College Elective turned Professional Career - Jesse Goodnight

Samantha StoutDecember 16, 2020Ballroom Chat: Episode #33
Jesse Goodnight ballroom chat

Jesse Goodnight and Samantha catch-up and reflect on how their college ballroom career set them on the path to becoming Professional Ballroom Dancers. Jesse chats about his fond memories as a member of the Fairmont State Ballroom Team, and the challenges of adjusting to teaching as a career. He and Samantha compare notes on navigating student interactions, and Jesse discusses his behind the scenes experience of getting a dance competition ready.

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Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

Samantha: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the podcast. Today, I'm going to be joined by Jesse Goodnight.

He is a professional dance instructor out of Sarasota. Florida. And he is also a Fairmont State ballroom alumni. So, we first met when we were on the ballroom club and team together, back in college. And to the surprise of both of us, we both went on to becoming professional dancers. So, I took today as an opportunity to sit down, catch up with him, see where his life has gone the last eight years. And talk a little bit about Fairmont State ballroom and our professional careers. So please enjoy our conversation today with Jesse.

Well, thank you Jesse so much for coming on the podcast this morning.

Jesse: Thank you for having me, Samantha. It's an honor to be here.

Samantha: Oh gosh. Let's not get into that. That's weird

Jesse: I don't get interviewed too often so it's nice

Samantha: yeah. So, so in the intro, I mentioned that you are also a Fairmont state alum. we were on the ballroom team together for three years. Two and a half, something like that. Yeah.

Jesse: Let's just round up

Samantha: yeah. Yeah. I'm trying to remember, and I probably should have gone through like old photos and videos. Were you, did, were you part of the Moulin Rouge, Tango Roxanne group number or did you join after all of that?

Jesse: I was the part of that, where everyone died in the end, then all the girls got the stab the guys. Yes. I remember that fondly.

Samantha: So that was kind of my introduction to the fact that there was a ballroom team on campus and that there was a club and like they did this dance thing. How did you originally find out about the team and how did you get into that?

Jesse: it was after I joined the class as an elective, just Ballroom dancing 101. And, as I was started really enjoying it, I got to talking to the teacher, which was James at the time. and he put me on to the club, which eventually had the formation team, and I mean, the club was already there for a year, or I don't know, two or three. I'm not quite sure how long, but I knew it wasn't too old of a club. Everyone was still pretty green. so, I, I, and I think I joined the club my second year, not the first year. So.

Samantha: Okay. So, you, you were already taking the ballroom dance classes before you joined the club and the team. Whereas I, I feel like Mike Kittle asked me to like come by one night. So, one of the social club nights, and then from there, I ended up taking the classes. So, I kind of like went into it the wrong way around

Jesse: no wrong way, as long as you're doing what you're like, dancing.

Samantha: This is true. This is true. So, what kind of prompted you to take that initial ballroom 101 class? Was it something that you always wanted to do? Did you always see yourself as a dancer or was it an easy elective to kind of pad out the course requirements?

Jesse: It’s a shame to say was probably the latter. The easier elective, you know, it was that or life guarding, and I literally can't swim to save my life. So, I mean, the choice was obvious from there on, for me.

Samantha: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. what was your original major at Fairmont state?

Jesse: graphic design.

Samantha: Okay. Okay. and then the million-dollar question, which I feel like I need to go back and ask all of the Fairmont state alums. Have you done anything with graphic design or marketing since left leaving Fairmont State?

Jesse: Right, does anyone actually stick to their majors. Actually, it really served me well coming down to Florida because that's kind of what got my foot in the door with Fred Astaire. I was able to market for them and create posters and business cards. And I really, that helped me progress cause they; I became a reliable person in a studio.

They came out as the tech guy that came into me for all of the other needs. I don't know. yeah, that definitely helped me in, especially when I went independent, when I stopped working for franchisee studios or, and I just wanted to work for myself, having that ability to be able to market myself and I think really paid off.

So, I, I do, I still do use it quite a bit. Yes. But, not on, not on the level. I thought I was going to go.

Samantha: Right, right. Yeah. I feel like, at least my experience was I was on this path, for education and I kind of knew what, like the future was supposed to hold for me. And then Fairmont state ballroom came in and it was like, Oh, let's just derail the whole plan because the seems a lot more interesting and a lot more fun. And I apparently can actually have a job teaching dance, which previous to that I never really, I thought. at the end of 2012, you just to up and move to Florida and start teaching, what was that decision? What was kind of the, let's just jump in with both feet and go for it.

Jesse: I think that came from the spring break. a lot of us had come down here on spring break. That was Christie, Emily, Gabe, Maxx. I think Mike, I'm not sure if Mike came. I don't remember. There's a big picture of us, but we all came down and, basically Christie and I were partners at the time. We went to the Fred Astaire here in Sarasota.

And we had talked to the manager and, he was very enthusiastic and, willing to wanting to hire us, which, I mean, it was weird. Cause you know, we'd just to see the level we were at then to compare it to the people dancing there is, is just, there was such a big divide, but he still, it just made us want to come down here and start that kind of life.

I don't know. It was probably. Just a couple of months after spring break, we were just said, all right, well, screw it. Let's do it. Let's go for it. So, I kind of just dropped everything and kind of just, you know, chase a dream and, and thankfully it worked out and up on the street or it didn't go back home.

So, it, no, it's been a great experience. It's yeah, I think it was just that, that spring break and just having someone saying, Hey, you can do this. From going, just from like a hobby to something you do and college to actually making a career out of it.

Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So, you, Emily and Christie all moved to, to Florida, that same summer Gabe, Olivia and I all interned, for Amanda and Andrew up in Pittsburgh.

and I think at the time Theresa got hired in James's old position. So, like seven of us out of the program, suddenly were in this ballroom dance world, which is not expected at all. I have my own thoughts on the subject, but I want to hear yours. What about the collegiate experience through the ballroom team, through the classes, through the club, do you think was kind of the push that all of us needed to go ahead and make this a career.

Jesse: really, again, I think that goes back to the teacher, James, he was able to make a viable option for us, like, cause he, he taught, I mean that was his, he's a teacher at the college. And his, his passion shown through, he was able to make people excited about what they did and what we were learning. And I don't know, I just, I really, I never expected myself to be a dance instructor and all my childhood friends just looking at me and they just laugh because it's the farthest thing away from what I've ever even thought of doing.

So, it's, it's still kind of amazes me that, that that's the Avenue I chose in life. I don't know. It's. That's a tough question, but really, I, again, I think I attributed to James as instructor and of course Amanda, to having her, seeing, because she was such a high-level dancer and she came and worked, worked with us.

And I don't know. what about you?

Samantha: Yeah, I think

Jesse: what was it for you?

Samantha: I, I think in the moment, like, you know, hindsight 20, 20, you always look back and I feel like, no matter what level you're at, you look back at your old videos and you're like, oh my God, I was proud of that. I did that. And I thought it was good.

Oh, geez. but no, I think, I think you're right. I think James was so passionate about ballroom dance and, my senior year, I worked with him a lot in, in kind of an internship capacity sort of way, and started to learn some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that was going on at the university. And he really fought hard for us.

I mean, he, he was lobbying really hard to increase our budget, to give us the opportunity to go to Ohio, which I think we paid what, like $50 or something to go on that trip or not even that, I mean, the, the amount that he was able to convince the university to pay versa for, you know, a group of 12 of us to go to a national level competition is just insane in hindsight, but I think also like having the partnership with Andrew and Amanda and seeing what dance could be to get to the level that, you know, you, you just everyone's jaw drops to the floor when you watch them dance. Yeah, I think, I think knowing that it was an opportunity and then having people around you that are so, so excited for you to be excited about it was really the thing that was like, okay. Yeah, I can, I can see this working.

Jesse: Yeah. It's that camaraderie like everyone around you just have the same kind of vision. It was nice. It was very, it was a good push.

Samantha: Yeah. Well, and I feel like. We were a family, right? Like everyone on the team. And again, you look back at that team and none of us were ballroom. Like if you took a photo of the lineup, we did not fit the ballroom mold.

I mean, Maxx, my dance partner is, you know, 6'6" former football linebacker and built like one. And like he's not on the floor at Blackpool. But, but, but we were such a family, and we were so together, and we were so excited for each other that it just, it was hard not to get wrapped up in all of that.

Jesse: I agree. Yeah. It was contagious. It was very contagious.

Samantha: Definitely. you moved to Florida; you start at a Fred Astaire franchise. What was that first year or two like? What were, what were the challenges? What were the learning experiences?

Jesse: Challenges? Yes. There were challenges. let's see. first challenge I'd probably say was, again, like you mentioned the level I thought I was on compared to what level I was actually on, from going, just not really thinking, I knew, quite a bit about a dance to learning that there's whole different syllabi filled with information.

I had no clue about, that was kind of a shock, that was one of the hurdles, you know, I had to, I had to kind of get acclimated and would like to understand, okay, this is the beginning. I've got a long way to go and I've got a lot to learn and I felt like it was almost like catch-up because at that point, the people I worked with at the Fred Astaire.

We're pretty high-level dancers. And I felt like I had to fill that void and to get to that level quickly, which was good because I mean, that really pushes you when you have a goal like that. And I think that helped me develop my dancing pretty quickly. and then as a franchise, you learn a lot about sales, and I learned how to be kind of a salesman because that's essentially dance teacher's job.

And the one thing I always remembered now is like, is, saying as goes never, how does it, sorry, one second. Let me remember it. It's harder to sell an idea. Something you can sell something tangible is much easier, but to sell an idea is a lot harder. Like give people a dream or purpose or want dance.

And I think that was the hardest thing for me to learn. Because I I'm, I was never naturally like outgoing person or very community communicative. I don't know. Sorry. but so that, that, that was a hurdle for me. And I think over time, you know, you, you learn like James did to be able to share your passion with others. In the beginning. It's very salesy. When, when I would try to get people to buy dance lessons and to commit themselves to learning. And I think that drove a lot of people away. So, in the beginning I didn't do too well, honestly. but over time I learned is just not, you shouldn't dance doesn't, you can't sell dance.

You just describe what you feel for dance. And then people pick up on that. And if they feel the same way, then, they want to continue. So, I mean, that was, that was the biggest hurdle in reality. I mean, because you can read a syllabus and you can learn steps on your own or YouTube and get coachings, but to be able to communicate with people on a personal level and really develop a relationship and get them to understand what you're trying to give them.

That was the biggest hurdle. And I still struggle with that sometimes today because you know, everybody's different. So,

Samantha: Oh, definitely.

Jesse: I think those are the, those are the parts of the, of, of moving down here and starting up at a franchise with a little information I had on the ballroom world.

Samantha: Yeah. I'm what's the typical, Kind of client group that you're working with. is it couples, is it older individuals that are really excited for pro-am? Is it, social students who, who typically walks in the door for you?

Jesse: I get a mixture. generally, remember this is Florida. So, most of my clientele is a bit older and, Yeah. and mostly older, single ladies, maybe widowed or just people in this, generally, just people looking to fill some sort of void and, or just to find a hobby or something to do so they can socialize.

And that's, I think that's the biggest, type of people like clientele. I get, not everyone couples, but sometimes you get couples that do it. Sometimes you get couples that are doing it to try to like, I don't know directly, but kind of save their marriage. And those aren't usually fun.

Samantha: Yes

Jesse: You don't want those last resort kinds of situations. That's always dicey. I don't want to be responsible for your decisions in life or your habits.

Samantha: I'm going to be very careful how I say this. The likelihood of them ever finding this podcast is very small, but, on the off chance, I'll just say, if you think I'm talking about you, I loved you as a client. You were wonderful. I enjoyed teaching you, however, it's a little awkward when you just say flat out to your instructor, we were about to sign divorce papers, but we thought that maybe dancing would help our communication skills.

It makes it a little weird

Jesse: no pressure though

Samantha: yeah.

Jesse: This all rides on you. Okay,

Samantha: cool. Not a licensed therapist. Awesome. Yeah. So, I have a question. I had Sam Sodano on a previous episode, and he mentioned that early in his career because he was, 18, 19, 20 younger in the industry. And he was working with a lot of older, single ladies out of New York and New Jersey, that he had the feeling sometimes of being more of an escort than an instructor. And I was wondering, because I feel like that's something that, especially for young instructors, we all feel time to time, but we don't like openly talk about it. And I'd like to, to start to chip down some of that, with this podcast and be able to have kind of those uncomfortable conversations.

Was that your experience in Florida? And if so, how did you manage it? How did you kind of handle it when a situation would arise, where you felt uncomfortable with, with a client?

Jesse: that's a very good question. I have had a few instances where that had been the case where I felt like the student didn't want the dancing as so much, the individual teacher, which would be me and that got made uncomfortable very quickly. I'm pretty blunt with people. sometimes that's good.

Sometimes that's bad, but I've always been able to let, let people know who developed these feelings that I understand. It's natural. It really is when you work with someone so closely and you look up to them. It, it's hard not to form a bond and confuse that bond with something that may not be there. but I've, I've told them, I care about you as a student, but this is not something I can ever, this is not what I want.

And this is not something that should happen. for, for many, many reasons. We won't get into all the reasons right now. But and I know it happens a lot. Like we, as a private. Constructor. And I work for myself. We do a lot of parties. And when we do parties, they call taxi dances or renting a pro, which I like. I like those connotations more than, you know, being pimped out or, or whatever you might think as far as, you know, that might.

Samantha: Yeah.

Jesse: It's I don’t know. It's. Sometimes I get the, I get those feelings that people want more. But again, like if, if, situations ever arise, I've been able to handle it pretty well. I hope that answered your question.

Samantha: Yeah. So, so the, the rent a dancer or rent a taxi dancer, is a concept that I've heard of before. I have not entirely been in a studio that's worked that way. the studio that I started with out here before I went fully independent, Ballroom Utah, we ha we would go to a fundraiser for the Salt Lake Symphony called the Vienna Ball.

And you could like sign up on a professional's dance card. But it was never that they were paying us directly or paying the studio for those dances. We were just kind of there and they could ask for our time. but with that kind of rental model or, you know, pay for the dance model, do you have things in place where one individual can't buy your entire dance card, or you only go to events if multiple students have signed up for events so it's not a one-on-one situation?

Jesse: well, we have, we have different nights, like, so the way my student handles it, we have a, like a card night where you pay per dance and you sign up with pro. And they would do it for two hours. So how many dances you can fit into two hours is how much you would pay or whatever pro you'd want.

And it doesn't ever necessarily have to be the same pro. Then we have other nights where you can rent your teacher, or however you want to say it, for hour long period or two hours based on, you know, their lesson rate or what not. and I, that's the way it's been working down here for quite a while. I believe so. And it, it, it's a fairly effective system. I like it. I think it's, it's beneficial

Samantha: yeah. Have you done any competitions with students or have most of your students really been more like social? They want to just get up and dance for more, like you said, hobby or exercise reasons, and they're not really looking at the competition experience.

Jesse: I've had a mix. I still have a couple of competitions students, right now, of course not being a great time for competitions.

Samantha: Yeah.

Jesse: yeah. but yeah, the, the few that I've taken, the competition they have done well. I mean, even if they don't, it's a matter of as long as they enjoy themselves, because I mean, that's what they're, that's what they pay for really.

I mean, why would you dance if you didn't enjoy it? And I, and of course I have people who are perfectionists and they're very hard on themselves, but I, again, I have to remind them, it's stepping stones, building blocks. You've got to work your way up. I mean, take, take what you didn't like and learn from it.

That's all you can do. Otherwise, you can drive yourself crazy and then it won't be worth.

Samantha: Absolutely. Yeah, it always

Jesse: Because dancing is quite an expensive hobby, I mean, not just for students, for teachers too.

Samantha: Yeah. Yeah, it is. It's, it's a huge investment monetarily time, just toll on your body. So yeah, you have to love what you do otherwise. It's really not worth it at the end the day. how, how has this year impacted your business? How has Florida been handling things? Have you been open and been able to teach? Have you been shut down? Have people been okay with coming in? Have people been reluctant to come in.

Jesse: Definitely felt the effects from the virus, unfortunately, and especially at being an older crowd here in Florida, they have been keeping, keeping their distance, which I think is, is good. Because again, if you're older, you have pre-existing conditions. Virus is certainly dangerous enough. You should. we did have a shutdown for a little bit.

I think it was probably a month. And after that, you know, from here on, we wore masks and try to just keep the studio clean and be as safe as possible with these conditions. so, I haven't, when it first started, and I started losing clientele. Started working for a Dance America Productions, which is a production company that helps put on competitions.

You know, it does the light system, so, it brings in flooring. And that was an interesting experience, to be able to see how a competition is made and talk to the people who run them. even though it wasn't very many of course, like I said, the virus has had its effects, but it hasn't kept everyone down. There, I've done three or four competitions since the virus started and. not a huge turnout, but people are there. And I mean, that's what matters. People who aren't scared and are there, I mean, the competition itself that it did a great job, everyone wearing masks, social distancing, people have cubicles little cubes for rhythm that they had to stay. so, they, they really are trying to, to adjust to this new, hopefully not new world, but.

Yeah, it's, it's, it's a weird time to be alive. I'll just say that.

Samantha: Definitely. what's something that you picked up behind the scenes with that, that Dance America competition kind of setup, kind of experience that you feel like the average competitor or the average spectator doesn't realize goes into making a competition run, or, or to put it a different way, what's something that you, you either saw happen or had to do that you didn't realize how much time or effort it took into kind of going in behind the scenes.

Jesse: Okay, that makes it easier, thank you. Dance floor. I never realized how difficult it was to install dance floor. it's especially the difference between what a dance floor is compared to a regular floor. It's, there's floating, there's a mechanic to give floor bounce. And not that, I mean, you don't really the small things like that.

You don't think about you just, you can go on a floor and be a dancer and like, okay, this feels good. It feels good to move on. And then other times, you know, it's, it's, it's not so comfortable and it feels like you're breaking your feet as you take a step. And I think that that was, that was kind of eye-opener to realize, okay, there's specially made just for this kind of events and this kind of dancing.

it was interesting to see the setup of a competition, how much time it took an order and how quickly it can be done too, because sometimes you in the last minute. A lot of things can be accomplished, but there's a lot of planning goes into those competitions. And if, if one person's late, even whether it be in set up or announcing it can, it can really put a dent in that competition.

I don't know. I think that's most of my experience, you know, lighting blur. I learned how to do lights through the company. That was interesting ballroom dancing light shows and all that. I don't know, working for Dance American Productions is very eye-opening experience to what, what gets done at the competition.

Like you see the lights, you see the current, you see the pageantry, but you don't think about the actual work that goes to it until you have to do that work.

Samantha: Ah, yeah, absolutely. With that in mind, thinking about the floors and the lighting, are you now going around to like the studio that you work in or other studios and being like, Hmm.

If I, if I won the lottery, I could redo the lights in this building and redo the floor. Cause I can tell that you've just put this floor on concrete and there's no springs underneath it.

Jesse: Go around judging every place. I do. I do notice, I do appreciate it, when I see them like the light preparation and I see, a good dance floor.

Yes, I do have more, more of appreciation for it. definitely. I try not to judge anyone's flooring out loud. Maybe I'll do that in my head. but yeah, I, I do notice differences. I will eventually I will open a studio, but now I'll know what to look for.

Samantha: Yeah.

Jesse: And how things should be done.

Samantha: That is definitely, 2020 messed up everything. but yeah, I'm now reaching the point where like, I'd like to have my own place and it's the priority of, I know that I definitely want a sprung or a floating floor that's professionally installed by people in the business that know what it, what it's supposed to be. Because I've danced on enough floors at this point that were either laminate laid straight on concrete or hardwood, but they put it over like old shag carpeting and didn't put foam underneath it. And your body just feels it at the end of the day. I don't know what happened between 27 and 30, but I can feel it now when I'm dancing on a bad floor.

Jesse: Yeah. It goes right into your knee. That's not fun. Oh, Yeah, definitely. So, did you, were you planning to open up the studio before this COVID hit?

Samantha: It was, I, I had been negotiating with a space to lease January and February of the beginning of this year. And we had come down to like, the landlord wanted an extra 50 bucks a month.

I was trying to negotiate out of it. He had brought in bids to like knock down a wall and lay new flooring and then March 13th hit and everything shut down. And it was like, Oh, well now I'm definitely not signing this two-year lease, but

Jesse: right.

Samantha: Yeah.

Jesse: Yeah. I've known, I own a couple of instructors who opened studios this year and right before it hit and they're managing, I'm very impressed with how they're doing it, but they are, they've managed to stay open, which I mean kudos to them because with all these businesses closing, small businesses, especially, it's just, it's a terrible time.

I'm not just for the dance, but I'll just like any small business.

Samantha: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I'm sure that you follow the news. There have been a lot of major studios that have had to close as a result of all of this. some studios that have opened some studios that have expanded to kind of fill the void. and then the rest of us that are just like surviving day to day and hoping to make a plan for 2021. But I feel like, and I was talking with, actually Amanda, about this, which will be the next podcast for those of you that are listening and watching, about the fact that, I don't think this is going to end in 2021. Like, I think it's going to take a while for the entertainment business in general to recover.

And, and like you said, we're not selling a product, we're selling a feeling we're selling an experience, we're selling an idea. And that takes time, especially in a luxury, kind of entertainment, non-necessary space. Are you starting to make plans for 2021 and 2022, about where you want to see your business go since you're independent or you just kind of taking it day by day right now?

Jesse: I certainly have plans. I'm talking into some people as far as, expanding my horizons, maybe traveling a bit more for the teaching. I was doing before this, all this hit I was doing, working, taking students to on cruises. That was a lot of fun, dance cruises as I, I really enjoyed that. So, I might want to start doing that again if things can get back to normal. but, but again, with everything I've got to do with a grain of salt, because like you said, we, I don't think it's going to end either. I think we're still in the midst of it and. I don't want to plan too far ahead when I don't know this certain future. So

Samantha: yeah.

Jesse: I just got to continue being safe like, I wear my mask everywhere I go. Just because I don't want to, I see other instructors who may not sometimes, and I don't want to be that just that one student comes in. "Well, I saw Jesse and he wasn't wearing his mask" and, yeah, so I've, I've definitely been trying to keep. Safe as possible. And I think everyone, as long as everyone does that and, and does what's best for them, I think we can get through it. Of course, they, I mean, I think it's just, there's so much unknown factors to this virus and it's yeah, it's just, it's, it's terrible misinformation and, and it's, it's, it's putting a strain on the whole country.

Especially like industry. So, I just won't, we'll see where it goes. but till then, I'm, I'm going to keep everything close to the vest.

Samantha: Yeah. Do you feel like you are someone that can kind of just go with the flow or do you like having control? Cause, I mean, let's be honest. I'm, I'm one of those people that I need a plan and I need structure and I need it like.

I need to have my hands on it. And this year I have not, and it's been driving me up a wall. So, have you personally been, been able to kind of just like have this laissez-faire attitude or is it driving you crazy that the unknowns are piling up?

Jesse: I'd like to say a laissez-faire attitude. I'm very, I've always liked to think I've been a very relaxed person, easy going, and on the outside it, I think I portray that pretty well on the inside. I'm slowly dying. It's rough. It really is. It is driving me crazy between not being as social as I want to, it's it really is. It's an experience. I don't know.

Samantha: Yeah. Moving into maybe hopefully happier topics or at least more dance-y topics and less world pandemic topic topics. at Fairmont state, we were American nine dance. There was a year that we attempted some international, but it was, we, we could do some maybe reverse and some naturals, but that's about it. Since coming to Florida since professionally teaching, do you teach everything? We were kind of talking offline about West coast swing. Do you dabble more in the social dances or have you specialized for your teaching?

Jesse: when I first came to Florida, I quickly realized, if you want to be a competitor and seriously compete, and which I did, I. Was doing American. I did, rising star for a little bit. You you've got to concentrate on one group because, to try to, was it master of none or something? I don't know the saying, but it really, you can't, you can't, you can't focus on too many things and expect to be great at them all.

So, I learned quickly that if I wanted it to be good, I had to focus on one thing. I think that that was the American rhythm in the beginning. So, I was really into that. and I did that for a couple of years. I was in the competition trail and, I did, I was doing a lot of performances for Fred Astaire outside, like we would have, just showcases and, you know, whatnot.

And then through overtime, I just, I don't know. I don't know. I liked American rhythm. Don't get me wrong. But when you see American rhythm compared to, and this is just my opinion, but compared to Latin, I love Latin. I think it looks so much better in my opinion. Its cleaner. It's just, I don't know. and I then, so I started doing that and again, can't be a master, I couldn't master that because I, I still had the love for rhythm.

And then as at Fred Astaire, they want you to know everything. So not only was I trying to focus on one thing, but they were also trying to teach me smooth. They're trying to teach the standard, teach me West coast, teach me Argentine tango, which those two dances are completely different than all the rest. I was. I was a little, befuddled.

They really, I don't want to say it hurt me because it was good to have those to have that horizon and those experiences. But. I just, I got so caught up in all these different dances. I couldn't focus anymore and it's just, it seemed like whatever I was working on at the time became my new favorite.

And then I think it's, it's been that way for quite a few years now, since I'm not competing anymore. And that's when I started getting into West coast and Argentine tango, because now that I'm not so stressed on one aspect of would this certain style of dance. I can go and just be free because Argentine tango and West coast swing, it gives you a sense of freedom because they have such a unique style and especially West coast, just different styles.

Like I fell in love with that because of hip hop. Like I've always loved hip hop have been the worst hip-hop dancer, just the whitest kid you know, like this is terrible. Listen, it looks like I have no rhythm. Even though, I've been dancing for years. So, to be able to start doing West coast swing and learn hip hop through that, it was, I was a joy.

I really started to enjoy that. An Argentine tango, just, that's a, that's a sexy dance. Very, it's very close. It's very passionate dance. It's a pretty dance, and I, I enjoy that. A lot of give and take. I don't it's yeah, it's really my, my dancing, I want to say is. I don't know, kind of lost train of thought on that, but just thinking about all those dances.

Samantha: Yeah. It's a lot. I feel like at some point I wrote down everything and so Lindy, West coast, and Argentine, I have not really even tried to touch. I can, I can do a West Coast basic. I can do a right-side pass. I can do, the name escapes me. So, I clearly, I'm not confident teaching West coast just yet, but yeah, I felt like I wrote everything down and it was like 24 or 25 different dance styles that at some point I felt comfortable teaching. It's like, that's a lot of information to feel comfortable and confident in the syllabus knowledge, in the technique behind, in communicating lead and follow. I got, I got to pair of this down. I got to figure out who in my network, I feel comfortable referring people to, so I can just focus on the stuff that I really am passionate about. do you feel like you're teaching a particular style to your students more often than not? Or are you still in that mindset of like, I'm going to teach you as much as I can in all of the different dance styles.

And then if you get to a point where I can't, I'll figure out where to send you,

Jesse: in the beginning with a new student, I'll generally I'll teach them everything. not all at once. Of course, that's how you drive people away. You don't want to scare someone to show them everything at once. but. I like to, you know, start out with the basic stuff, you know, well, Rumba box steps, and get them acclimated to dancing.

And I let, I generally let them decide later on what they want to do. I, I mean, I have dances that I like, and I have more advanced students that are more than happy to, to let me teach what I want to teach, but I always go back to what their passions are, because again, it's their experience, their money, their time.

And they, what they want to learn is what they want to learn. They want to learn more waltz, then I'll teach them to the best of my ability. And then again, as if it's a dance that I'm not so comfortable with it, I've only really done just for a little bit and I can teach the basics. Then I can teach them as much as that. And then there are many other great instructors in this town that I know that I can refer them to for further advancement, but That's been my experience right now. Like the students that, that, allow me to be creative and do what I want. I've been doing the West coast and Argentina. cause I'm still learning those two, but those are the ones that haven't most of fun right now.

Samantha: Yeah. Do you find that when you are personally training on a topic, cause I, I have definitely caught myself doing this or if like I'm working on taking my tango to the next level, just on a personal level. Then that entire week I tend to teach a lot of tango to the students that are wanting to learn tango.

And then the next week, if I'm working on Waltz, I'll teach, a lot of Waltz that week. Do you find that because you're working on West coast and Argentine and you're jazzed about that, that you're also kind of using those lessons is like, let me, let me work on my own technique and practice? Yeah.

Jesse: I'm going, I'll give you something simple to work on the dance while you do that, don't mind me. I'm just going to be doing my thing here. That would definitely, yeah, that that happens. But again, it's usually with the students, I'm much more comfortable with that know that the reasoning behind it, I don't want to come across like, Oh, I don’t know.

Like taking up their time. But no, I, I completely agree. Yes, I do that quite often, especially if I, if I learn a new step and I'm excited about it and I think, yeah. The student is high enough level to manage it, then I'm like, all right, I got something for you today. You're going to like this.

Samantha: Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Jesse: definitely. Yeah. Yeah. They'll be my guinea pigs sometimes.

Samantha: Definitely. Or, or like, if you have a coaching and they're like, "yeah, I need you to like rework your standard stride. You're not pushing off your heel, or I need you to focus on body timing on the collection of the two and in waltz", then suddenly you're doing a lot of standard drills for the first 15 minutes of class, or you were like, okay, we're going to do this together guys.


Jesse: Yeah. For sure.

Samantha: Is there, is there style, that you get asked about a lot in Sarasota that you find yourself referring out to other instructors for? Like I know in Utah, I don't know how to do Cumbia and we have Quinceneras every year that are like, I want to learn Merengue and Cumbia. I can teach a Merengue. I don't know Cumbia. Is there anything that comes up a lot of the time in Florida like that?

Jesse: coincidentally. Yeah, Cumbia is pretty popular down here as well. And I've never quite gotten into that dance, same with Kizomba, but I know great dancers. I'm decent at Bachata, but there's a difference between big difference.

I should say, between a rhythm Bachata, Latin Bachata, as opposed to street. And there are people out there teaching street Bachata and it looks really good. And so, I, I, again, If, if I can teach them the basics, I can get them moving and then I can refer them to people who are much more qualified.

Samantha: Yeah. Yeah.

Jesse: But yeah, it's probably those Latin dances, Cumbia, Cumbia, Kizomba. I had a student, and this is funny. she's going to come in here and a little bit, she, I signed up with me. it was a month ago. Maybe a little longer. And she comes to me and she says, I want to learn, Lambada, first of all, my job probably dropped. Cause I haven't heard of that dance in forever. Like I don't even know what it looks like. And I, and that's what I had to tell her. Like, I'm sorry. I don't know it. But I she's a regular at the studio, so she's very nice. And apparently, she's done it a little bit before, so she's sends me YouTube links and she wants to do it with me.

So, I get to the lovely chance of learning. Lambada, which I'm still not have the quiet grasp on that dance. So, I learned through YouTube and I get to work it out with her. So, she she's my practice subject. And she's helping me learn that the interesting dance and you get rare occasions like that, which is really neat to be able to have someone to pay you, to help you learn.

And I think that was really neat. So, but again, I wanted to be upfront and I know. There are probably some people out there, "Oh Lambada, well I do Lambada" and then do a quick rush to the backroom YouTube Lambada. but I couldn't do that. It would just, it'd be, not my style and I wouldn't want to lie. And plus, to try to fake a dance, I wouldn't even know.

Samantha: No, no,

Jesse: no bueno

Samantha: yeah, that being said,

Jesse: I definitely, I do refer to others. Yeah.

Samantha: Yeah. I was just going to say, if anyone is listening or watching right now that happens to know actually how to do Lambada. Please, please put that down in the comments because, yeah, I've, I've been asked that once and I'm like, I think that was in the seventies.

I was born in the nineties. I, I, it's not in my reference. It's not in my wheelhouse. I don't know how to do it. yeah. So, so any, any Lambada experts out there please make yourselves known. yeah. anything so, so not to circle back to where we started, but I'm going to circle back to where we started.

Anything that you look back on from your time at Fairmont state, as part of that team, either the productions that we did, the competition experiences, just kind of the day-to-day classes that you look back and say that was, that was something that I will always hold with me as an amazing experience and I, and I wish I could go back to that time? Or anything that you look back at and go, Oh, if I could go back and tell 2010, 2011 self, like to not do it or to do it differently, I would?

Jesse: wow. Well, as far as the good experiences go, there were so many, I mean, that was really one of the best times of my life. I really all you guys were just, everyone was probably one of the better friends I've had in college. And it was just, it was so great. Just the performances and going and in-house and going to Ohio Star Ball.

And we went to DC and Maryland, man, just so many places. And, and again, the friends I made and the partnerships I had, all looking backward. Great. I wouldn't change a thing. The only thing I would change, I was, I remember, I think it was Ohio star ball. I hope it wasn't, but I'm pretty sure we all went there. we competed, right? Did we compete? Or did we just watch?

Samantha: Oh no, we, we competed at least twice.

Jesse: We competed. Okay. I thought so because there was, and I will always regret this, I know what this judge looks like, and if I ever see him, I'm going to apologize. But I remember being cocky, thinking. I thought I was like, all right, well, we know what we're doing.

I remember being on the floor and there was a, I forget where there were two couples on the floor from our, from our class, from the college. And there was a judge all the way at the end of the floor. And he was watching everyone else but them, probably for good reason, no offense to whoever it was dancing, but we weren't that great, but I remember going up to him and saying, "there's more", I don't know is some smart-ass, terrible comment. And I had no right. But I was such a little jerk back then kind of. So, I, and I said something to the means of, you know, "there's more people over here to judge" and I just, I look back on that and just to think of the arrogance I had, and I don't know, it's just to, to the, to the man who himself had probably been doing this his whole life, I don't know.

I'm not quite sure again who it is, but I remember his face. and I just, it just, that really bothered me throughout my life thinking back on that one time, being disrespectful to someone who, who was way above me in this world and the dance world that rubbed me the wrong way. And I always wish I could have gone back to the slap early younger Jesse to like, what are you doing? You don't know anything.

Samantha: Yeah.

Jesse: You have no right to be telling anyone. So that, that was one. That was the, I felt like that was the only regret, which is good because I like not having regrets, but no, it was a great time. I miss everything. We had the parties; we all went to the outings we had. Just, just learning new steps together and then being able to compare and help each other grow it. It was really great. And I noticed they still have a team, which I'm glad, I'm glad a Fairmont still has that ballroom club. Whether it's managed at the same or not, as long as exposure it's there. that's good. That makes me happy.

Samantha: Yeah, I

Jesse: What about you?

Samantha: Oh, Lots, many regrets, all of the regrets. No. Yeah, it, I think I know what year you're talking about with Ohio, because I think the first year that we went to Ohio, we were just all kind of like overwhelmed by the collegiate experience at Ohio.

And it was just, yay. We're here. Let's just go out and dance and it'll all be fun. And then year two, we all had egos because we had been doing it for an extra year and we knew how to do it. So, we came in and I remember I actually. I think I was sharing some of your frustration because I messaged Amanda and I was like, "if you're not dancing right now, can you come to the ballroom? Because I don't think they're actually judging" because I didn't understand at that point in time, when you have 30 couples on the floor, how in the world, the judges could sign off and throw their paper off before the song had ended not realizing that in heats one, heats two heats three, before they get to quarters and semis, they're just looking for who's in frame and who starts the beat correctly, and that that'll get you through.

but yeah, I, that second year it was like, we knew just enough to be cocky and be frustrated with the judges. yeah, I, I would not do Chicago going back. I, I, I feel like two months after that in house performance, I was shaking myself going, why the heck did we do that? And why was I so such a vocal proponent of doing that number would not, would not do that in hindsight, and I feel like again because I'm because I'm the type A personality that likes control. I feel like there were a couple of situations around in-house rehearsals and in-house practices, especially when stress was getting involved, where I snapped at people that I wish I could go back and be like, bite your tongue. It doesn't matter. It's we're doing this for fun. We're doing this as a group. It, it doesn't have to be perfect. It's not about the perfection. It's just about the experience. So, there are a couple of like personal interactions that still kind of bug me that I wish I could go back and just be like, to you know, 19, 20-year-old, Samantha, it doesn't matter. Let it go. It's okay. Okay.

Jesse: Yeah.

Samantha: Yeah. But I do think that, you know, the friendships that we had and, and the experience of helping each other and teaching each other and working through things and just being there for each other was so formative and, and really made. Those four years at college like something that I look back on and wish other people could experience because it was, it was so important.

Jesse: I agree. It was nice. It was very, very nice.

Samantha: what is something that you want to share with our listeners or watchers? Some are also professional dancers. Some are much better and much more knowledgeable than the two of us and some are just starting their journey. so, what's, what's the, what is something that you wish you could say either up a level or down a level?

Jesse: I'd say for both levels, patience, something I've had to learn and I'm still learning. Whether it'd be through dancing or everyday life, just be patient with people because you never know what someone's going through. You don't know what level they're on or how long they've been doing or what they've been told.

So, whether you're dancing with someone who's brand new or someone went above your level, you both have to have patience with each other because I mean, you're both doing the same thing. You, you both love it. You're there for a reason you're dancing. So as long as you're dancing and you're happy, that's all that matters because when you look back and you can't dance anymore, and hopefully everyone can dance for the rest of their life until they die, but that's not always the case. You want to be able to remember the good things. And if you're not, if you're not patient and you don't give people patience, then it's, it's not going to be good.

You're not going to feel satisfied with how you approach them or how you handle things. Like you just like, we just went over well, you'll have regrets and things you wish you could change. But I think with patience, you can eliminate that from happening.

Samantha: Definitely. Definitely. Is there a moment or an interaction, that you look back on with either a coach or a fellow competitor where you're like, this could have gone really badly, but they handled the situation with patience and grace, and that taught me so much in the moment, versus if they hadn't had that reaction?

Jesse: some, maybe some coaches, I think it's more with partnerships, having different part in dance partners, and not letting, not letting your ego or your inexperience or their inexperience show or come out during a practice. I think that that's what really that's helped me grow because I've had partnerships, where is this?

It gets difficult to be around each other because even if it's not the closest, you want to get along with them because you're their dance partner and it just, yeah, that's that? I think that's, what's taught me the most patience is just being around people and students too, not just competitors or, or coaches.

Patience with students, because again, everyone's learning, everyone has their own ideas and thoughts. so, I just had to, I had to get used to that.

Samantha: Awesome.

Jesse: does, I think those are the biggest teachers in my life. Yeah, for sure.

Samantha: Definitely. Well, before we wrap up anything else that you want to chat about? Talk about any questions that you have, anything that you want to plug or make sure that the listeners are aware of?

Jesse: no, I was just interested in, I'm glad you brought me on your podcast. I got to see a couple of them before. I actually did the interview today. So, I don't, I'm going to keep watching them. That's awesome that you're doing this. I think it's great. I'm definitely going to spread the word around and try to get as many viewers as possible because this is an interesting concept.

And I think now, especially with COVID, you know, we need things like this, people to talk to and things to occupy our mind. I don't get different perspectives. how long have you been doing this though? What podcast number is this?

Samantha: Oh, that is a good number. That, that is a good question. I think you're going to be podcast 33. Let me check that actually real quick.

Jesse: Oh, wow.

Samantha: Yeah. So, I started back in April, end of April, I think. Yeah, you will be episode 33. This is, you are currently listening to episode 33 of the ballroom chat podcast. Yeah. So, I started this in April. I was live streaming dance lessons on Twitch for, for the beginning part of the pandemic when I was out of work and just needed something to do. And I was like, well, this is an emerging technology. It's not really used in this way, so why not? and then we were looking to kind of build out my schedule and had all of the, the equipment. So, it was like, well, let's, let's try a podcast. Let me call up Amanda. And let me see how she's doing. And we can just vent for an hour. And then, had James on and we talked West coast because I had a bunch of West coast questions and then. Called Marcos, my dress designer, my dress designer no, an amazing dress designer that puts up with me occasionally because I wanted to talk about, I just wanted to see how he was doing. and then it became a thing that kind of is just now its own thing that I happened to be a part of. and yeah, I. I've mentioned in a couple of episodes at this point. but the conversation that I had with Tony Nunez was kind of like the turning point for me, where it was like, I want this podcast to be about people sharing their stories and connecting with their experiences.

And if I can just kind of figure out a way to navigate through that, I'm happy. So, it was a project born out of boredom. That's now has a life of its own.

Jesse: That's awesome

Samantha: Yeah.

Jesse: Well, I look forward. I'm going to watch more of them, I look forward to seeing more. again, I've been, if there's any way I can help, I've got a little bit of marketing and graphic design as, expertise. So.

Samantha: Yeah. Yeah, we will. We will definitely be in touch. I will not let eight years go past again without, without catching up and connecting so. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Jesse.

Jesse: All right, no problem

Samantha: Thank you again to Jesse goodnight for being a guest on today's episode. If you want to follow his dance journey, you can do so using the links in the description box below. As always, I'm Samantha, I'm your host with Love Live Dance. You can find this and all of our podcast episodes at Ballroom Chat, and you can follow us across social media at Ballroom Chat on Facebook, Instagram, and very rarely on Twitter.

Like I said in the middle of the video, if you are in fact a Lambada expert, please go ahead and put your information in the comments below. We'd love to reach out to you.

Thank you guys so much for tuning in. As always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing very soon.