Reflecting on 2020 - Amanda Wolf

Samantha StoutDecember 30, 2020Ballroom Chat: Episode #34
Amanda Wolf ballroom chat

Amanda Wolf returns to commiserate and reflect on the unexpected challenges the dance industry faced in 2020. She and Samantha discuss the potential rebound of the wedding sector, the tough decisions facing professionals right now, and the reasons why ballroom dance is an important part of everyone's lives.

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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. This is the final episode of season one of the podcast. Don't worry, we're coming back for season two and we've already got some amazing guests lined up. So, I'm excited, super excited about that. Before I introduce today's guest, I want to give a big thank you to you, the listener or the watcher of this podcast. Thank you guys for your continued support of everything that we do with Ballroom Chat, whether that's giving a video a like, sharing it with your friends, making sure that you're subscribed to the YouTube channel, or following us on your podcast platform of choice. Maybe giving us a five star review on Apple podcast, whatever it might be to help support the podcast, thank you for doing that. Without you, none of this would be possible.

Today I am going all the way back to episode one. We brought back Amanda Wolf to catch up, see where the year went for her. We commiserate a little bit about 2020, make some hopeful projections for the future and give a little bit of reassurance to anyone that just started their ballroom dance journey and is finding themselves in the craziness that has been this past year. So, without further ado, let's jump into the conversation with a Amanda Wolf.

Well, thank you, Amanda so much for coming back and chatting with us again.

Amanda: Thanks for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

Samantha: So, for those of you listening or watching, you'll know that Amanda was our first ever guest on Ballroom Chat before it was even really called Ballroom Chat. I wanted to kind of bring her back for our season finale of season one to recap review and kind of talk about new things that have come up in the industry in the last Oh, my goodness.

So, since April, so last eight months, nine months, it feels like a long time.

Amanda: Yes, it does.

Samantha: So, so before we even get into like wrap up stuff, how are you, how are you now that we're in December and we've been in this thing since March.

Amanda: The longest year ever the longest I have my good days and bad days, you know, it's, it's a lot, I think, you know, when we first talked back in April, we really had no idea what we were really in.

And how long it was going to last. I know we definitely didn't think we would still be here in lockdown status. You know, by the time the holidays were hitting. So, it's. I think it's been a challenge for, for everybody in the creative fields, you know, creative performance arts theater, musicians, dancers, instructors, I think we've all just put through the wringer this year. I think that's the easiest way to put it.

Samantha: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I will insert a clip here.

Amanda: I'll never complain that I'm too busy during what never again, because

Samantha: Oh yeah.

Amanda: I think it's, it's interesting. I think there's just, there's a lot, a lot of uncertainty right now. And I think that that makes things hard.

Samantha: Yeah, definitely. I, I feel like. Normally in April, we would start to hit the point where it's like, I'm kept out. I'm teaching my 40 hours. I can't take on other clients who can I hire on to help. But this year being like, well, Hopefully, I'll see you May 1st. Maybe I'll see you June 1st. Hopefully we will be back by July 15th. I don't think you need to reschedule your August wedding yet, but I don't know

How naive we were, because back on that first episode, we were talking about wedding couples and how we were counseling them. And it was just Yeah, we'll be back. We'll be back by 1st of May. We'll be back by 1st of June. We'll definitely be back by July.

Amanda: Postpone your wedding by like two months and you'll be fine. You know, wishful thinking, very, very wishful thinking on all of our parts.

Samantha: Were you able to still work with a couple of wedding clients this year or have all of your couples postponed to 2021 or, or years farther out?

Amanda: I would say a lot of them postponed and some are not able to, and I really felt for my couples there were some that, you know, postponing, wasn't an option due to not being able to get their money back or the venue or vendors. They, you know, they just couldn't swing it. And I felt really bad. I had several brides breaking down in tears in my studio because they didn't want to have their weddings. They wanted to be able to have their weddings the normal way. Well, you know, be leading up to a wedding your life is hectic, and it could be that, you know, you're planning on moving or you're not going to be in this city that you're living in where your wedding is happening.

You've got life plans that are going to keep on going on, and it doesn't matter if you have a party planned. I had brides that had family members threatening to call the COVID police on their wedding if they went through with it. Crazy things, you know, that brought out a lot of emotions in people. I think, surprised people.

It was it's tough, you know, and I think the ones that went through with their wedding. You know, definitely didn't get to have the experience that they wanted to have with it. But definitely did not want to risk postponing just to deal with it. Anyways. I think a lot of my couples that postponed you know, six months, when that came time for them to still have their wedding, they were still dealing with it. And I kind of regretted that because what was the point of postponing if you're still going to be trying to have a wedding during a pandemic. And I think it was really tough. I think the couples that w, you know, postponed that were maybe young enough or had the situation where, you know, what's another being engaged for another year or two, I think for them you know, they're going to be able to have the weddings that they want. But I think for some couples that just wasn't possible.

Samantha: Yeah. Speaking of some couples that decided to still get married, regardless of the pandemic, Congratulations.

Amanda: Thank you. Yeah. So, we had our very immediate family ceremony. It was, we are not in our early twenties, so we decided to just go ahead and get married. Definitely was not the wedding we thought we were going to have. I'm glad that we did it in some ways. Also, kind of sad we didn't get to have a wedding shower or a reception.

I teach wedding dancing for a living and I had no dancing at my wedding if it felt really weird. Definitely wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I know, I know my eyes are bugging out too. But we do have plans to have a reception. It's just. We'll see what it ends up actually being, it might just be a party where we have live music and just, we just have a party.

I don't know. I have no idea. We haven't gotten that far yet.

Samantha: So, so you ended up just doing like a small thing, just ceremony and then reception TBD.

Amanda: Yeah.

Samantha: Nice.

Amanda: We did. We ended up planning it within a couple of weeks and just move forward with it. Really small backyard outdoor wedding. We had friends of mine that were gracious enough to let us have our wedding at their beautiful vineyard estate where I grew up and it was beautiful outdoor. It was great. It was really, really nice. And my dance partner, Andrew actually performed the ceremony. So, it was nice.

Samantha: Anything that you learned going through that process yourself as a bride that you hadn't realized your couples that are planning weddings would have to go through? Or anything from the decision-making process that you look back now, and you're like, Oh, now I understand why this was always a stressor for my couples?

Or maybe this is something that in the industry, I wish we could find a better way of doing, because if it's bugging me, I know it's bugging my clients.

Amanda: Oh, I would say that no matter how big or small your wedding is, you need a day of coordinator.

I thought, Hey, small wedding. It's going to be really easy. It will be fine. Everybody will figure out what needs to be done. It'll be good. And that was a huge mistake. I should have absolutely hired a go-to person to answer questions or be there when the flowers get delivered. So, it's. You know, I would just say don't underestimate the power of a wedding planner and how necessary they could be.

I think that's a difference between having a wedding that is relaxed versus stressed out. And it doesn't matter how many people were going to be there. You're still putting on a ceremony or a wedding or reception. It's still, it still has a lot of moving parts and it's helpful to have somebody that their one and only job is to make sure everything goes smoothly. So, I think that was my biggest regret. I should've, I should've known to do that, but I didn't. So

Samantha: it's, it's the fault of us a strong, independent women. Like we can just handle it. We can take care of it. It'll be fine. Then midway through the weeds were like, we really needed some help.

Amanda: Yeah. And that's yeah. That's, that's the downfall of being. Strong independent girl, sometimes we're too strong and independent. So

Samantha: there you go. Looking forward to 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024. Offline. You had mentioned that there was an NPR article that came out that said that the travel and entertainment industry probably wouldn't fully rebound until 2024.

Do you think that's going to be the same course or the dance industry as far as weddings and social students? Or do you think because ballroom dancing is a hobby that so many people find value in that we'll be able to bounce back a little bit faster.

Amanda: I think we could bounce back faster. I think there will always be weddings. I think there'll always be a need for celebrations. I think. People need dancing. And I think because of that, the motivating factors to get things back on track are going to be there sooner than say really large concerts or really large sporting events or people traveling for Mardi Gras or something on that level. What I do see taking a little bit longer is the unfortunate ripple effect that has been put into place as far as the physical locations for us to do the things we love out of. Studios are closing theaters are closing stages. You know, local music venues, they're closing.

And I think what is a really real fear is that yes, we are all patient. Yes, it'll come back. But. The fear is will there be a place to go back to, are there going to be those same studios that we know and love that are going to still be open or they're going to be those small, awesome open mic night music venues for us to go back to.

And I think that's a discussion that really needs to be had is the position that the owners of those places are being put into. You know, especially when there's a lack of funding for our industry, the entertainment industry, and really what it means to be a competition organizer, to be an event organizer, to be a studio owner. What really truly goes into that is so the tip of the iceberg. So many people don't realize. What is on the line personally, for these people, their homes, their wellbeing, their, everything they own is up for collateral for these businesses and these places to stay open. That there's no pause button for that.

And I think that that is really, I think the ripple effect from what is happening right now might take a long time to totally recover because. Who's going to really be raring and to open up another large studio business when they've just lost everything. I, you know, so I think, I think those are parts of the equation that aren't really getting talked about right now.

Samantha: Yeah. Well, and it's two-fold, right? It's the financial implications of someone having to close down their studio and then, you know, not having had that income for the last year, potentially year and a half, depending on how long it takes for us to recover. If they're even in the financial place to open up another studio or open up a space.

And then also just the emotional toll of knowing that something like this could happen again, right. The ground could be ripped from underneath us again. And it was made pretty clear to everyone in the arts industry. The there's not a bailout that's made for us. Right. So, so many colleagues, we were talking about the difference between pandemic unemployment assistance, which was essentially filing for unemployment as an independent contractor versus the pay.

The PPP, the paycheck protection program, if you weren't an independent contractor, everything that happened with the small business loans that were supposed to go to small businesses and then didn't, you know, it, it was, I think it was made very clear if you were in arts and entertainment, we're in this space where we're not being a, we're not a priority to be helped and we're just expected to help ourselves. And that's not the case. A lot of a lot of artists are living paycheck to paycheck. They don't have a fund where they can suddenly be out of work for six months. They're already doing two or three jobs. You know, these are gig work and gig workers.

So. Well, I mean, what, what do we do if we don't know that we're going to be okay in the future?

Amanda: Yeah. And those second and third jobs are being affected because a lot of performers when they don't have gigs, they're, they're waitresses, they're bartenders, they're food, service workers. And. Well, the restaurant industry is being hit really hard too.

So, you know, it's hard because, you know, we, we aren't deemed essential workers. We're told, you know, Oh, you, you you've just got a fun job. Well, say that to somebody who's dedicated their lives to it. They have just as large of student loans as somebody with a nursing degree but we were told, Oh, you know, we're entertainment where we're not essential.

Just wait it out. You'll be able to like, you know, get a real job in the meantime. And then when this all comes back; you can work again. And I think that really hurts a lot of us. I don't think people realize how painful that is to hear. I know I have been feeling with, you know, the feelings of. Is my career valid. What have I been doing my whole career?

Because you take away the need for what I do, and what's the point of my knowledge? I have musician friends that I have been talking to about how, you know, what's the use of having a degree from Julliard if there's no concerts to go to. What is the point of having these talents unless they're necessary. It's hard to hear that because we feel that our jobs and our careers do good and we bring good things to people's lives. And to hear that, you know, you have to shut down, you're not essential. You're not important right now. That's painful for a lot of people.

The longer and longer this goes, the harder it becomes to stay with it and stay positive.

Samantha: Yeah. And, and that's not to say that are we truly necessary where we are still, we are still offering a luxury product. But our jobs are valid. Our career choices are valid and that there's it, it, I find it almost insulting when a restaurant is allowed to be open 75% capacity, 80% capacity. And everyone is masks off inside, but they're six feet apart. So, it's okay. And that is allowed to happen, but the gyms and the dance studios and the dance schools and the art schools and the music academies are told you're too high risk.

We can't have you open even though you know, how to properly disinfect and space everyone out and keep masks on and follow the same pro safe safety protocol. I love the restaurant industry. I want to support the restaurant industry. I love small businesses. I want to have the mom and pop stationary open, but.

It's like, where, where do you draw the line and where do you say you're okay to be open because your, a valid part of our capitalist society, and you're not allowed to be open because you're artists and you aren't going to be contributing as much to the financial Institute.

Amanda: I agree completely. I think it's, it's. Very hard as to, you know, understanding why is my small business any more or less important than the next small business? What have I given up that, that person hasn't given up, what, you know, sacrifices at the end of the day are any better or less than that person's? You know, we, we all love our businesses.

We all care so much for these we've given everything we have for them. We're protective of them. And that is where I think it's, it's very tough. And I think as business owners, especially in the arts and entertainment industry or just gathering of people, events, we ride this really fine line of, with these restrictions of moral versus necessity.

Morally, I don't think any of us want our clients to get sick. Morally. We know that this virus is something that needs to be stopped and morally, we care about everybody around us, but we also have necessities and we also have our names signed on scary documents and contracts. And I think some of these, you know, organizers, I think people don't really understand that they're probably not sleeping at night.

They might not want to have these events, but they're contracted to, and unless the restrictions get them out of it, they have to have these, they have to go forward. And the only option is to move forward safely. And it's stressful. And you know, if you have studio rent, which we need a lot of space, which means a really high overhead, we're not willing to lose our houses over this.

I mean, this is where it comes down to. Yeah. You're going to be really mad at the restrictions, especially when you see inconsistencies from one business to the next, when you're risking losing everything. And I, and I see people getting really mad at the government, really mad at the restrictions and really, it's the virus that we're all mad at.

It's just hard to really know where that line is and what stance we want to take. And I think people are risking being seen as. You know, this must be a hoax or, you know, or anti mask because they want to stay open. And really, they, they, they're scared. They're scared of losing everything if they don't stay open. And I think it's a, it's a really bad position we've all been put in.

Samantha: And to go along with that, it's a lack of control, right? You don't, you don't have the choice necessarily, or, or the, you have two choices and both of them are bad about whether to stay open and risk exactly what you said. Either looking like you don't believe that this is a thing, or potentially having someone in or care, get this or yourself, get it.

Or someone within their extended family, get the virus as a result of being in that space. Or not working and not having that paycheck and not being able to pay your bills. It's just a hard, it's a hard decision either way. With competitions, it's, I'm so torn because again, you're right. They have contracts. If, if they can't get out of their requirement with the hotel. Well, the option a is hold the event, cross your fingers, hold your breath. That nobody gets sick as a result of it. And make it through the year or pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for an event that you weren't able to hold. That's not a good position for anyone to be in.

And I don't, I don't have the right answer. I don't know if it's government oversight. If it's as an industry, we need to pull together to support each other. If it's, you know, relying on neighbors and neighborhoods. Hoping for good Samaritans to step in and act on everyone's best behalf, but it's, it's a lot of frustration, it's a lot of fear and we don't know when it's going to. And, and I think that's, that's the worst part of that, because if we knew that it was going to be over in a month, that's one thing. Obviously in April, we thought it was going to be over by the end of the summer. And that wasn't the case.

Amanda: And I think that is what is mentally so taxing on people is that there is no end in sight.

We don't know when this is going to end. It's not this. Oh, I just have three more weeks to get through this. I guess I can say strong. I can do this. It's you know, for myself personally, I don't want to lose my studio. I don't want to lose my space. I love my studio. I'm holding onto it with the hope that it's going to come back. But I, I not knowing when that come back date is going to be, I'm getting to the point where I got to come face to face with reality that, Hey, can you really afford five more months, six more months of studio rent without really generating enough lessons to make it worth it. Those are the things that I personally am going through it.

I know I'm not alone on that. No, it's just that the no end in sight. It's hard. Now we have, we have talks of this vaccine and I'm very optimistic. I know I definitely don't have another year of this in me. I think. I think at the thought of adding a whole nother 2021, like this, I mean like the thought of it makes me want to like totally lose my mind, but I think everybody feels that way though.

Samantha: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. I want to, I want to put a positive, hopeful spin on this in a moment, but before we get there, let's go worst case scenario. What would you do if we get to the June 2021 and we're still in the middle of this? Do you have a backup option? Do you know where you would retrain or w where you would go into, or would that just be a decision for mid-2021?

Amanda: Ooh, that's a good question. I think I honestly, at that point, I, if it becomes June and we're S there's, if there were in the same situation, where are right now, where there is, Hey, it's still not, there's no sight of it getting better. Cases in June's cases are still spiking and it's just. It's crazy.

I mean, at that point, I'll have to put the emotional side away, and the financial realistic side of me is going to have to take over. At that point, I would probably have to close. I don't foresee being able to just indefinitely keep paying rent.

I did get the EIDL loan, which is great, but it's a loan. I have to pay that back. I have to pay that back with interest. And I know a lot of the studio owners at least that I'm in contact with, Hey, in our industry, we 1099 people. We have independent contractors; a lot of studios don't have employees. And unfortunately, that means you don't get the PPE. We, studios that, have a huge staff.

You know, it's just, it's better for us gig workers, you know, to be on that 1099 its perfectly legal. It's great. But a lot of us didn't get that PPE. We didn't get that free money. So, we're, you know, all of the money that we were able to get, and the funding we're able to get, we all have to pay back and that is.

I mean to me, it's not fair, but it is, unless something changes, it is what it is. And there's only so much of that available. So,

Samantha: so positive spin or at least attempt at positive spin time. A lot of corporate businesses are loving this stay at home, work from home. We've proven over the last 10 months, hopefully that work from home is a viable option for, for those that were in traditional nine to five jobs, which means there should hypothetically be a lot of corporate lease space available.

Starting once we can bounce back. One of the things that you mentioned, and it's definitely a shared frustration is for studio owners and for dance instructors, we need a lot of space. And there was a boom. I was listening to a podcast and the name of the podcast is going to escape me, but it's John Roderick and I believe it was Merlin Mann (update: the podcast is "Roderick on the Line"). They were talking about the fact that in the seventies, I believe, in the rust belt when essentially really traditional economics in those cities fell into decline. A lot of warehouse space was suddenly available, and it was purchased by mostly artists because you could get a lot of space for not a lot of money, deep in the heart of these cities. Which then led to, as they put it dancers in legwarmers and studio spaces in the eighties but there's a potential that if the work from home model stays en-vogue, that suddenly we'll be able to get decent real estate, hopefully at a decent price.

Amanda: In great locations

Samantha: and great locations. So that could lead to a second boom of dance studios and dance industries in these cities. Do you think that that's a potential positive outcome? Or do you think that landlords are going to Jack up the prices? Because they've lost their rental income for the last year and a half?

Amanda: I do. I mean, the always positive side of me is always going to look toward that. It's like, yes, we can get storefront, like areas that we normally wouldn't get. I'm very excited as somebody whose studio was affected by gentrification. I had an inner-city studio and yeah, we got pushed out. You can't be neighbors with Google and Starbucks and all these big tech companies.

You know, for long before the landlords want that kind of money. I am hopeful that we, as artists will be able to access and have affordable access to studio space in the cities, because I think it is so important for us to be able to offer what we can not only in the suburbs, not always in the rich areas.

I think it's important that we are able to have and give access to the inner-city community and share what we do. I think that is so important. And it was something that, you know, really was a motivating factor for me to stay in the city. And because I just feel so strongly about that. I think it's necessary for there to be dance options, you know, for people of all income levels in the city.

So, I am very hopeful for that. I can't say that. How landlords are going to react to it. Are they going to take what they can get as far as rent or are they going to be charging more to make up for things? I don't know. I know that there are different real estate laws in different States. I know that there is at least where we're located there's a nice tax break Whether you have a tenant or not. So, there's a lot of, there's a lot of empty storefronts and a lot of empty commercial buildings in, in our area because of that, because they don't really need to. I think that's, that's just going to be different in different States and different areas.

So, I I'm really hoping that, Hey, these landlords are going to see as these people want to rent my space and it's empty, so let's give it to them. Yeah.

Samantha: I want to pivot a little bit. Let's talk a little bit about different motivations for learning dance. Had Sam Sodano on in a previous episode for those of you that are listening to this podcast right now Jesse Goodnight and I also kind of talked about very briefly the same phenomenon, which is that when you suddenly become a dance teacher, you find out pretty quickly that you're not teaching people that want to dance. You're teaching people that; want to socialize, would like to pick up a new hobby, are trying to lose weight, have always wanted to feel like a pretty-pretty princess and this is their opportunity to, that are learning to dance for their wedding, that are trying to survive a potential divorce situation, that just want to get out and do something and they saw a sign on the street and they thought, why not? So. What are some of the different motivations that your students have had for coming into dance that have kind of surprised or shocked you either in a good way or a bad way.

And how, how do you navigate that first client experience? Do you tailor how you teach your students differently based on what you're hearing and what you're processing about, why they're coming in through the door?

Amanda: Absolutely. I actually love that you brought that up. I think it is why we are essential.

Why we are so important. And what we do is so valid and what is so important because it is so rarely about the dancing. When people come through that door and. It has always been, my motivation is to find the why find out why. And I've taught my staff that, you know, why, why did they come through the door? Because it probably wasn't just because they want to learn that one move in ChaCha. That's, I think in most of the time dancing is like the side effect. It's the side benefit to the dance lessons. It is not the dancing, it's what you get from the dancing. And that why be a divorce widowed. I'm new to the community. I don't know anybody. I just moved here. It could be lonely. It could be a way to, you know, work on your social skills. I mean, there's so many. And physical benefits. Somebody who I've worked with Alzheimer's patients, dementia patients’ people with Parkinson's, physical benefits from it. I think it, it it's, we, we are so important, and I think it's easy for us to forget that we are the source of so much joy for so many of our clients that I, I think it's easy for us to lose sight of, of that and how important we really truly are and how essential to life to many people's lives we are as dance teachers. I think, I think we are very, very important.

Samantha: So how do you navigate that?

Amanda: Yes, I do. I do. How do I navigate it? Yes, I, I do alter how I teach. If I know somebody is there and I think learning dancing is probably the lowest part of the priority list of why they're there. You know, I'm not going to bore them with toe heel, heel, toe technique to death because that's not why they're there. They're there to talk. I mean, I have clients that they're talking from the time they get there to the time they leave, and we do a little dancing.

And if that is what makes them happy and that, and I'm fulfilling their need, that's great. And I think the biggest disservice that we could provide our students and our clients is to not listen to them and tailor to their needs. Being a cookie cutter teacher and just spitting out information no matter who, or what or why they're there? I think we're not really living up to the full benefit of what we can be offering and, and the impact in their lives we could be making. I think we, you know, we teach, but we also listen just as much, and we absorb so much from our students. I learned so much from my students life lessons.

I got some of the best advice, you know, in life and just everything in general from my students. I've learned so much over the years and I've had some really wise people come through my door. They've really changed my life. And I'm very grateful for that. I feel like I've given them just as much as they've given me.

And I definitely, I definitely think it's important to alter how you teach and take that in consideration.

Samantha: Yeah. Have you ever had a piece of advice or, or something that a client has said that you can point to and say. That conversation changed how I approached teaching, where, how I approach this technique concept, because they, they used it in such a different way when they were explaining it back to me that it was just like, I've never thought about it in that way before and now that's a cornerstone of how I think about it. An example, one of my students, I think was taking golf lessons or it's very into golf as a hobby at the same time that he was taking dance lessons. And he was very much in to the technique. So we were talking about technique and I think in the waltz we were working on swing and sway, just like a very base entry.

And he's like, Oh, so the hip action is like when you're preparing for a golf swing, because you have to bring your hips through in a different way than your upper body. Yes. Yes. That is exactly. Let's talk about that. Let's, let's roll with that. And I found myself now with older male clients going, do you golf by any chance? Okay. Let's talk about it this way. Or, or, you know Toe balancing on the balls of your feet in a sidestep, in a Rumba box. Did you ever play football? Okay. You know, the football ready position. That's where I want you to be. Just straighten your knees a little bit for me. So have you ever had those moments where.

Amanda: Yes. I think our students shape how we teach and the teachers we become based on who we work with and us ladies, we're, our bread and butter are those older gentlemen, and yes, they are golfers. They are, you know, past football players. We've got that for sure. It actually, when I was a really young baby teacher.

One of the most defining students I ever had was my, one of my first competitive students, actually, he was a brilliant engineer, worked for Harley Davidson. He was the chief designer for the Harrier jet. Brilliant man. I am not a math and science person, I'll be the first one to tell you, I am way too creative. I am so not that, but my students and I have taught so many engineers to the point where within the first 15 minutes, just the way somebody accepts information, I can tell if they're an engineer or not, shaped how I teach. And even though my brain doesn't think the way an engineer's might. The way I give out information is, is that is in that funnel.

I teach very literal, which is funny because I'm, that's not how I accept the information in the first place. I'll spit it out that way, but when I'm learning it, that's not the way I can accept it. So it's funny how my teachers have, or my students have taught me how to teach. It's very, it's a funny, Cycle how it all works. And yeah, I would say a lot of those, those analogies that come from them that I'm like, no, why did your mind go there? But damn, that makes sense. And it ends up working out and making sense for me too.

Samantha: Yeah.

Amanda: And now I'm married to an engineer's like go figure. So

Samantha: yeah. Opposites attract. Yeah. You have to have a balance of artistic brain and mathematic science brain. No that works. Do you, he doesn't dance, does he? Or, or have you started getting him to dance?

Amanda: He's actually the first one, my life that is willing to really dance. Yes. And he's good at it. It's just a matter of time. He was all about having like a first dance and he wants to dance like he's, but he, he goes he does.

I know he's very engineered above it though, which makes me laugh every time I work with him. But I think, yeah, he's got the potentials there for sure.

Samantha: That's awesome. I went to throw an idea past you. Is it something that's been kind of rattling around in my brain for, for a couple of months after, I forget if it was a student or if someone on the podcast mentioned this kind of as an idea, and it just kind got stuck in there as ideas do.

Because we have a lot of couples that we teach. that are coming in not because they want to be world Rumba champions, but they just want to be able to dance comfortably in their kitchen. Do you think there's a time and place to throw the syllabus rulebook out the window and just get them moving? And then come back to, this is a Rumba box. This is a ChaCha, basic. This is a Salsa basic at a later date in time. Or do you think that the structure is there because it works?

Amanda: I think that is the defining characteristic of a great instructor, knowing when to break the rules and how to bring them back when the time is right. I'm very happy to hear that you're at that point. Yes, I feel that is, is the, just the defining characteristics of a great teacher is knowing when to break the rules for that student and customizing for that student because.

Somebody who works, I mean, we work with people's bodies. We work, we train people how to move their bodies and stuff. Students, you just got to get them moving and then you can tweak it. You know, you just got to get the car in gear and moving before you can start adjusting the steering wheel, you have to do that.

And that is tailoring for what that student needs, because. I have seen many beginning instructors overwhelm their students with look how much I know. Look at this great technique. I'm going to, I'm going to give you every little detail there is, and that person is overwhelmed. They'll now, they're scared of how much there is to know when you could have already had them doing the box and then snuck it in and had them progress.

And I think that's just comes with experience and being able to change and be fluid in your ability to transfer information in a way that a student needs that.

Samantha: Yeah, I'm still, I'm still playing with the idea because I feel like it's. It's so comfortable on a, on a day one lesson to be like, okay, this is the basic box. This is the rotating box. This is an underarm turn. Now we're going to go to single time swing let's do a basic, let's get you rotating. Let's do a, a left turn and a right turn.

Okay, you know the basics. But then they walk out the door and they don't remember it. And it's like, I can sell you a five-lesson package. I can sell you a 10-lesson package, but you came in and you just wanted to dance comfortably in your kitchen to, you know, Florida Georgia line or something, and we could have done a two-step shuffle and just had you dancing together and you would have used that.

And it would have been easier for me to then say, come back. We'll add on a turn next time, come back we'll add on a little bit more structure next time. But the dancer in me is like, no, don't do it.

The syllabus is gold. Stay with the syllabus.

Amanda: I started doing that actually a couple of years ago. And I felt really weird and guilty, like I was going off track. And I realized that I think my fear was in giving them what they truly want right away, that they won't come back and that I need to give them the structure that I was taught. And this is how you teach people. And I was so in the, literally stuck in the box of this is how you teach. And something just kind of pulled me out of that and said, now give them what they want.

They, they want to be able to do this and you know what? I still have that couple. I still teach them, and it started off with us doing a little shuffle so they could dance romantically in their kitchen and. Just because we get bored doesn't mean that they are bored. And that was actually something that I've started to realize now that I have a husband that dances and how much I was missing out on a huge aspect of dancing, which is that intimate, romantic part of it.

I'd never had that before. And I never got that. Now I understand that it's nice just being in your husband's arms dancing. And not doing a turn, just the basic. Well, yeah, it was boring when you're not romantically connected to your partner. Of course, it's boring. But when it's your romantic partner, it's really nice.

So, there is definitely times when I realized, okay, I was giving them all of these patterns and all these things when maybe they were happy with the basic and maybe that was okay for them at that time. And wait until they get bored, not us. And just because we're bored, watching them do a basic for 45 minutes doesn't mean that they are and taking that in consideration.

Yeah, it's a mental journey, I guess, being a teacher and falling into your own versus what you've been taught to do in your career. When to. Break away and become your own. And when that's sometimes where you're, where you are actually going to really shine.

Samantha: Yeah. Well, and it goes back.

Amanda: So, I say go for it!

Samantha: Awesome. I just, I just needed your stamp of approval. That's all I was really looking for. Well, and, and a theme that has come up over several episodes is that feeling of like imposter syndrome. And I feel like it's very difficult to break with the structure when you have that idea, if you are in a mixed studio environment, because you're suddenly like very aware.

Nobody's really paying attention to what you're doing, but you are very aware that other people in the room might notice that you're just teaching them a modified Merengue basic for 45 minutes. And, and maybe you're having it. You're putting on waltz music and Texas two-step music and cha-cha music and swing music. And you're just having them do the same shuffle step back and forth and back and forth. And it's like, I now have to justify that I really am a professional instructor around my colleagues when that's what the student may be needed in that moment. Then it's not about your knowledge. It's about what the student needs.

Amanda: Oh, I definitely can sympathize with that for sure. I even, you know, thinking about, okay, if I ever have to get out of the comfort of my own safe studio, where I'm the boss and I'm the owner. Yeah, or is it going to be weird teacher out other people doing my own thing, you know, because I have really evolved into my own thing.

And you're right. Nobody's looking at your lessons. Nobody, they're busy in their own lessons. And I understand that that feeling is the imposter syndrome hits you in many forms. It could be. As an instructor, I could be as it just a professional, it could be as a business owner. It could be in a lot of ways and that's, it's definitely something that I've become the name, naming, putting a name to imposter syndrome is something that is new for me, but it's definitely something I've dealt with for a lot of my career that, that little voice of doubt.

That can chip away, and chip away and really have a big impact on your success. Meanwhile, there's people that don't have that that are probably half as great as you off and doing it without even a care in the world and they're doing it, you know, it's, we're, we're we can very easily be our own worst enemies.

Samantha: Definitely. Definitely. Talking about tailoring lessons to the student that's in front of you. Another kind of theme that has come up is the idea of under having a body awareness, not only for yourself, but also for your students and how different experience levels, different injury histories just different movement abilities can really impact how you approach teaching ballroom dance.

Are you willing to talk about some of the injuries that you've had in the past and kind of how that has impacted how you teach and how you currently dance?

Amanda: Yes. Oh gosh. Well, I have, I think that the most significant injury is my foot injuries. Some that so when I was about 19, I was the first time I noticed I had a, a foot issue or foot injury.

And I cracked a bone in my foot back then, then, cause you're 19, you put high heels back on you ignore it, take some Advil and you're 19. So, you get over it really quick. And then it happened again, but to both feet, I Shattered actually the sesamoid bones in both feet and another bone in the, you know, the ball of the foot as well.

And that happened actually, while I was competing pretty actively in American rhythm. And I was scared for anybody to know so I kept that under wraps because I was not going to be the girl with broken feet, and I was not going to let that stop us. We were, you know, competing a lot. We were doing well. I had a great doctor that understood my crazy at the time and pumped me full of cortisone and sent me on my way and never really healed.

It was crazy. And then it happened again a few years ago. I went in thinking, okay, I'm in pain. I just need some cortisone shots. Well, that was the one that did it. And I very quickly realized that I was on borrowed time. And if I ever wanted to keep dancing, I need to pretty much. Not ever wear high heels outside of the dance, you know, arena ever again.

So, I am Ms. Orthotics. I wear comfy shoes. I teach in comfy shoes. I only wear heels if necessary and I have to take really good care of my feet. That's just that some people have bad knees from dancing, bad shoulders, mine is my feet. So, yeah. Yeah. That's, that's been my, my struggle and my hindrance. It has stopped me from pursuing professional partnerships. Because to me it just wasn't fair to any partner that I would have if I was going to be constantly dealing with an injury as much as it killed me and it to, because I still felt I had many years left in me. I stopped dancing profession because of that.

Samantha: Do you,

Amanda: I dance with students and compete pro-am, but that's it.

Samantha: Do you, because of, because of that experience and just kind of, because of a hyper awareness of the impact of heels, the fact that dance, dancing in heels and walking in heels had for you, do you have kind of an intake form now with your students about like I need, tell, tell me all of the things that is wrong so that I know how to protect you, or do you just let that happen as part of a natural conversation in that first lesson?

Amanda: No, I do. I, because I want to know if I'm dancing with them and they've got, I don't want to exacerbate that because that could cause somebody to stop taking lessons and that's your income. So, I think it's, it's wise to, and it's responsible, but also morally right. I mean, you want to know if somebody's got a bad back, you're not going to go into, you're not going to do a showcase move where they're going to pick you up over their head.

It's just not going to happen. So yeah, I would say, yeah, I absolutely do talk to my clients, you know, especially when I know what their goals are, you know, some. Some dance goals are, if they're just, Oh, I just want to go on social dance every now and then. Well, they're probably not going to do much that's going to really exasperate too many injuries, but if they, they, they want to compete.

They want to take this stuff seriously. Yeah. That's necessary to know.

Samantha: Do you have partnerships with any like orthopods or sports physios that you can refer to people to, if you have someone that comes in and is like, yes, I want to compete. Competition is my goal, but I've had any replacement or I'm currently in rehab for my foot, or I have fused vertebrae in my spine and that's probably going to impact what we're doing.

Do you have people that you reach out to, or is that more something that you just have a one-on-one conversation and kind of navigate on your own?

Amanda: I mean, I have the foot doctor that I know saved my career and I have told everybody in the world I know about him. I'm also a great advocate for quite possibly the dorkiest tennis shoes ever, but they're Hocas and they were what I wore instead of surgical boots on both feet for my recovery.

And so, I tell everybody in the world about those. Yeah, so I do, and then I had a really great Chiropractor, but he moved away, and we do have a really great massage therapist that used to work on my studio and I refer a lot of people to him. So, I think it's important, but also that, you know, people are going to go with who they feel comfortable too. I mean, if they have a chiropractor they know, and love and go see them.

Samantha: So, we talked in the beginning about how 2020 has just been a crazy year. For college graduates that maybe were dance majors and this is what they wanted their career path to be, or for people that just walked into a franchise studio at the end of 2019, and they're starting their career path. What, what advice would you give to folks that are just starting in the dance world? With regards to 2020, or just in general about how to navigate this, this craziness that we've kind of all found ourselves in.

Amanda: Yes. As somebody who's been in it for a long time. I'm 16 and a half years teaching, I should say. I also started at teaching at a rather young age. So, I've been through some stuff in this, nothing like a pandemic, but I've been through, been through it rare in different ways. New cities, new studios recession.

I mean, I taught through that to stick with it. It's trying to see this as. A way to better yourself and make your business, whether you're an independent or your career as an instructor at somebody else's studio is bulletproof. You survived this, you know, you're getting through this. There is a lot that helped me get through this because from being a professional during the 2008 recession. You get creative when it gets scary when you have a studio and you have nobody coming in, it's, you're really creative. And I think if you allow yourself to let that creativity, that fear, motivate you, that fear of, oh my gosh, I'm going to lose my career. You can come up with some really interesting things. Would that be new classes?

Maybe that's a move to a new city. Maybe that's taking a job from, for somebody that maybe the pandemic hasn't really affected that badly. You know, dancing is really strong in that city. Maybe it's going to be a long recovery for you and yours. Take that leap of faith and, and go to a new city, try something different.

Let this be something that can make your career stronger in the future, because if you love it, you're going to stick with it. Even people who have been dancing and teaching for a long time, we've all thought about what life would be without it. And we've all pondered that, and it pulls us all back and it keeps us all in we're all lifers here.

And if you really love it, you're probably a lifer too. So just like you, Samantha, so you, you relocated. You were in Fairmont and you taught in Pittsburgh and then you moved to Salt Lake City. What was that like?

Samantha: It was interesting. So, the move to salt Lake city was not my doing, it was my hubby's doing, we moved out here for a job. No connections, no family, no, we hadn't been out to visit prior. We just kind of up and moved. And similar to the realization moving from Fairmont to Pittsburgh, where it was, you know, big fish in a small pond to small fish in a big pond. I feel like I went from small fish in a medium sized pond in Pittsburgh to like minnow in the open ocean that is Utah.

I mean, I, I, I don't have any professional titles. I don't have any amateur titles. And I'm suddenly in an environment where, you know, you're, you're next to the factory that is BYU and UVU. So, for me, it was finding a studio of an environment that that was going to be conducive to growing as, as an individual and as a, as a teacher, which luckily I found at Ballroom Utah and then just really putting on a lot of armor early on to say, like, I'm confident in what I know, and I know what I don't know, and I'm going to find the resources to help fill in some of those gaps. And I'm not going to let other people's opinions of how much I don't know, affect what I do now. And that's a, I mean, that's like imposter syndrome in bright neon lights. But I also took the move to Salt Lake City.

Amanda: I think that's beautiful. I do. I think the way you, just, the way that you just attacked that I think could be so inspiring. For people that are, you know, first starting or also getting their feet wet in a new city. And I think also because as women, married women, we might sometimes have to relocate for our husbands. And that is a scary thing.

And I think you did it with grace and class and look at you got your own podcast. It's amazing. I'm so proud of you.

Samantha: We're getting there. We're getting there. Yeah. I think the scarier thing, honestly for me, was the decision to go from working as a staff member for Ballroom Utah to building my own brand as an independent instructor for Love Live Dance. Honestly, I think that was the move that I was more terrified of. Because at least, working for someone else, your clients are filtered to you. You may not be getting the hours that you want. You may not be getting the types of clients that you, that you want or have control over your schedule or, or whatever, but at least there's work there.

Whereas when I made the decision to go fully independent and build my own brand, that was really me saying. I'm confident enough in myself and in the product that I sell, that I will be okay without anyone handing clients to me. And that's terrifying. But, if you are the type of person that likes to have control in your life, it's amazing.

And it's the best decision because you are 100% in control of what product you're selling, what your brand is, how you are known, what your name is associated with, what your hours are, what your clientele is. You have control over absolutely everything. So, it's like a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Amanda: It is. It is. And I always said that I don't work well for others. Because I was kind of thrown into working at as an independent contractor, like probably way too soon. I worked; I was working as an employee of a studio. And then that studio went under and, or they retired, and it was kind of like, okay, if I want to keep doing this, I got to go independent, I guess.

And that was wild and crazy, but I started early enough age that I also don't know what it's like to work for people. I love working for myself. It's, it's almost, it's a way of life for me. It's all I know. It's all I really want to know. I love it. But it's not for everybody and being the owner of a studio that all my staff was independent contractors.

Not everybody could hang, not everybody had that ability to see it as an asset being your own boss as a, is it a means of opportunity. And it was very clear as to what, which staff members had it in them, and which ones didn't. Yeah, the ones that waited for clients to like, be given to them or did the bare minimum you can do.

And then the ones that ran with it and are awesome and go off and do their own thing. That's, that's really cool to see.

Samantha: Well, and it comes back to that idea of you can be a dancer, you can be an educator, you can be a businessperson. You can be a combination of all three. You can be a combination of two, or you can choose to just be one.

If you know that you personally are the type of person that you are an educator, but you don't want to have to do any of the marketing. You don't want to have to do any of the advertising. You don't want to have to do. QuickBooks looks like you are just there to teach then a studio with a structure where you are a staff member, and they fill your schedule is perfect. That's ideal because you're doing the thing that you like and you, aren't having to deal with all of the stuff that you don't like. If you are a dancer and you just want to dance and you just want to compete, great, you can be a sponsored competitor and you can dance your little Tootsies off, and that is perfect for you.

And that's awesome. And that's wonderful. And that's valid. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of how to do Google ads versus Facebook ads versus YouTube ads versus Instagram ads, and you want to do analytics and you want to figure out what your ROI is, and you enjoy the idea of reaching out to business partners. Then congratulations, you're a businessperson and maybe independent is the way to go.

Amanda: Yes. Yes, the good, bad and ugly of it all. You, you, you, do you, do you, do you learn a lot for sure, for sure. And I think it can be, I, I don't mean to ever downplay the beauty of working for a studio. I think there, there is beauty in that. I think being able to leave work at work and, and have that separation, I think is something that is really important and not something I've ever been great at.

And I think a lot of us workaholics, like we never have the off, the off switch and I think working at a studio allows you to have that. And I think that's necessary. I, I do. I think there's a lot of great things that can come from working for a good studio. And if you believe in that, studio's, you know, mission and is a good studio.

You like who you work for, I think. And what could be better than that? I really, I think there's a lot of great things that can come from that. And I know plenty of studio owners that man, I, if I want to relocate and, I would totally work for them. They've got it going. And it looks like an amazing place to be an employee at.

It was just weird that just, it never was in the cards for me or never came my way. So.

Samantha: Yeah. And the other benefit too, which I don't think can be, said enough is if, if you are in a good studio environment, you have a, a really great support network around you. So, you can have access to coaches. You can have access to other opinions, you can, if you're searching for a professional partner, you know, that can be navigated through the studio in a way that if you're wholly independent, it's, the onus of finding those opportunities, finding those partnerships, finding those coaching, finding that team is really on you to put together, which I feel like if you are new in the industry is really, really tricky to navigate.

One of the things that I I've found through the podcast is just how inaccessible some of us are. In in, in that it's very difficult to find contact information for a lot of the people that are in the ballroom dance industry at a high level, because we work so much on word of mouth. And if you are brand new to the industry, the biggest suggestion that I would make, and it's something that I'm still trying to do, partly because of the podcast, but partly, mostly because of just wanting to teach and, and build out my brand as far as the teacher goes, Is finding those connections early on that can lead to more connections that can lead to more connections, because you don't know when you need to get information from a coach in the industry and their email address and their phone number is not available online. You have to know person A to reach out to person B to reach out to person C.

Amanda: I mean, thank God there's Facebook. I know when I first started my career and Facebook wasn't around and it was, it was who do you know? And when I was early in my career. I met people because I was fortunate enough to work for a dress designer. So, I was traveling around to competitions and that's how I met people.

And that's how I ended up getting the partnership that took me away from my home state to, you know, east coast and the traveling that I did and had it not been for that. Forget about it. I mean, if I wouldn't have been able, if I wouldn't have been going to competitions to, to get to know people, it would have been impossible. I don't know if I would still be in this career. I really don't. It's, we're a small tight-knit industry. And it is it's who, you know, it, it, it comes down to that. I do feel strongly, but that who you're going to end up getting partnerships with or tryouts. And that's why having a franchise, I think it'd be really beneficial.

It, it, that could be the bridge. To that life and or a really good connection with a coach, if you're, you know, and many cities you know, there, there is a judge or a coach somewhere, you know, close by in some of the major cities and they can be that outlet for you and, and the way it means to an end, to, to find those connections or get a partner or compete.

But I've also seen. People that live in really rural era areas. They create a studio, and they do great and they go to competitions and they clean up and they do awesome. So, I think, you know where there's a will, there's a way. Can it be easier with if you have a phone full of contacts? Yes, but I think it can be done. I think anybody that's determined enough can do it. Got to get creative though.

Samantha: Definitely have to get creative. Yeah. Yeah. And have the mode, have the self-motivation to go out and get it done. I think. Yeah, absolutely.

Amanda: A stupid amount of self-motivation. I mean, I was obsessed with it, I wanted to get myself out of that pro floor and I was going to move anywhere to make that happen. So, you got to be a little crazy to be part of it too.

Samantha: Absolutely. Absolutely. Awesome. Well, anything else that you wanted to talk about or opine on before we wrap things up today?

Amanda: I think we've covered a lot. I feel good. Thank you for having me on here again, Samantha. This is wonderful.

Samantha: Thank you again to Amanda for being a repeat guest on the podcast. If you want to support her, you can find links in the description box below. As always, I'm Samantha, I'm your host with Love Live Dance.

You can find all of our podcast versions of these episodes at or you can find us across social media at Ballroom Chat. Thank you all once again, for your continued support of the podcast, we have an exciting season two all lined up for you, and I cannot wait to share with you the conversations that come from that.

As always stay safe, stay positive and we hope to see you dancing in 2021.