The Man behind the Ohio Star Ball - Sam Sodano

Ballroom Chat: Episode #31November 18, 2020

Sam Sodano discusses the origins of the Ohio Star Ball and the adjustments being made to keep it a safe event during the pandemic. Sam and Samantha delve into his own dance journey beginning at Arthur Murray, striving to put a focus on personal education and betterment, and the evolution of his understanding of the teacher-student relationship. He also provides insight on what he wishes more professional instructors would avoid doing with their dancesport students, and how it can't be all about the business in order to be successful.

Sam Sodano is a legendary figure in the US Ballroom Dance world. He is a former North American Latin Champion, the organizer of the Ohio Star Ball, an adjudicator, judge, and lecturer. He created the World Pro-Am Dancesport Series, the Fordney Foundation, the Best of the Best Dancesport Challenge, and is the co-organizer of such events as the Arnold Youth Dancesport Classic, Holiday Dance Classic, and the Atlanta Open.

Ballroom Chat on Apple PodcastBallroom Chat on Spotify PodcastBallroom Chat on Google PodcastBallroom Chat on Stitcher PodcastBallroom Chat RSS Feed
--:--
--:--

Show Notes

  • Ballroom Box
    Use the affiliate code "BallroomChat" on any subscription purchase to save 5%
  • Practice Ballroom Dance
    Use the affiliate code "BallroomChat" on any purchase at save 10% now through the end of November 2020

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: Welcome back to another episode of ballroom chat. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Before we jump into today's episode, I'd like to give a big thank you to our continuing supporters of this podcast, the Ballroom Box and The Girl with the Tree Tattoo. The holiday gift giving season is right around the corner, and now is the perfect time to go ahead and pre order your holiday box. The Ballroom Box is offering a one-time purchase option, so if you don't want to subscribe to the full annual plan, or if you want to give the teacher or student in your life, a one-time Christmas gift you can do so. You can also select whether you want a more masculine box or a more feminine box, so it gives you more options to support the dancers in your life.

We're also noticing that the weather is starting to get colder and colder in parts of the country. And if you're like me motivation to leave, the house starts to drop in the winter months. So, for those of us that wants to take our practicing at home to the next level, the Solo Practice Guide is perfect for you. Katie Flasher has written down her personal program for finding success practicing on her own, making the solo practice guide a perfect tool for continuing your dance journey outside the studio. Links for both of those are in the description box below. And remember that your purchase of the Ballroom Box and the Solo Practice Guide go to help supporting the podcast, so thank you in advance.

Without further ado, let's get into today's episode. I had the incredible pleasure of sitting down and getting to chat with the one and only Sam Sodano about the Ohio Star Ball, his dance background, and pretty much everything in between. We did record this conversation prior to the cancellation of this year's event. And as you'll hear Sam and his team were doing everything possible to make it a safe and fun event. Unfortunately, the final decision was out of their control. Please enjoy today's episode with Sam Sodano.

Well, thank you so much, Mr. Sodano for being willing to be a guest on today's podcast.

Sam: Thank you for having me and, wanting any information I can give you.

Samantha: Well, I feel like there's a lot of information. this is, at time of recording, we're a little bit farther in the future, but this is coming out the week of Ohio Star Ball 2020.

So, I want to talk a little bit about the history of Ohio and then obviously what, you are doing this year that's different than past years just in relation to it being 2020. So, can you take me back to the start of Ohio Star Ball? What, what was the original inspiration and what did it ultimately become?

Sam: Let me see. That would have been in 1978 or 77. I was much younger, had a lot more energy and. You know, I was always into organized parties and I used to like organizing festivities and me and this other person got together. There weren’t too many events running at the time. and back in 1978 and we decided to run a one-day event for just the local, the tri-state Indiana, Ohio, Michigan area. And, at that time it was, the competition was only solo routines. We didn't have any freestyles, like it is today where you put so many people on the floor and you judge. So, it was basically like a one-day showcase and then people liked it. And then the following year, we, I don't know if we, I think we went to two days and, I think then we opened it up to freestyle events in, in, 1979 or whatever it was. And then, it just kept growing and growing.

I'm not like today's competitions where they start out as four days events to begin with. We started out as a one-day event. Then it went to two. When I felt we were ready, we went to three. And then for now we're at six it's a six-day event. You know, a lot of people say it's more like a dance festival than a dance competition, because there are so many events and styles of dancing that are being done, at the, at presently, at the Ohio Star Ball.

So, it grew into, a very, versatile, a comp that everyone would like to go to. Like right now it's a collegiate event, also a kid's event, also a Pro-Am event. You know, it there's actually, I even want to open the comp to like West coast swing events, all different styles of dancing, but the more variety of the better. And from there, it just took off. And I guess the love of dancing, which is on my part, and the, and taking a lot of care into this competition. Just people notice it at the events, and it grew and grew and grew. And it's always been one of the top competitions in the country. this year is a bit of a challenge, cause the Coronavirus and, we're trying to keep it safe and healthy. And the biggest thing that's that I want for this year is I don't want to have some, events that are going to cause, a group gathering. Like before we used to, we used to number before last year. All the callbacks and the events used to be written on a Blackboard and all the competitors used to go to this Blackboard and looks to see if there are number is there.

So, this year we're not doing away with the Blackboard and the numbers are going to be seen on a screen, a projector, and then it's going to be on a screen. We're not going to have an on deck, cause that's another gathering. As far as well, there's one thing that we are doing that some people like it, some people don't, we're asking for a COVID test before you get to the event and to bring a P a certificate or a piece of paper saying that you were tested and that you were negative. And, that seems to be doing well, and some people not so well, we're asking for a masks to be worn all the time, but the minute you get into the hotel, the only places you don't have to wear a mask, cause then when you're in your hotel room, or on the dance floor, because if you take your, the COVID, if you don't take the COVID tests, you can't dance.

If you take the COVID test, you can dance. And so, we will allow people to dance on the dance floor without masks.

Samantha: Okay.

Sam: Some will still want to wear a mask, but that's okay.

Samantha: Right.

Sam: we, we have a lot of kids entries this year, but the great thing about Ohio's we have a great big venue. And the kid’s events, which are on Friday and Saturday will be held in Battelle hall, which is a 50,000 square foot ballroom.

And so all the kids' events will be held in that room while all the Pro-Am adults will be hold held in the Regency ballroom, having different entrance and exits and. which way you can enter it, in which way you can leave and taking temperatures. And, before you go into the room, trying to be as healthy as we can. you know, but like with, with, with this virus, you know, they could have a T test taken before they come to the comp. And if they're flying in well, who's to say, you know, you're on a plane with people by the time he gets to the comp who knows. Yeah. So, it was just that we want the perfect environment for our competition today.

And I think it's going to be a requirement because it looks like this virus is going to be going into 2021. Is that people do take a COVID test because you just can't. If it keeps increasing and it doesn't disappear until a vaccine comes, people are not going to feel safe to go to an event and until they feel safe. So, the best thing we can do is even though people say, well, the COVID test is this a COVID, it could be a false, negative, positive, who knows. We're just trying to be safe. And like, I always say a perfect world with that everyone in the room be of negative.

Samantha: Yeah.

Sam: But once they leave it and go home, who knows what's going to happen, but as long as we feel that at the comp, they're safe and it's a healthy environment. yeah. Things have really, really changed for this year. It is a challenge. I always liked challenges and, because it makes my brain work. And so, I mean, the entries are, are, are very good. We have over right at the moment over 9,000 entries. That's amazing.

So, yeah, so people want to go and want to get out. They want to dance, you know, but I know there are a lot of people who are, you know, who aren't coming because of, you know, The fear or they have, an elderly at home, like their mother or father or someone that they don't want to travel to and maybe whatever, catch something and bring it back home.

I mean, it's all understandable. I mean, I didn't think we'd get this many entries, but we did. So, like I said, my main goal is going to be, if I see any groups forming, I'm going to have someone go break them up and have it announced over the mic. The bar, which is the most popular spot at any comp but especially at the Ohio Star Ball will not be open, it's going to be closed because I feel that is, that is a spot that forms groups and people let their guard down.

They take off their masks and they're talking face to face. So that's a no brainer. But other than that, I mean, and the hotel w we've been meeting with the hotel every week on Tuesday, and the hotel is not going to have any tables and chairs in the lobby or in areas in the hotel where groups can form.

So, if they want to, if they G they want to eat, w the market stands are open. They, they will replace it to go get food. But if they want to eat, they'll have to take it to their room. So, I mean, we're doing everything that's possible that, that we can and,

Samantha: well, that sounds fantastic.

Sam: I guess we'll do that.

And the vendors on the second floor in a different area. So, it's. When you got, but when you have all the space we have, and we have a load of space, I mean, and it's spacious that you don't, you know, no one's going to feel contained. No, one's going to feel like they, they're on top of each other. So, which is a plus to the Ohio Star Ball.

Samantha: Definitely definitely the, the convention center that the Ohio Star Ball is held in is just massive. I feel like you could easily get lost, trying to walk through the vendor's area.

Sam: That is the million-dollar project, it's all new. And it's, it's, it's got, it's a great venue because, you know, we're the only competition that on our big nights, which are Friday and Saturday night. That's when you know, the pro events are on that. The competition is taken in another venue, which has Battelle hall. I don't know of any other competition that has, two venues that you can use that during the day or during the week you have it in the hotel ballroom, and then at night, you have it in a convention center environment. So, I mean, when do you, when you have all this space, you might as well take advantage of it, especially nowadays.

Samantha: Definitely, Definitely. And I think it's, I think it's fantastic that, you have decided to put all of those safety measures in effect, you know, Even if there's questions or people have questions about the legitimacy of the testing. It's still incentivizes people to take safety precautions, leading up to getting the test done, because they want to ensure that they're getting a negative test before they come to Ohio. So if that encourages folks to take the two weeks before to be a little bit more self-isolated, to wash their hands, to wear their mask, to do all of those wonderful safety things so that they can get a negative test. I think that's that solving the problem that people are concerned about it creating, which is you're encouraging people to be as safe as possible.

Sam: I mean, we have a requirement of 72 hours. No, no, sorry. Seven days, but I don't mind three days prior. I don't mind the day before, as long as you have the test and it reads negative and at the latest date is that we will have a doctor on site for those who weren't able to take the test, they can take it onsite. It's I don't know anything about these rapid tests. You can learn in 20 minutes if you're negative or positive. So, I mean, w we're doing our part. Yes, but I don't know how safe you really only can be as safe as you can be. I don't, I definitely don't want to see anyone get this disease, especially me I'm of that age. And I'm the underlining conditions. So, these people have to realize that there are a lot of people like me in that room. I can't afford to get this thing.

Samantha: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Sam: We're going to go into it with a positive attitude.

Samantha: Yeah. I know that you are, very social at dance events that you take it as an opportunity to really meet with people, check in with people, see how they're doing, be a part of their lives. Are you going to change how much floor time you're putting in on this year's Ohio as, as a result of wanting to try and be a little bit more safe, or are you wanting to have it feel as normal as possible

Sam: as normal as possible? I mean, there were four events, things that I judged already, one was in Indianapolis and there were three already in Columbus and I, yeah, I was social. I mean, for me not to be social. Yeah. But, but it's not the same. You know, no huggy, huggy, kissy, kissy, six feet apart. I mean, that that's, that's understandable. I even at one point I just judge a competition where all the judges had a certain area to sit at and I just. Went to one area where there was only me at this table. I didn't even realize what I was doing, but I guess I was thinking safety, safety, safety. And, and so I didn't sit with the rest of the judges, but you know, it's, it's very difficult not to be social at these events because you know, your pass them in the hallway, you're passing in the ballroom.

So I was, yeah, I was being social. I was going to their tables. With my masks on my mask and with the proper distance, never went to the bar. never was really in a group setting. So yeah, as long as I'm going to be as socially as I can, because I'm so safety minded, I've always been this way ever since I was a kid safety, safety, safety, you know, it was for me, I, you know, Always eating the right foods, always taking care of my health. So, it hasn't changed at all. And so now that we have this to face, like I said, it's a challenge. You got to face it the best you can.

Samantha: thinking back on kind of the growth of Ohio star ball, you mentioned at the beginning that it started off as just kind of showcase, Pro-Am oriented, one-day and then it built out from there.

Do you think that the success of the Ohio star ball is really that you took it one year, one day at a time and built out rather than starting, like you said, starting with these four day large competitions and then struggling to fill the ballroom with entries by trying to do too much too quickly.

Sam: Well, you know, the thing with me, is me and my partner.

We, we never did in 1978, God, I was so green. making money was not my main, believe it or not was not my main goal. I love dancing too much. And you know, when I think of every, you know, here's a perfect example of when I was trying to get where I am today, when I was a kid, I was so enthralled and dancing that I, I didn't know what was going around me, political wise.

I see the news, like sometimes in the 1960s, what was being done. I said, I don't remember that, but once I started dancing in 1960, My whole life was built around dance, dance, dance, and, and, and I really didn't. My world was dancing. That's the best way I can say it. And the one, I was always a people person.

Every, even when I was in high school, I was on a kid's show called the Clay Cole, like American bandstand, but it was out of New Jersey at a Palisade amusement park. And this was the largest amusement park at that time. And, you know, we were on TV and, you know, we would take the bus, me and my partner.

To the parks to go onto the program, people would ask us for our autograph, and they would say, Oh, we see you on TV every day. And I was just, I was people friendly and I was always very approachable. That's what people have told me. I'm approachable. I don't feel like I'm pushing people, people away. And I had a knack. Then don't ask me where I got this from of remembering people's names. And I didn't know that was going to help me when I get older and get in a business where it was going to play an important part. but I think the biggest thing, you know, today because of the Ohio Star Ball and other competitions, people see how much money that is.

Yes, it is a business. Okay. I didn't think of it as a business back in 1978. I just want the party time, you know, so. But as it, it grew, and people saw that this was a business, and they could make money from it. I can't even tell you what I made the first, guess it would have been 45 years. I'm running this now.

I can't even tell you what I made the first 25 years. It was, yeah, that was not my goal. My goal was not how much money I made because you know, first of all, when I started the Ohio Star Ball we used to keep the prices as nothing is cheap, but we used to try to keep it as reasonable as possible. You know, we didn't want to gouge anyone.

So it was, it was never about the money. And then as you get older, I still don't think it was as the money, but I mean, it's, it's, it's there it is. There. You do make it, but that's never been my main goal of how much, because it's like a lottery at a comp. You never know what kind of entries you're going to get. You don't know why you can't really depend on an income at a competition. You can estimate what you think you're going to make and then be disappointed or not. So, money was never the, the object, but I think today with these starting w when they see they, they estimate what Ohio makes, what these big events make they think, Oh, there's money there.

I wouldn't say this is all organizers because, but some of them do it for the, the, the, the money. We all want to make money, but I think if we keep it, at a normal sense, you know, and not try to overreact and, overcharge and, yeah. I just want to be everything fair and normal.

Samantha: I want it a little bit deeper into that if I can.

So, in, in your book, it mentions that the early competitions or performances that you did with your students, specifically at the Dance-a-Ramas with Arthur Murray, that you were not paid for those events as instructors, that you were really only paid for your time in the studio. And in addition to that, in order for you to teach for Arthur Murray, you had to go through their teaching program and get certified through their bronze program.

And then you went on and actually got your ISTD certifications as well. Do you think that the business of dance sport has changed dance, the way that we interact with ballroom dance in a positive or negative way? Because you're right. It has become a lot about the money these days.

Sam: Well, you know, when you're with, you know, being that I've, I I've owned, I think three or four Arthur Murray schools, Back when I started in 1960, I mean, I was 18 right out of high school.

I mean, the fact that I could go to Las Vegas, to England, to Italy on all these trips for free. I mean, I didn't, you know, that, that at the end, when, when you're 18 or 19, that's enough for money. I mean, I'm getting all these trips, which I wouldn't have been able to take. I used to say, join Arthur Murray, seeing the world, you know, because I, the first time I went to Blackpool was 1963 on an Arthur Murray trip.

And. And at the, at that time, the, here we go again, I didn't know what they were charging the students. So, I did not. I, back then when I was 18, like I said, I, I mean, when I used to bring home a $50 paycheck, I used to think that was pretty big, but, as long as I can live in me and make my bills, I was fine. But, you know, the trips, all the trips. I mean, I saw the world in the beginning. I mean, we went everywhere. Spain, you name it. We went and as far as like, again, the money, wasn't my main thing there. Today, it's different and I don't blame it. Things have to change. They evolve, you know people have to get paid.

The hardest thing for me was when I was six to 18 years old teaching is, you know, you're always dealing with very wealthy people and you see how much money they have, you know, and what their, but, but dance lessons back then were $12 a lesson an hour, 12 bucks. I mean, of course things, things change, but you know, when my always believed I was when you're always hanging around this wealth, you know, the people were not, everyone was that wealthy, but you know, they had, they had this, this money, you know, You used to see how the better half lived. Not that.

Not that I didn't. I always lived great. I never deprive myself of anything. When I used to teach 40 lessons a week at Arthur Murray's, I used to have one meal a week where I'd go to this expensive restaurant and have a steak. I always used to treat myself for all these lessons I used to teach.

As far as when, my hardest thing was when I joined Arthur Murray's all I did, I cared about was dancing. And I thought that when I was in the Arthur studio, that's all people cared about. That when they came through the studio was about dancing. And the first time I learned that I've got to find out why they're there and what their what's their motivation is for being there. And, and I said, well, why? I said, they're here to learn how to dance. I love to dance. Why shouldn't they love to dance? And they said, no, no, no, no, no. You got to find out why they're here. Do they want to make friends? Do they want to lose weight? Do they want it as an exercise? And the hardest part for me was changing my mind from, because before I went to Arthur Murray's in 1960, I went to, I used to, I used to live 20 minutes from Broadway on the New Jersey side in New York. And I was wanting to be one of those chorus. So, I went for lessons in New York and, jazz dancing and tap dancing and, and everything.

But then when I realized that that wasn't going to be for me, I saw this Arthur Murray sign where I lived, and I just went in there and it was dancing, and I love dancing. So, but the hardest thing for me was in the beginning was thinking that dancing was a business. How could, how could dancing, be a business?

I loved it. You know, I used to love to hear the music and dancing, and then I had to think. Okay. I have to motivate someone to go on for, with lessons and go on and go on. That was very hard for me to do, but I was successful because the love of dancing carried across to my students. They could see that my energy and it was all, it was, you know what I did say?

I said, all right. When I came in, I was 17. What was my motive? If everyone's ha has to have a motive, what was my motive at 17 to come in to learn how to do dance? They said, Oh, you wanted to be somebody. I said, that's a motive? I said, I was a somebody before I came in here, I was on a TV show. I was voted best dancer in my senior class.

I said, I guess you're right. That's my motive. Yeah. I want to be somebody in the dance world, but it takes a lot of work. And that's why I took all my tests. I studied. I, but you know, one thing you have to, one thing you learn is that it is a business it's, it's, it's, it's a business for me or professionals. It's not a business for students. Because it's either a hobby or it's a luxury. but for, for people who are trying to make a living, it is a business. And sometimes people don't realize that when you go to a franchise school, okay. There are, that, that have to come, that a franchise school is obligated to spend like franchise fees, and they have to pay.

Yeah, the whole, the rent, the staff, the taxes. So, all this has a take play, so it's got to be considered a business. And I, it just can't be considered my hobby. Cause my hobby wouldn't get me anywhere. It would get me the love of dancing and poor as I'm trying to meet my bills. But like I said, I never tried to gouge anyone and.

And I, I think one of the best things for me, and I'm glad I started with Arthur Murray because it taught me the business. It taught me how to deal with students and, and learn about them, and, and that it was about them and not about me. Don't talk about your, me all the time, learn about them, you know, find out what their, thing is.

And, and I think that's what carried across in the years. Even up to today, why I can remember people's names. Why I'm not, I am approachable because I like to know people. I like to meet new people all the time. I like to hear about people's other people's lives and, and, and what they're doing and how they achieved, where they got.

I'm just, a people person, someone said to me one time, what, who's the guy, Fields, what's his name about it? He, it was something about people that, if it wasn't for people, he wouldn't be where he is. Cause people made him what he is. Well, that's definitely what what's made me, besides my talent for my dancing people have made have put me where I am. And, and I, I only owe that on being fair, being approachable, being decent, never taking advantage of anyone. I look back, you know, when I've read the road that not, I didn't write it. I gave them the information for that book. There's so much history of my life and that book. And I can't think of one time that I actually did something to get ahead, to step on somebody. Cause I always knew it was going to in our business was going to be hard work. That's the only way I was going to make money is through my own hard work. And I was never going to be left money that if I wanted money, I was going to have to work for it. And That's the way, I guess my whole life has been.

Samantha: So, and that kind of goes along with a quote, from when you were being honored at, well it's now it's maybe DBDC, but at the time it was DB D something.

Sam: The one in Boston?

Samantha: Yes, yes. You were

Sam: Yeah, DB whatever. Yeah. I know

Samantha: When you were being honored in 2014 you said that you wanted your legacy to be, "I want to be known for being there for them", relating to how you make people in the ballroom feel and how you make people in the community feel. Why, with all of your accolades with all of your dance related accomplishments, why is that still the focus? What, what about relating to people and being a part of people's lives, do you find fulfilling important worth focusing on?

Sam: Well, you know, People, people's lives. I find very interesting. Every person is different. sometimes I'll see a person at a comp, and I don't know them from Adam. Never met them net, but they're, they're there for the first time. And. A year, maybe they say they stay in the business for a year and they, they continue to take lessons.

And I get to know that person over the year and I get to hear what makes them tick or, I mean, what, like I'll very easily, here's the best way I can say it. I'm a person who will go up to a student. Or, or whatever, or even a teacher and tell them, because I used to judge not anymore, almost 40 competitions a year.

I used to almost be out on that floor, judging every weekend. And I used to feel very obligated to judge that person at the moment and not maybe 10 weeks in a row of what I've seen them do. So. I, I, I had, it was my thinking, Oh, instead of saying, Oh, here's Joe Schmoe. I know where I'm going to put them, but.

I would, at the moment I would study them. I would look at their dancing. I would see improvement. Then I would go over. It was a very great conversation piece. You go over and you tell them, Hey, you know, I've seen you, you don't have judged you all the time. I see you over the year, you have improved so much, you know, you have your teachers, you know, how many times do you come in for lessons?

Yeah. Being a judge is, is the best form of conversation because I'm not a judge who judges and goes off with the rest of the judges and hangs. Okay, I'll hang with the pupils. I'll talk to them. Okay. I've been known, people say, well, why aren't you with your friend, your judge. I said, I see them all the time. I said, I'd rather be telling you of the improvement I'm seeing in you. And that I think you're going along the, along the right lines. And if I didn't think they were going along the right lines, I would be very take a different approach, but I would, I would never be negative. My goal was always to. Be positive, make the student feel good.

Or the teacher, lots of times people go on coaching lessons and they just belittle people, and they make people cry. I mean, I've heard more stories like this, and I don't understand that our job is not to do that. Our job is to, is to educate people, not to, we know we know where their weak points are, but, but know how to approach it.

But with, with, I like to see progress and I like to see people grow. I mean, I've seen people change their, their whole look. Over the years. I mean, I've seen students dance for 20 years, almost three or four or five times a year, you know? So how can I divorce myself from that? How can I not say anything?

How can I not even meet that person or know that person? I mean, if you see someone like, let's say 10 times a year and they're dancing 20 years, how can I not acknowledge it? I mean, there’d be something wrong with me, you know? And it's so easy to remember people's names like that, you know, but, but it's, I like to see people grow and people get better, but I also can't understand why when I see a lot of students, why they're not getting better also.

You know, I'll see students that, like I said, same amount of time and they're not getting any better. And I wonder why, but it's not up to me to wonder why I just hope that their teacher then just do it. And the student is in my group classes that sometimes we teach at competitions to learn my, my knowledge. But you know, when, when I go to competitions and I see a weakness in one of the styles, I, I don't, I usually feel that it's education because if they had the knowledge, I don't think they'd want to go out on the floor and look like that. So, if they educate themselves, which I don't think too many do that, but you got to be, Knowledgeable and, and if you want to compete, you better be knowledgeable.

If you want to be a winner, if you're that serious, you better educate yourself. And, you know, it's, it's, that's not politics of if you're good and, and I can tell right away, if you're, you can tell a good dancer they've been taught well. So, I think education is, you’re always educating. I feel with me, you know, I'm always educating a young teacher.

I'm always educating a top pro I'm always educating students for the first time that's come to a competition. Because the teacher will bring her over to me or him to me and say, this is their first time at a competition. Do you have any words of wisdom? I say my favorite thing is, you know, participation is the first step towards winning.

I said, so if you participate, that's a, that's a nudge in the right direction. I said, don't ever think that participation is a losing thing. Even though you may not have got the results you want when you participate. It's always a learning experience and a winning experience. And it's because when I used to go around to, I used to travel a lot for 20 years for the Arthur Murray studios and.

Tell people why I thought that, you know, they, that they should take the next program or, or why they should stay with it or why, you know? and I, I always felt that when I went into a studio for the first time, I had to educate them on my beliefs. I had to educate them on my knowledge because without knowledge without beliefs, I don't know what the heck you're educating.

It's the same thing. When I talk about. These, when I'm teaching styles, whether it's rhythm, smooth, ballroom, or Latin, if I don't have the knowledge to back up my teaching with, then how can I educate these people? I just don't. I sometimes I, I, they say, well, once you're a judge, you can judge every style. Well, that's a good comment, but I believe that I've done every style that, that, that's going on right now. So, I've experienced it all. And, education, sometimes it's very difficult. I mean,

Samantha: in your opinion, because I feel like ballroom dance, Straddles the line between sport and art form, and there's always kind of this battle of trying to figure out where the two intersect. Do you think from an education standpoint, we are now reaching a point in our history with ballroom dancing, where we need to reconsider formalized education? Or do you think, no, one of the benefits or one of the competitive aspects of the industry is not having a requirement for instructors to be certified or a formalized process to learn the steps in the syllabus and learn how to teach? Do you think it's a benefit that that's more, anybody can come in and open up a studio?

Sam: Oh, no. I, again, I think the franchise schools, and even, even the independent world, there's a lot of independent organizations that, a lot of studios have. I mean, you know, once you leave a franchise school, because you're so involved with a franchise school and you feel so involved. You're included that when you go to the independent world, you know, years ago, once you went independent, that was it.

There were no other organizations that you could go to and learn their step list and learn what, what their beliefs are. But today it's changed today. You have a lot of people who have left franchise and have opened studios, but follow a certain curriculum of a, of an organization. And they have seminars, and they have books, and they have videotapes.

I mean, today it's really easy to, belong to something else cause people want to belong. And, and so the thing is getting educated. At one point, if you didn't belong to a franchise school, you would think, Oh my God, what do I do now? This was years ago. But now it's not like that. Now you, you, you can get education from, from anywhere.

And, and I feel, I don't know how this is going to over. If you're going to ask for the professional rate that we're asking for these students deserve a professional lesson. All right. From someone who is educated, who has knowledge, I'm not, if I'm hurting, I'm not going to go to a doctor who I don't feel as knowledgeable or educated in my area of pain.

You know, that's just, that's just ridiculous. But the thing is, education. I keep, I keep calling every, everything education that, you have the serious competitor, and you have the competitor who is just socially minded. Okay. Now the serious I would say the serious competitors, about 15% of the, I always just say in the dance studio, 15% of our student body, are competitive minded. The rest just come in for a social atmosphere. What, when you, when you go to a comp the serious dancers, you know, the ones who want to be the champion of the world, I would say maybe, are 10% and, and, and may stick it out. You can always go by how a comp is doing by the lower levels, like the beginning levels. Not because once you get higher, it gets thinner sometimes, sometimes. But I, I feel that it's, if you're going to go to a comp, well, here's me. When I went to a competition, I had to be ready. I had to feel that my student was the best prepared, had the best costume had the best routine, had the best structure, the technique in order to be number one, you got to think like number one.

But that was me. Not everyone wants to be number one, not everyone wants a win. I do. And this was my product on the floor. This is always every, every time I competed Pro-Am my main goal was to win. And I used to say to my student, if you want to have a happy life coming into the dance studio, there's two ways you can go, you can go the competitive route or the medal is program and social life.

Now, if you go to the competitive route, that's going to be more pressure because now you're my product and I'm taking it out on the floor. So how you look is because of me, and I'm not going to look like, but if you want to come in and learn your medals, Medal steps and checkout and do the medal program.

I'm all for that too. So I used to let my students know my two forms of, of teaching and I used to live by that because first of all, I used to need teach students who didn't want to compete so that I can remember my own, my own, figures from all the way to gold star. But. It it's, but I never took a competitor into a comp unless they were serious as I was, it wasn't a joke was me and it wasn't a joke with them.

And we always won. I mean, w we would, I mean, not always one, we would lose, but. w mostly we would, we would be on the winning side, but, you know, lots of times I go, when I'm judging competitions, I, I look at the student even before they take the floor and I go to the, in my mind, I'm saying, why did that teacher, that his student wear that kind of costume?

What was he thinking of? You know, I mean, they're starting off on a bad foot already. And then technically, Hey, when I see someone dancing two or three years with the same weak structure, I don't know where they're coming from, you know, because I was never like that. Yeah. I could very easily. That's very easily see when they'd had no more education, any more knowledge to carry across, but that's why they go out.

Or they get it, they say. Years ago, believe it or not. When I competed with my students, we didn't do coaching lessons back in the sixties. It wasn't like it is today in 2020 coaching lessons, take, bring someone in and have an eight-hour, 10-hour coaching day for the whole week. We forget it. I never had, when I competed in the beginning, I never had a coaching lesson, and I can swear to that one.

Even those people, well, how did you get better? I got better because I studied, I took my exams. I, you know, that wasn't coaching with me and my students. I was personally getting better and it was coming off to my student.

Samantha: So, it's

Sam: Go ahead.

Samantha: I was just going to say, so two things that I wanted to talk about in there. The first is the impression that you have as a judge, when you do see a Pro-Am couple hit the floor and it's either very clear that the instructor has said to the student, you are my brand, you are my product, so I'm going to make sure that you are the best you could possibly be as a reflection of me when we hit up on the floor, versus probably, "Oh, Hey, this is a fun event. Let's just go and have fun and not worry about it." So, can you tell immediately, and how does that impact the judging scores at the end of the day when you see the difference?

Sam: Well, I've seen not only me, but we judge it and seen some pretty horrendous, I mean, I've seen teachers take a floor with a student and be miserable. They don't crack a smile. They're not enjoying themselves. I mean, and the student is taking, you could tell she's doing a lot of entries, so which means it's a good student in that school. She's a good piece of business. However you want to say it. And what's going through my mind is what in that heck is he thinking he's dancing mean. He's dancing angry.

And lots of times I don't do this because this is not my thing to go over and reprimand them, but there are judges who do do that. Many times we make it a joke with some teachers. We call it, "Well, here comes Joe show. He's doing a Walk-a Doble. He's doing a Walk-a Cha-cha," which means they're just walking through it. You know, or the music starts in 10 seconds and he's either fixing something or doing something or whatever, and then he starts to dance. So, a lot of people, we'll go over. Because unfortunately it does reflect the mark is going to reflect him, but it's the student is getting it, you know? And that's, that's what some of the judges will go over and say to this, what is wrong with you?

Well, I did one time.

I like to create, like I created the World Pro-am Dancesport Series. I created the Best of the Best, Me and another, me and Bill Sparks created the Fordney Foundation. So, I love to be creative. The collegiate I didn't create, but I love the collegiate because I just love their energy. I just love what they bring onto the floor, you know? So, the student was about to win the world pro-am top student of the year. And this happened to be the teacher that was a little bit angry all the time. And she never really was improving that much. So, I went over to her and I said, you know, I don't do normally do this. I said, you know, but by the end of the year comes, I think you're going to win the top student. I said, then I really think that you should be working on this or this or that or that, or this or this. And you should not for me, because I didn't live in her area. You should take some coaching lessons from people who can help you with this because I wouldn't want, you know, you're going to win the top student and for your own wellbeing and you're feeling good inside.

You want to feel like you've earned it, that you didn't just want it because of all the entries you did. You know, it's very easy when, you you, you like the pro-am? I always judge the student always. And why I'm saying that is because what happens sometimes is the student could be dancing with a real good instructor. Like one of the, let's say one of the top six in the pro pro field, you know, that's her teacher. All right. So, and then she goes out on the floor with a kid who was just maybe a year in the business. And of course, there's a difference. One is experience. One is not, you know, and I used to go to his, or here I am, again, I would go to that inexperienced teacher and this student, because I knew they would be bummed out, even if they lost to someone who was deservingly so, I would say, listen, As you know, you know, I am, you know, I judge all these events. I have seen a couple you've lost too many years. Same teacher, same student, you I haven't seen at all. So, you're, I know you're fairly new, so don't get so down and out because it's, you could say it's unfair, but it's not unfair. It's just that you, you, you got experience against a beginner. I said, and, and w and someday it's going to be the same thing.

You, if it happens, you'll be that case. You'll be the experience and there'll be an inexperienced, you know, whatever. But sometimes, I mean, you could see the good teaching. I mean, it's, it's there. Their frame is good. The way they move from foot to foot, the way the teacher is putting them there. Because he's so experienced, his body is so aware it's carrying across to the student.

So, it's, for me, it's a no-brainer and, and especially when I judged, like I said, a lot, almost 40 times a year. It's and I, and the thing with me is I get to know everyone. I know everyone, you know, and if you don't think that when I go to a comp that putting someone down all the time because of who they're dancing against. That's why I like to judge on the moment and maybe really give that person a good mark one week, just because whatever.

Samantha: So, I'm going to be a little selfish in this moment and ask a question that I will personally hopefully benefit from. But I also know that a lot of our listeners are also female instructors that are newer in the industry.

You mentioned a couple of times the Pro-Am experience from a male instructor, female student perspective, which is the majority of our industry. It's the majority of the couples that you see on the floor when you're judging. Specifically, when it comes to a female instructor, leading an amateur or following for an amateur gentleman on the dance floor.

What is the biggest mistake that we are currently making that you wish we would fix? Or what is something that we are currently doing that you want to see more of from our students on the floor?

Sam: Well, first of all, someone gave me an exchange lesson one time, this is the best way I can put it. And it was with a man. Okay. And I was the woman and she said, I want you to give him, I can't be in town this week. So, give this guy a coaching lesson. All right. It was international. So, I got out on the floor with him in my grade frame and all of a sudden, he took this first step and I feel like I was being raped.

And I said, I said to myself, I said, you know, this is not, is this the way you move with your teacher? I said or is this because you're dancing with me and I'm bigger than her or whatever I said, because you had my legs everywhere. I was so uncomfortable. And when I got her, the teacher, when she came back, I said, how the hell did you do? I said, you looked so good with him on the floor. I would have never imagined that's the way he felt when you were dancing with him and you see, and she said, well that now, you know what I go through.

But my answer is this, with a female instructor, is that if you know what it feels like to be right, if you dance, as you know, with a pro doesn't have to be a partner, but a pro teacher in your school, if you know when you're doing something. You got to know how it feels to be right in order to teach it. I mean, when I get it, if I, if I was a woman teacher and I wanted to move the way I wanted to move from foot to foot and I couldn't do it, then I'm going to have to fix him. I'm not going to adjust myself. I'm going to teach him how he should move so that I feel comfortable because if, if, if I get into dance position and all of a sudden, I'm ready to go. And I feel great. And all of a sudden, I can't do anything, then I'm really not doing him a favor by just dragging him along or pulling him along. My thing is, and this is why I also say with male teachers, they should know what it feels like to do the girls part, right. Because how are they going to carry that across to the, to the students?

And what, what I feel with, with women, the women teachers, they have, we all have hard jobs. But when, they have a person that doesn't move the worst thing they can do, a female teacher, is pull them along because then they become like a Herculite their arms become strong. Their bodies become tense. And meanwhile, he's not doing, he's really not learning how to move, how to really move his weight or how to do it right.

So, to masquerade him and to camouflage his weaknesses when all you have to do is, you know, what it feels like to be right. Get him to put you in those positions so that you feel right. If you feel like, and you're moving backwards in the smooth dances and your ass is out and your legs are here and they're flying all over the place, that means his weight's not moving forward.

You got to get his weight over the balls of his feet. For me, and especially with today with video and everything is so easy to, to look at the video and say, you see what you're doing? You see what w what, what, what I have to do to compensate? I wouldn't know how to approach that, but I could see what I have to do to compensate what you're not doing, you know, but the, the biggest thing was with women, what I'm judging the woman's, teacher and the male student, I can tell when the woman is really.

Well, the same with the male teacher. I can see when they're doing it all, when they're, when they're having the student is hanging on them and they're not doing what they should do, but I'll tell you if I was a female. Why don't I just example for me for a male when I was teaching one-on-one male and that, and then, you know, the student would hang on me.

Just, some of them were older and they didn't have balance. I used to go, you know, when I do this with my hand, that means you're hanging on me. So get off of me or with this hand, you know, and the same thing with a female teacher, you got to have a signal to, to, to where, Hey, you're not doing, you're not moving the correct way.

You're not, you're not making me feel right. a lot of times teachers and students have these little signals between each other, with their hands, but, But I think the thing with a woman teacher is if I was a woman and I knew what I wanted, and it felt like what I knew to do, it felt right. I couldn't dance with; I have to teach them that way. I have to teach him so that I could do my part. Because it could be, hell, are you, you pro right?

Samantha: I am. Yeah.

Sam: You teach.

Samantha: I do

Sam: Well, you know, and sometimes we compensate by just, by trying to help them because you know, a lot of times when you get a new student, In the beginning years, I was always told, just get them moving.

Just they can feel like they move with them, make them feel like they're full of life. And yes, you start pushing and you start pulling just so they feel like, Oh, I'm doing something which meanwhile, you know, down the road, it's going to be the complete opposite. And this is where the medal programs come in.

You say you need 10 hours for this 10 hours for that. But my biggest thing is don't, you know, don't make your don't drag, pull your students along. And I was never a pusher. If I had to push my student out of the way, forget it. They either carry their weight, got off that standing foot. Anyway, that's my belief.

Samantha: No, I love that. I love that. and you're right. I think, especially with students that initially come in and say, I just want part of, I just want to be part of the fantasy. Right? I want to learn how to dance. I want to have fun. I want to be social. And then six months in they're like, "Oh, well there's this competition coming up? Maybe we could possibly go do that. That sounds like fun." You do have the sudden shift of, okay. I was just getting you to dance for an hour a week and we were just having fun. And I was teaching you the basics and I was teaching the footwork, but I was doing a lot of the work to, how do I now bridge the gap and talk about technique and talk about pushing off your standing leg and talk about it in a much more serious, fundamental way that doesn't scare you off.

Sam: An experienced teacher. Like I used to, when I, when I used to own the Arthur Murray school, I used to watch the teacher, didn't know, I used to watch some of the lessons going on. And one time I had this one male teacher teaching this female student and for a half hour, a half hour in front of the mirror with the student they were doing, he was teaching her how to walk back to release the front toe and drag the heel back and I'm looking at this and I'm going, but that isn't fun, right? This has got to be fun. You can't stay a whole half hour on something like that, you know, and this is where I think inexperienced comes from. The inexperienced teacher will maybe do that where the that's, why we used to have a front department in the back department.

And in schools, the front department took all the beginners, and the back department took all the ones who were advanced. And, but in the front department it was, it was supposed to be fun, easy. You, you, you can't, technique them to death, but, and even when they, they move on and move on, Oh, this is what I'm going to say. There comes a time where we, we, as teachers, we become, because we're critical. We're critical with ourselves. We're critical if we take a coaching lesson, because the coaches who was coaching us are critical with us. You know, they're saying what we're doing wrong all the time. And sometimes you never hear a good thing from a coach.

And the same thing with a student, you got to tell them that they're doing a good job and that. Everything isn't low gloom and doom to them. And that's why when I act competitions, that's why I go with competitions. And I D I go out of my way sometimes to tell that student how I think they've improved.

Well, it's the truth. I say, you know, I really see a big improvement in you. And I just want you to know, because you probably don't hear that too much. And everyone says you're right. All we get is they criticize, they criticize. And I understand because their teacher is seeing them all the time. So, but, but, but I think sometimes we forget that, and this is why I say to advanced students when they start getting too serious with this, I say, you know, I think we should go back to why you came in here.

You know, because you're, you're really going, you know, you're really going way out, you know, your placements are depressing. You you're you're you're you're this you're that. And you're not liking anything. I think you've got to remember why you came in here. It was going to be fun. It was going to be easy. It was going to be, and you know, competitions are supposed to be fun.

And it's another way of improving your dancing quicker because they're immediate goals. But if it's not going to be fun, you’re going to lose interest. You're not who wants to spend this kind of money and this kind of time on something that is torturous or sadistic or depressive. So, I think that we teachers, have to remember that we have to be positive with the students.

You got to, I mean, you got to be truthful. But you got to also tell the student what their weaknesses and you got to know how much an, a lesson to work on each. You can't technique them to death because of it. You know that teacher I was watching, I said, you know, when you work the half hour on that technique, why didn't you go into something fun then?

Why didn't you dancing around the floor so that they, again, get away from all this seriousness, releasing a toe and dragging a heel. So, you know what? Sometimes we were our own worst enemy. I mean, don't forget that student. I always use this word all the time. Our students are a reflection of us. And what, what, what, what they're doing is what we're, we're, they're getting it from us.

So, if I see a miserable student on the floor, who's never cracking a smile. Guess what that means every week she goes in for a lesson, her teacher mustn't be doing that. Amen.

Samantha: Yeah. Well, yeah. I, I have found in my experience. Being a teacher that happened to enjoy dance. I feel like I'm, my mindset is very much an educator first and a dancer second. I can see, I see differences when I'm in rooms with other instructors of individuals that really do focus on teaching their social students too much, like how they were taught as amateur competitors. So, they get wrapped in that technique, drills, push, you know, spend a whole 45 minutes on one topic and they lose the fun aspect of it. whereas I think someone that has more of that educator background, at least in my experience. And it may just be me projecting my own experience on other people. Listen to the students more and hopefully can tell when their student is like, I just came because I had a terrible day at work and I just want to dance for 45 minutes and we can worry about techniques later.

I was wondering with your own experience when you were going through in your early years, did you. Because there's a section in the book, when you were working at, I think it was the Patterson Arthur Murray location that you mentioned that you were having kind of a crisis of faith where you got into the business because you liked dancing and you wanted to dance and you were struggling with, how do I teach dance when I really wanted to just dance myself?

Sam: Well I remember that I was, and I was driving home from a Friday night party. I was, I remember. I even remember my age. I was 19 and I was driving home, and it was after a Friday night party, you know, dancing with all these older people, you know, and. And I'm saying to myself, is this really what I want?

I came in this to dance two years ago and now I'm very far from that, you know, I, Oh, I'm just becoming, Oh, I hate to say this word, a gigolo. Okay. A, an escort and, and I didn't like that. That was not my, my, what's the word brand? Not my identification. I didn't want to be that. I was a dancer.

Okay. And, and, and I never forget driving home and, I was really going to quit. But then I realized that, you know, no, one's, I got to do this for myself. You know? No one's going to help me. If I want to become a dancer, a better dancer than Sam, go out and get it. Go out. And, and that's when I, I found this Fran Rogers and Dennis Rogers, in New Jersey, actually, they were the teachers that I replaced in Patterson, New Jersey who went, they th you know, Diana McDonald don't you

Samantha: not personally but I know of.

Sam: Yeah, but that was her mother. That's how long ago this was Diana wasn't even born. And Fran was international, and I wasn't, and I had heard that she was giving, doing coaching lessons. This was 1962. And, I said, you know, I want to, yeah, I've got to improve my dancing. I got to do something. I said or else I'm going to feel like I'm not going anywhere. You know? And I didn't have a partner at the time. So, I went over there and. Actually, she became my partner. I'm the only one who took coaching lessons with certain coaches and wound up being their professional partner and competed with them. And so, and then I was always, what's the word, self-motivating. I used to, then I used to say, you know, I'm right. So, I'm getting older students. I was never lucky. To get an, "A" student, you know, someone who was 16 or 18, it was either someone who was 70 and over, you know, but I didn't care because I felt that was going to make me a better teacher. Cause I never put anyone in, a bracket of this one's that age, that age they're not going to learn.

They're not going to be able to move. I used to teach everyone the same, but. A lot of times with maybe someone younger, I used to go, this is funny because people would laugh at me. I would go dancing in the Foxtrot or the Waltz and I'd look at myself while we, while I have my students in the mirror, making sure that I was standing right.

My head was correct. You know, my arms were right. So, I used almost a lot of lessons to educate me to, you know, to, to. because it, back then we had the reel to reel. We didn't have videos. We didn't have, yeah. It took forever to get them developed and then brought back. But, so in essence I used to make my, I always just to say this, my students became my dance partners until I found someone who was, you know, I felt was the one I wanted to dance with. And then dancing was this woman Fran, and we did wind up competing. We went to competitions, we didn't win, but it was a first step towards meeting my true dance partner. That's why I moved to Columbus, Ohio. And, but yeah, I went through that, that, that little dip depressed period where, you know, I said, if this is going to be my dance life, Every Friday night dancing with students who, and just having fun, fun, social, social, you know, I said, that's not going to be for me at 19.

And then I had to change my thinking. I mean, in our business, I think I used to always say we become psychiatrists because we hear so many things. That way and they want us to listen. They don't want us to talk when you're in a franchise school. One thing I did learn, listen, don't talk about yourself.

Listen, listen to that student. Okay. So, I listened and listened and listen, you don't talk about yourself yet. There were those who would come in teachers and talk to the student about their garden and what they cook, you know, but that was never me. And I think. so, so in the beginning, in the beginning, if it wasn't for me, self-motivating myself, and wanting to be as good as I can be.

Cause back then there was no, there was no fame in it in the sixties, there was no real money and it, there was no fame. It had to be love for the dancing. And that's, that's what I loved. And the fact that, I always called it the closest thing to Hollywood when, when I would go to competitions and we'd all be dolled up and dressed up, this is the closest thing to Hollywood.

You know, our fantasy world, you know, the world that I was always taught that when a student comes through the doors of a dance studio, I E they should be coming into a different world and then leaving this world, because know, I used to always say to one of my franchise, my boss, why don't we ever have magazines in this studio where newspapers hanging around?

She goes, I don't want these students to know what the outside world is. She says, when they come in here, I want them, this is their world. It's a fantasy world. It's fun. It's I don't want them to bring the, the outside world into this and yeah, in the beginning, I didn't understand any of this, but as you get older, she's right.

They were all right. Their experiences led to, you know, led them to believe all this and made them successful. So, but one thing I did learn about myself, if you want to be successful, no, one's going to do it for you. But that, that I learned a long time ago. You got to be your own inspiration, your own motivation, your own. You want lessons and you want money, then you better teach more and make more money. No, one's going to give it to you. No one ever gave me a dime for my dancing lessons, except my father who gave me a deposit in 1960, when he said Sam, a car or dance lessons. And I said, dance lessons. That's in the book, but like I said, you know, you can't wait is the other thing you can't wait around and wait for things to happen because they're not, they may never happen.

Especially if you're, especially, if you're in a dance studio that is business-minded then you know, it's not going to be all about you and your dancing. It's not going to, they got to get the rent, they got to get payroll. They got to get. So, if you want to be. whatever you want to be in the dancing. You got to go get it.

Samantha: Yeah.

Sam: Okay.

Samantha: I have, I have one last question for you. And then, I have a feeling we'll need to schedule another podcast episode, cause there's so much that we did not get a chance to dive into today that I, I want to talk about in a future

Sam: Well that's cause I'm talking too much.

Samantha: No, it's great. It's great. on that last thought, How important in your own experience and in the dancers that you've watched be successful or not be successful over the years, how important is it to find the right studio space for you and for your goals?

Because you talk about in the book, making the move out of Patterson to the next studio, which I've already forgotten the name of. I apologize. and that, that was. And the in Trenton, you kind of like found your groove and that aha, the world just kind of opened up and that experience you kind of credit in the book to leading then to traveling more and becoming more well-known and ultimately ending up in Columbus. So how important in your experience was it to find the right studio at the right time to foster your goals?

Sam: first of all, the, the two schools I started in one was Union City, New Jersey. And then I went to Patterson. They were actually just socially minded. We never went to dance competitions, and we never went to dance around this.

So, I would say from 19. Well, it was only two years, 1968, 61, 62, three years. we did the competitions weren't even in the scene until I got an offer from this guy in Trenton who was very much into dance around us, very much into competitions very much. And he had, they just won. The dance ceramic that's top studio and he was looking for teachers.

And so, I went down, I applied and I, and he said, you know, one of the things it's funny, I can remember all these 50 something years ago. There are certain things you can just remember. And he said to me, in order to come to work for me, you're going to have to be able to choreograph routines to music. And now at that time, there was no group.

Competitions. It was all solos. Okay. Competitions. And I said, I can't do that. I don't know how to do that. He said, well, that unfortunately is one of the qualifications. That you got students, you pick a record, you choreograph to it. And I said, I said, okay, I'll try it. So anyway, me and my friend moved there and. The more, and then I did, but then I had competition students when I moved to trend the first two, the first two studios I was at, I didn't have them, but when I moved to this one student in Trenton and they had fairly decent students that they turned over to me and believe it or not, don't ask me, I picked the music and I choreograph to the music and won top teacher and we still won top studio and peep at that time, people were following, they do, they'd go to dance around was, and there'd be like five ballrooms running at one time because that's all they did was solos. And wherever Sam Sodano was, with his student is where all the people would go because I was so going from the, I didn't think I could do this.

To being a champion in this kind of field was, you know, I felt that it gave me no choice. I had to do it. I wanted to move. I was still young, so, and then from there, then the CR then group competition came in and I'll never forget it because see, I don't like change that much. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't.

But when the groups dancing came and said, Oh, group dancing, is there going to be. Popular students want to go out there and dance a solo, be the sole presentation. You know that they're not going to want to go out with 13 other couples, but little did I know that became the thing. So, it just, yeah, I had to do a lot of brain searching too, you know?

Cause change was not always, I mean, you know, I w I just one story that. I had to be very positive and I had to be, very motivated or whatever you call to be successful. Because the first year I was in union city, New Jersey, I was a student, a Pro-Am student, and I went through my bronze and I went through my silver in one year and then Vietnam broke out and.

All the teachers or drafted, but not me because I was too young at the time. And so they needed me to take the advanced students and some of them didn't want me, some of them did, but anyway, one day I go up to the school to teach at night cause I was part-time in union city. All the furniture's gone.

Everything is gone. It's an empty room, nothing in the room, except this big sign on, on the wall saying good luck to whatever you do. That's how I was told the school closed. Okay. So, I knew the manager's phone number. So, I called her, I said, what the hell? What is this? What am I supposed to do? She said, Oh, this is the way it was broken to me.

She said, well, you got an interview at the Patterson New Jersey studio. I said, Oh, I said, well, what made you think I'd want to go to Patterson? I said, then what is this with this big sign on the wall? Good luck. You know? Well, anyway, off I went to Patterson and so I had to really be motivated to. To carry on because just as, at that time, I could have thought what a flake does, businesses and, and to get released that way, you know, and then the Patterson and Trenton, and then I moved to Columbus, Ohio, and that was, that was really the start of, everything.

But it's, it's. I don't know, that's it.

Samantha: Fair enough. Fair enough, well, thank you again so much for being a guest on today's podcast episode. There is so much more that I want to talk about, but we'll save that for a future episode, hopefully.

Sam: Yeah, I will, and thank you. I enjoy doing this and you're pleasant. You're positive. You're not digging for anything. You're what, an interview should be like, you know, you let us talk. Yeah, I like it.

Samantha: I appreciate that. So very much.

Sam: Thank you. You want to carry on just let me know.

Samantha: Well, we will set it up, and best wishes and congratulations on what I am sure will be an amazing Ohio star ball this year. I cannot wait to see it.

Sam: Oh yeah. Yes. God bless. Yes, we'll be safe. That's all I could say.

Samantha: Excellent. Thank you again to Sam Sodano for being a guest on today's podcast episode. If you would like to follow the Ohio Star Ball, or if you are interested in finding out more about the book that we mentioned, "A Passionate Journey" you can do so using the links in the description box below.

I'm Samantha, I'm your host with Love Live Dance. You can find this and all of our podcast episodes at ballroomchat.com and you can find us across social media at Ballroom Chat. As always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing very soon.