for. You have the Aloha ball in Hawaii, and then also the Las Vegas Lights Dance Challenge. I actually brought my students to the Las Vegas Lights Dance Challenge last year, and thought it was an absolutely phenomenal event. We were looking forward to this year, but obviously 2020 had other plans. Something that I noticed with the Las Vegas event and having not been able to make it to Aloha Ball, I'd love to hear if you see the same kind of theme. With the Las Vegas competition, it very much felt like a studio match in the most positive way, in that the dinner Friday night was so warm and welcoming. We had live music and it was very much a family atmosphere that was created. Then through the day on Saturday in between the different events, there were workshops being held to get folks that weren't competitors up on the dance floor and moving as well. So is that something that you and your organizing partners have really made a conscious effort to do? Or is that just kind of a byproduct of running a good event?

RON: Well, I really appreciate and like the one day events. One day events give people the opportunity just to come and do everything in one day, maybe a night before it's a social event of some sort, but it's action packed. It's full of music and dance for one day complete, and then you can go home. You're not stuck in a hotel for two, three, four, five, six days, which is one way to go. There are a lot of successful events in that format, but for me, I really appreciate the one day events. Both of my events are one day events. We have a Friday evening activity, a dance, maybe performance of some sort all day action packed, fun, a lot of dancing going on with the conclusion that evening. And then that's it. So I think it has its place for sure. Sometimes when I go to a multi-day event, you see a lot of repetitive stuff. You see the students dancing over and over again in the various styles through the days. Second of all, you're in your room for quite a few days, and if you want to go, let's say to an event to see the beach or the town or the where the venue is and surrounding areas, in a multi-day event is so hard to do. You're stuck in a hotel and you've got a dance here and there back and forth. One day event, you know, you're going to be busy Friday night, all day Saturday, you can come in Thursday, you could stay over Sunday and you can see what the town has to offer. So, you know, that's another advantage.

In Hawaii we have an evening on Friday, and then we also have a laua on Sunday night. People have a relaxing time during the day Sunday, no events and they can go to Hawaii for let's say four days. They still have a vacation, and they danced as well. So that's the way I look at it now. I've been an organizer of other multi-day events, the Chicago Crystal Ball for one. So I know the the other side of the coin and those events can be much bigger, more interesting. You can have professional events. So there are advantages to the multi day events. Yes,

SAMANTHA: Certainly. The other thing that I would say for me as an instructor now really enjoying the one day events, is as we've kind of talked around, but not really said directly, I feel like most Pro-Am students, especially in the early levels, we tend to start them with American smooth and American rhythm just because from a social dance perspective, we get them in the door, we get them learning, you know, the box step for American Rumba. And then they say, okay, I want to perform, I want to do this competitive thing. I want to do a showcase. Well, you've already taught them the basic steps in American style. So let's keep them in American style unless you have a student that comes in the door and says right out of the gate, I want it. I wanted to do an international Rumba or I really love the hold of standard. In most American studios, we're starting them with the American syllabus.

With multi-day events, my frustration tends to be that American rhythm and American smooth are Wednesday, Thursday, which isn't great for my ProAm male students that work nine to five, Monday through Friday. It's a very hard sell to tell them, no. I want you to fly to this other state to go to a competition Wednesday, Thursday. Whereas with the one day event, it's a weekend. You can leave work early on Friday, drive or fly to wherever you're going. You dance all day Saturday, you fly back Sunday. You're ready for work on Monday morning.

From the experience point of also running a multi-day event, is there a structure or is there a logic for why certain events are earlier in the week or earlier in the event versus certain events are typically held on the weekend?

RON: Well, in a big event and say a multi-day event, the organizer structures it in a way that's most beneficial to the studios attending and their ability to have as many entries as possible. It's a business as well. So as to when events are placed, I think it's basically up to the organizer and he does it for his own specific reasons. I know that the professional events happen later. They happen a Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night. So the pros can be assured that they're dancing on a weekend. A lot of the people who dance at these events are retired folks, pro-ams, so going on a Wednesday or Thursday is not such a big problem for them, and that they're not leaving their job and creating problems there. I think it's been very successful, those multiday events in this country. I mean, some of them are huge. I mean, they're unbelievably large. So it's been a big business. It's not right now, but it could return. Some people say it'll never be the same. A lot of people say, yeah, it'll come back slowly.

We'll look back on these days and, you know, shake our head. But, as I said before, we're in a state of suspension waiting to see where we are to go from here.

SAMANTHA: Certainly. Obviously what we're going through in 2020 is just completely different from everything else, but to your recollection, to your experience, has there ever been, kind of a period of downswing in the ballroom dance industry similar to this? Not where we, you know, are forced to close the studios and events are canceled, but where there was a nervousness amongst individuals in the industry about whether or not this was something that was going to bounce back and continue?

RON: No, there's been nothing like this ever to my knowledge. The dance buisness has always been thriving from the day I started until this thing hit. Studios were pretty active, some more successful than others, but overall, doing well professionally. The field has grown big, largely so, and the day events have gotten bigger, if anything, and more of them. So, yes, it's been a continuous growth and until now everything has been going pretty well, pretty strongly.

SAMANTHA: One of the criticisms that I've heard over the years is that maybe we have grown at such a rate where we have too many events. There are too many studios, there are too many instructors. That we've gotten too large to really sustain this momentum. Thinking about what's currently going on, do you see that as potentially a corrective course where, okay, maybe we do need to limit the number of events so that more people can attend more of them? Or maybe we do have too many studios that are not at full capacity, so maybe condensing them down into fewer studios with more students and more instructors may be beneficial in the long run for the survival of the dance industry?

RON: Yeah, I think there's going to be a process that takes place. I've heard the comment that there are too many events and that one will take from another, so there'll be an evening out, but I would say that the marketplace will take care of that. If there are too many events, some will be small and won't be profitable.Therefore they'll stop. The events that are good and that are fun to go to and that people like will continue to be successful. It's just like a capitalist system. You know, it's going to work that way. Dance studios are the same. The ones who are able to hold onto their students to provide a good learning environment, friendly environment will continue to do well. Those are just kind of getting by will probably drop by the wayside. So yeah, it's the marketplace and how it works. As I said before, and as we all know, the future is a puzzle. And, it will play out in the way that its going to. Our job is to, as professionals, keep the dancing alive in our own way. To keep people dancing.

I mean, it's a great sport. It's a great activity. It has so many benefits and so much value to people psychologically and physically. It's very healthy. It's a great experience for youth, for kids or for college aged kids as well. So it'll be a shame if it diminishes. It has, but it would be shame if it doesn't come back strongly. As I said, the benefits are so great. I mean, there's been people that tell me that they've experienced nothing in their life giving them as much as ballroom dancing has. And there's been professionals that I've worked with that say, you know, I'm a successful professional, but when I go to the gym and I'm on the treadmill there, I'm still thinking about my problems. I'm still thinking about my business. Something else that they think about, like my issue that I have in my personal life, and professional life, but when I'm dancing, I can't think of anything else. There's too many variables that we have to deal with. The interconnection between you and the partner, your music and your expression and being creative.

All these things are totally encompassing and are good for you. And you can get away from, you know, your other life and it is good for you. I'm a big fan of dancing. I know how good it is for people, and it's been really good for me. Practices was a great thing. Performing is a great thing at all levels. Bronze, silver, gold, professional. So yeah, I know the values of it. That's why I've been in this business for over 40 years.

SAMANTHA: Sure, sure. I was talking with a student last week about the fact that, to my mind and my experience, ballroom dance is both the most grounding experience where you have to be fully aware of your body every second of every count, because you're looking for those cues and you're reacting, and you're thinking about your foot placement and your contra-body and are my lats engaged and you're very in the moment in your body. But at the same time, for me as a performer, it is the most out of body experience that I can have on a regular basis where I am thinking about projecting out and I'm not worrying about the groceries or the laundry, or how many emails that I have to respond to. It's just such a complete experience. And I think you're absolutely correct. There is a whole bunch of information coming out right now, from various studies that show that there is a massive physical benefit, which we all knew, but there's also an incredible mental benefit to dancing, especially in your later years.

RON: For sure. We all know, and we both agree, about the value of and the benefits of ballroom dancing. There are some things that in our profession that are a little odd. I mean sometimes the costuming and the makeup goes to extremes. It becomes a little unnatural. The kids dancing sometimes is a little bit forced. You see them, they're cute as can be, but you see their actions as being very abrupt and very brittle, and you wonder if that's really so good on their joints at those young ages and you see some of the young, very young children, particularly the girls who wear makeup that's inappropriate at that stage or a costume that's inappropriate at that age. So yeah, we have little problems that we need to keep thinking about and keep correcting.

SAMANTHA: With that, we're obviously now in an age of social media, I know that folks like to push all of the world's problems on social media, video games and TV. But, do you think, specifically talking about the makeup and the costuming and some of the performance qualities that are being put on very young girls in this industry. Do you think that the ability for anyone, anywhere in the world to film their child as a, Oh, look at her, she's about to be this gorgeous ballroom star and get, you know, several thousand likes, several hundred thousand likes on a video clip, incentivizes the worst parts of that, or do you think no, they're two separate issues that are going on one isn't necessarily impacting the other?

RON: Yeah. Recently there was a video posted of, I don't remember exactly, but it was a very young couple. Or it was a young lady, very young with her teacher and they were doing a very highly sensual dance. And it was, it caused a lot of reaction, the teacher or whoever posted it was putting it out there because she thought it was so fantastic and the reverse became obvious with a lot of feedback saying this is totally inappropriate. This is not what I would want my daughter to be doing, or other children should be doing. But she was shocked that it's artistic and it's expression and everything like that. So it is a cultural thing as well. I mean, some of the Eastern European countries it's okay to go for it in all respects, costuming, makeup, and all that. And in other environments, it's not, so that's why we have the National Dance Council of America. That's why we have rules. That's why we limit the dresses and the skirt length and stuff like that, because it's basically, the image is not right, if we let it go crazy.

I think that professionals have to also take responsibility for their students and how they dress and if they're dancing in an appropriate way. When you get to the professional level, it's open and you can do what you want and people will take it or leave it and you'll be so successful or not so successful, but that's a different thing completely. But kids, we have to look at kids in a more elevated way. We have to teach them dancing, and the value of dancing, of relating to your partner, of experiencing the music, physically developing yourself, without so much of the sensual stuff coming through strongly. That's for later. That's for later.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. I think that I saw the video that you're referring to, and I'll be honest, if it's the same video, even if those were 20-year olds or 30-year old adults with that choreography in that performance, I still might have felt uncomfortable watching it. I think there's a fine line and it's one that we always tend to figure out new ways to thread, which is the emotional quality of the dance versus the performance aspect of it. So yes, an international Rumba is soft and sensual and at times even sexual, but that doesn't mean that it needs to be performed in a show-all tell-all kinds of way. There's a way to make that work, and as instructors, as professionals, we need to make sure that the dance that we are teaching is correct at whatever age we are teaching it at. I don't want to see a hyper-sensual Rumba on a seven or eight year old. I also don't necessarily want to see it on a 70 or 80 year old. Maybe that makes me prudish. Maybe I'm incorrect. Maybe I'm too modest for my own good, but I think it needs to always feel like an authentic story between the two people that are dancing it. An older individual that's dancing with their younger student, that's not necessarily the correct story for those two people in the same way that it might be for a professional partnership that's married or a professional partnership that wants to give an air of that couple quality.

RON: Exactly. I think what you just said is great. I didn't refer to older folks dancing, like a Pro-Am situation where there's a young teacher and an older student, that takes a little bit of thought as well and should be addressed in the right way. Yes. I'm glad you brought that up.

SAMANTHA: Well, and that's one of those things where every story is going to be different. Everyone's comfort level is going to be different. I have an older Pro-Am student that I'm working with right now, and I'm the same age as his daughters. So the way that we are narrating our Foxtrot and our Waltz and our Tangos and our Viennese Waltzes for his silver routines are very much in a, you know, I want you to be my protector, not my lover, right? Because, for the two of us, that's just not a boundary that we even want to consider putting into other people's minds. It's just much easier for us to say, okay, when we're dancing this waltz, you are protecting me. I've got my bike helmet on and I'm peddling, and you're making sure that I don't fall off the bike. Right? And that works for us.

Another professional couple or another professional with another student in the same mindset might say, no, I want to tell an Argentine tango the way that Argentine tango is supposed to be told. So we're going to go there in our routines, which is fine if that works for the two people that are dancing.

RON: Yes. Yeah. A lot of variables and, yeah, that's very true. I liked that protector role. That's a new one on me and, yeah, a father daughter situation or an older man and a younger a professional lady or whatever. He can frame, he can show off, he can display, he can do a lot of things that are attractive to see between age difference couple. It just that they don't have to be, you know, overdoing it in the sensual arena. But there's a lot of good stuff that can be portrayed. The story of the dance, you know if we think of every dance as having a story to tell, and we would keep that in our minds, then we're going to be more successful.

SAMANTHA: Absolutely. before we wrap up for today, any tips, any suggestions, anything that you would like to tell our listeners? Just to kind of keep in mind as we move forward in this very weird time.

RON: Nothing specific cause we've talked about a lot of things, the benefits of dancing. We've talked about our industry, we've talked about the current state of affairs. we've talked about, you know, a lot of good stuff and thank you for having this discussion with me. I appreciate it very much. My goal and my aim is for dancing to be alive and well and healthy into the future because it has so many benefits, and we'll have to take it from here.

Just be positive and look to the future and, continue working.

SAMANTHA: I'd like to thank Ron Montez for being a guest on today's episode. If you'd like to follow the Aloha Ball or Las Vegas Lights Dance Challenge, the links will be in the description box below. I've been your host, Samantha with Love.Live.Dance. You can find this and all of our other podcast episodes at ballroomchat.com. You can also find us across social media at ballroomchat on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If you are not already subscribed or following this podcast on your preferred podcast platform, please do you take a moment to do so, and if you'd consider giving us a review, that would be greatly appreciated. We also just launched a Patreon page. You can support the podcast at patreon.com/ballroomchat, where you can get behind the scenes content as well. Thank you so much for listening. Stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing.