Samantha: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat, a podcast dedicated to sharing the dance journey. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Before I introduce this week's guest, I wanted to just take a moment to mention the Unfortunate news that Ron Montez has passed away. Um, he fought a long, hard battle against COVID-19 and unfortunately the dance community lost him earlier this week, I did not really know Ron, um, but I felt like I knew Ron, which is a weird thing to say. Had the opportunity to meet him at one competition, very passingly, and then at the immense pleasure of talking with him as part of this podcast. And even from just those two brief moments, you felt his warmth and his positive energy, and the fact that he was so passionate about this dance world that we all live in, but he didn't see himself as this great figure. He was a friend to everyone that he met. Um, I think the outpouring of love and sharing stories that you see on Facebook and Instagram this past week from everyone in the dance community is really just a Testament to what an amazing man he is.
I am rerecording this intro because originally, I was going to insert an amazing video put together by Enio Cordoba talking about how we can support Ron during this time and the GoFundMe that they had set up to help support his medical costs. I will include the GoFundMe link because those medical expenses still exist and I'm sure that the dance community, uh, still wants to support Ron's family as much as we possibly can. So, um, yeah,
On lighter topics today's guest is a fellow podcaster. He's also a champion coach and dancer. And we got to sit down and talk a little bit about just generally the dance world. It was not an interview this time around, it was more of a conversation, which was a very nice change of pace. So please enjoy my conversation with Ikaika Dowsett.
Thank you, Ikaika, for being a guest on today's podcast.
Ikaika: It's exciting.
Samantha: For folks that maybe aren't familiar with you, how did you get into the ballroom dance world and what is your dance journey so far look like?
Ikaika: Hmm. Let's see. I'll give the short version. Cause I always find this to be the least interesting part.
I grew up a dancer, sort of doing other things, hula. I grew up in Hawaii hula, break dancing in the nineties, you know, whatever was popular, you know, with the girls back then as many, you know, as, as Wayne said himself, right. It's just, you know, you're a teenager. You want to go out to meet girls.
So, I was doing that. Met some girl, essentially, who was into ballroom, figured, well, I can do, you know, could spin on my head. So, some ballroom stuff seems pretty easy. I started taking some classes wasn't so easy. But it kind of got me, some momentum, asked her out, you know, it was just fun, little fun, little whirlwind we had.
And then I sort of been bitten by the bug, you know, like I had never really competed in the other dances. And then I thought that was when I saw that was an avenue I decided to, and I see where that goes, and it seemed that I was I had a knack for it in some capacity. I mean, I competed in other things martial arts, you know, track, stuff like that, but not, not dancing.
So, I thought I'd give it a shot. And, um, yeah. one thing led to another thought, I'm not going to find a partner here in Hawaii, so we just sort of moved to the mainland, to the only city that the only major city that had, you know, a distant relative in nearby. And so, I moved to the Bay area, and just hopes, you know, I don't know, hopefully I'll find a partner. There are partners, right?
As long as you're not in Hawaii, there are partners everywhere and obviously that, wasn't the case. A funny thing is I actually got, I got turned down by almost every tryout that I had when I first came. Well, I found out, you know, good in Hawaii is not very good, you know, elsewhere. At the time anyway, uh, so and even my whole concept of what was good was off.
So, but, but eventually, you know, still practicing on my own, having some lessons on my own, eventually someone gave me a shot and then it was sort of off to the races and yeah, been here ever since. I didn't really plan on doing this like as a career of any sort. I was mostly in tech which is another reason the Bay area made sense.
And part of why I like doing this, but yeah. And, and amateur career was going pretty well. People asked for lessons, you know, kind of one thing leads to another. And then, then you're just doing it.
Samantha: yeah, you wake up one day and you're like, Oh, I guess I'm a professional dancer.
Ikaika: Yeah. Well, I'm not sure how long. So, at the time it was a sort of a big deal, whether or not you were pro or amateur, because there was this big distinction to whether or not you could teach as an amateur. this is back, you know, the NDCA and USA dance. What wasn't even, USA dance. It was USABD at the time and they were still friends.
so, you know, the proficiency point system was sort of shared across. In a way, both systems. And, they also had the same sort of idea of what, when you could teach when you can't teach. And, generally at the time you could only teach. If you were like officially, you can only teach. If you were in the top 10, top 25% maybe, of the champ, a level of amateur, then you were allowed to teach.
And if allowed as a funny word, right? Like who's going to stop you. Right. But then. The idea is that they would, you know, suspend you or make you automatically turn pro or like there were, there were like things that would happen. I've never seen anything happen to anyone back then. But the goal was sort of like, Oh, if I want to teach, I need to get to this level.
So that was, that was kind of a fun thing. And right after they were just like, ah, we can't, we can't really police it. So, you don't need to do that anymore. So yeah. I mean, now professional even is sort of a, you compete as a pro. That's really about it, right?
Samantha: Yeah, no, definitely. I feel like they cracked down a little bit harder, or at least I've heard stories of them cracking down a little bit harder on the Pro-Am side.
if a, if an amateur student is competing in a Pro-Am division, but also teaching they're a little bit faster to place sanctions, but even then, I think it's, it's a little bit hit and miss and the optics of amateur versus professional teaching versus not teaching is a little bit interesting.
Ikaika: Yeah, it's very serious in the pro-am.
I think that the rules are quite, quite severe. Like you, you can't even like assist someone in the group class, something like that, right. Like it's really, really, really strict. I'm not, I'm not really sure. I mean, I can kind of see why they do that. I mean, how are you in tune with the pro-am scene?
Samantha: Yes, and no. I don't, I do not heavy professional partner, at the moment. So, from a competition standpoint, I'm only competing, with students that are doing Pro-Am. that is that's really how I got my start is on the amateur side and then switching to the professional side. So, the pro-am world, I know a little bit more than the competitive adult amateur or the professional end of competition.
Ikaika: So, yeah, it it's, it it's a pretty competitive world. Like, you know, I don't want to step on anyone's feet, but the, the, the, especially the, the sort of higher up they go, there tends to be a lot of cattiness and, and, you know, really paying attention to, well, what are the other competitors doing? And, you know, like, it's, I guess in anything it's sort of toward the top, you, you start paying attention to stuff like politics and all that stuff.
And so, like you said, with the optics, if some student is what, assisting or teaching or whatever that somehow makes them better, better, or if something like that, you know? So, but yeah, I don’t know. I mean, it seems fine, you know, whatever, I guess, you know, if you're doing pro-am, don't teach whatever you guys are teaching me, you know, it's sort of true.
Right? Like you guys are teaching, go, go compete in the other stuff. Yeah, absolutely. I guess, you know, I guess I don't really have an opinion on it, but it's. I'm always curious about how these things happen. Right? I assume the powers that be are sort of more experienced and wiser people who have a different macro view of the industry and try and do the very difficult job of balancing it and picking out, you know, the, the least bad solution most of the time, since you can never make everyone happy.
Yeah. This is an impossible job.
Samantha: Absolutely. And to your point, we can only hope that those that are in positions of power are, are seeing the grander picture that we don't see at our level. So hopefully, steering the direction of the dance sport in, in a positive way for all of us. I want to dial back.
So, you were doing hula and break dancing and then got into this ballroom world. Were you doing, all 19 dances, 10 dance? Were you specifically doing standard, specifically doing Latin?
Ikaika: Yeah. At the time I, I sort of wanted to do well at the time. I pretty much only wanted to do Latin because that was the cooler music, I guess. and I had this, you know, it seen too many movies where Latin was the, you know, Oh, that's what the girls like. And it's funny. I, I also, since I grew up doing a lot of martial arts, I had this, I don't know I had this very maybe classical martial arts, sort of Japanese, traditional, sort of approach to, to, to, to studying or practicing that, like whatever the sensei says you do. You don't really ask questions; you just do it. Sensei is the boss.
The first person I took private lessons with in Hawaii happened to be a former Japanese 10-dance champion. And so. I was kind of fooling around with all 19 dances, all 27 weird stuff, whatever. I just did it. I didn't care. I wanted to like, kind of do it all mostly Latin though.
And, then I had my first or second private lesson with her. I wanted to work on Latin. She's like, okay, well we should do some ballroom too. And I think I did like a one figure in ballroom, like just a natural turn, which is no good, but she's like, she's like, Oh, I'm, I'm sorry. But you were born a ballroom dancer. You should probably stop doing all that other stuff. And she goes, she goes, I just don't think there's enough time to really focus on everything. Right. She's like, if, you know, if what you're telling me is you want to be good and you want to, you know, you need to spend your time wisely. So, you should probably, focus on that.
And I, yeah, it was kind of weird when I say this story, I was like, weird. I just, I said, okay. And I just dropped everything immediately. I didn't really think twice. And I think it was that influence. but yeah, it ended up being a good decision. Cause I think she was right. So yeah, that was my last day as a 19 anything dancer.
And it was, it was just the five dances from then on. I did do a competition, a few competitions look, local competitions doing all 19 dances. And I think again, because the pool was limited, I think I won everything in every style. So, I get to say, you know, oh yeah, I used to be a 19 dance. I don't know if I was technically, I think I was like the state champion.
I don't remember. Yeah. But yeah, small ponds, you know?
Samantha: Yeah. I totally feel you there with, with small pond and then suddenly realizing, Oh, the world is much bigger, and I am much smaller than I thought I was. I, I, I think it's always interesting too, especially those of us that started in high school or college, in the U S how often it is that we are starting out like 19 dance.
We dance, you know, all 10 dances in international, all nine dances in American. And then somewhere, somewhere along the line, someone is like, I think you really need to just focus on this one quadrant. I just need, you just need to focus on this one, you know, style. I had the same thing. I was super passionate about American rhythm, and then I had a coach that was like, if you were planning on going pro, you're 5'10", you want to do American smooth. Just trust me on this. Like, okay.
Ikaika: I couldn't tell you're 5'10". Camera's no good. Yeah. Same thing. I'm 6'2". You know, it's I mean, I get it now. Yeah. I would have been slow.
Samantha: Right, right. Yeah. Trying to do Mamba or
Ikaika: Funny thing is, is that all people aren't meant for this really at any capacity. I find, you know, I've, I've realized over the years, it's, it's in ballroom.
We've had one champion in the last 40 years, maybe 30 years. Certainly. Certainly 30 years it's been over six feet.
Ikaika: And, I don't know, you know, people have this idea. Well, if you're tall, you're better suited for ballroom. Yes. Yes. But so, yeah, but it's still losing, you know, it's, it's, it's still not great.
Yeah. It's better to be right around that mid-range. everything from just like. Power to weight ratios, you know, like injury, risk, stamina, all that stuff tends to be better when you're a little more in that average range. And then you have like weird things to people don't really think about, which is finding a partner.
It's easier if you're in the most common age, height range. Cause you can dance with all the people that are also in the most common height range. Right? It's like if you're on the, if you're on the, on the tail ends, you know, it's what's these, these, these God forbid, these, these partner searches for you are much longer in an arduous as a, as a tall person.
Yeah. We're well, yeah. It's trouble. All kinds of trouble.
Samantha: Absolutely. No. And exactly. For all of the reasons you just mentioned, right? Like from a stamina perspective, if you are trying to move a 5'5" frame at Viennese Waltz or Quickstep tempo, you have less frame to move. If you're trying to move. A six-foot frame to Viennese waltz or Quickstep, or God forbid, Jive.
you've got more of your body and more muscle mass that has to move to keep that same tempo. and then, yeah, trying to find a partner, I imagine as a six-foot gentleman, you probably have to opt out a lot of ladies just because the height difference when you get into frame is so dramatic. I, I mean I'm 5'10" flat foot, so put me in two and a half inch heels suddenly I need to find someone that's, you know, 6'1" to dance with. That's hard.
Ikaika: Yeah. Yeah, I think I'm not sure what my, you know, cause w in your intro height ratios, leg to torso, you know, that that can make a big difference. I think I'm somewhere around the middle. I may even have a longer torso, which is good, right. It gives me a little more options to dance at a height that's with partners that are a little shorter. What my last amateur partner, for instance, she was 5'4" on a good day, I think. And so, we had a lot of work to do to make that work, but it was doable. Her legs were up to her neck, you know? So, That was a nice, so yeah, Head-wise we had this huge difference, but if you looked at our middles, they're actually pretty good.
So, we could work that out, but in general, yeah, it's, it's, it's, I've, I've found it's better to stick to people, you know, 5'7" plus, you know, five, 5'6" on the low range, but leg, you know, in ballroom leg height so that the height of the hips is really more relevant. I'm not sure. I mean yeah, for you.
Yeah, I don't. I mean, so on the other side, I got so used to having to dance with. Some, you know, this sort of 5'7" range, which is still tall that whenever I would dance with, I have a try-out with someone who is like 5'9", 5'10". You would think that that's Oh, this feels right. This feels right. But actually, I, you know, sometimes their hips have long legs for their, on top of that. It's like, okay, that's too tall. It's, it's all impossible. We should be grateful for getting one person to dance with us really.
Samantha: Definitely. Definitely. Yeah. Um,
Ikaika: Are you married or anything? Because people say that finding a husband is easier than finding a partner. I'm not sure if that resonates with you?
Samantha: Uh, yes, absolutely. yeah, I'm married. We celebrated five years in December. He does not dance. He's very supportive of me dancing, but he's not a dancer. so yeah. And, and that's also a weird thing, too. I feel like as, as a female, either amateur or professional, that is married or has a significant other that's not dancing, that is actively searching for a partner, I feel like that's a weird conversation to have in tryouts too, because in tryouts so often you're not only figuring out if the mechanics of the dance partnership work. If the levels are suitably matched, if you move in the same way, you're also figuring out, okay, do you have chemistry? In that can I stand to put in 40 hours a week with this other person without driving them insane or driving me insane?
And then you somehow get into this relationship, where are the boundaries? What are our expectations for this partnership outside of the competitive ballroom field? And just, it's an interesting world to try and navigate.
Ikaika: Yeah. Chemistry is a boy. It's a, yeah. Talk about upside and downside, right?
Because the thing you want to have is where a lot of your problems are coming from right? From, from the fact that, you know, when you have chemistry, you tend to get you know, maybe just attached a little faster cause you get along. You're having good times at first and then the fights are extra explosive, usually, usually. and then also it's like, if things go well, it's a weird question. I've, I've seen it happen over and over with people. It's like, well, I get along great with this person. We're kind of building this career together. It's sort of the dream to, you know, waltz through life with your mate. And I spend so much time with him.
We touch, you know, all this and yeah, I've seen a lot of relationships that were intact before this nice chemistry bearing partnerships got together, fall apart rather quickly. after that, because it's, it's hard to compete with a dance partnership, or at least it appears to be hard to compete with the dance partnership that's really going well, and you get along and you dance together and all this stuff. How's a normal person. You know, a muggle as my friend calls them a muggle, supposed to compete in a muggle relationship with a fantastically successful and, you know, but, uh, chemically, uh, enjoyable partnership, right?
Samantha: Yeah. But then on the flip side too, at least for me, I always separate ballroom dancing is my profession. So, in the same way that, you know, you might have a nine to five tech job. You aren't married to your nine to five tech job. You have a life outside of work. I think I've always kind of brought that with me when I've been trying to find a partner and maybe it's because, and maybe it's because of that, that I haven't found a professional partner. But I always look at it as, you know, whether it's teaching or the podcast or competing, that's my job. That can't be all-encompassing in my life. For me to have some sanity, some mental stability, I like to create a separation between what happens at the studio and what happens at my house, so to speak.
But that's just me. How about you? How do you navigate that?
Ikaika: Do you love dancing? Oh, well, I mean, I just, yeah, I got full buy-in once I decided, well, I mean, I do other things, right? Like I do a lot of, Work in, let's say other fields, but I love this. This doesn't even really like if I, if I, if I started teaching for free forever from now, I'd probably be fine. You know? So, it's what I love to do the most, but it's not like a main driver of my life, you know, as far as whether or not my life's going to work out.
Ikaika: So, because of that, Because I love it like that. I am okay to like, eat, sleep and breathe it in a way, you know, like I can come home and watch, you know, I don't really come home and watch dance videos as much as I used to, but I'll do that. Right? Like I'll check competition results. Talk to my friends about stuff like that. So, I actually am fine with it sort of infusing everything in my life and, uh, and probably because of too much time passes without me being involved in the, in the world in some way, I get a little like itchy. So yeah. So, for me, I don't, I don't, I don't have that and I'm not sure if this is what you meant, but I don't have that sort of work-life balance thing.
It's like Jeff Bezos says he's like, it's like, it's more like about work-life harmony. Right? So, if some way where it feels like there's a harmony of it all and it's enough in either. good, great. You know, but, yeah, I, I take home will work well, we'll take work home with me, you know, I'm thinking about all the issues I have to deal with my couples or, you know, one of the university teams or, Yeah, this, the podcast, all of it, right? Yeah. So, yeah, and much to my, to, to, I think in, um, say previous relationships, I think people will have a little bit trouble with how obsessed I am with what to them just seems like work. Yeah.
Ikaika: So, yeah. I'm not good at that particular. Yeah. It's almost never off for me.
Samantha: I'm not by any stretch of the imagination claiming that I've got it figured out. There are still moments that I have sleepless nights where I'm like, Oh, I need to think about how to reach this student a little bit better. Or oh gosh, that routine needs to be changed because I don't like how that looked in the last video. It's a never-ending struggle.
Ikaika: yeah. Yeah. People, people that, well, yeah, romantic partners of mine constantly making fun of me over the years for the fact that I w I, I talk in my sleep. I'm teaching in my sleep all the time. And then some percentage of the time I actually sit up and like wave my arms around and scream and point while sleeping.
Samantha: Sleep dancing
Ikaika: Teaching as a sleepless night are, I wake up exhausted. So, I'm right there with you.
Samantha: You mentioned the podcast. it's so nice to talk to someone who is also in this space because I feel like we can commiserate and learn from each other. how did The Framework Podcast begin? What, what was the idea behind starting a podcast?
Ikaika: So I was having a bunch of conversations with friends, you know, sort of usually at comps. We, we, we do there. If I was judging, then, you know, during the lunch break, you know, we'd go in the back and have talks about, you know, what we had just seen. And oftentimes those, those would start off as disagreements started to turn to interesting talks about, well, you know, I think it should do this. I think it should that, you know, what are, what's the, what's the morality behind, you know, choosing one thing or the other, you know, like really sort of deep, interesting subjects and, or, you know, just after a competition, you know, we'd watch and go up to the pro party or the post pro party in someone's room and, and chat and, People just started saying that like, Oh, I got to go, but can you guys tell me later what you guys talked about and all this stuff?
And then, you know, someone makes a comment like, Oh, you know, you should record these. And it was pretty organic like that. I just thought, okay, well, I guess I'll start recording. You know, it, it, it did lose a little bit of its, sort of intended, just. You know, people wanting to be a fly on the wall to just real conversations we were having.
And it sort of turns into this sort of interview nature, which isn't really what I intended it to be, but yeah, I mean, there's kind of no way around it for the other person, right? They think, well, we scheduled this thing. Well, we're going to talk about something. You're going to ask me questions. I don't really know you yet.
Right. Like, what am I going to say? And I can tell you how my kids are doing. I don't know. You know, so, but yeah, it's been fun. Yeah. But I just want it to have, I think ultimately, I wanted to have, uh, sort of some of the difficult conversations, that were, I wanted them to be more public. I wanted people to know that we are thinking about these sorts of things.
And then I wanted the people who don't have access, you know, like there's a, there's a sort of a tier thing, you know, in the dance world, you've at the high end, you have the people running the NDCA and then, you know, at the bottom people just starting, you know, and they have a lot of questions, right? Like the, the pro-ams and the bronze and the, the amateur and the collegiate.
Like they, they all don't know so much and are very, are very curious. I have no way to know because, you just, yeah, you don't have access relate to the type of, it's not like I'm at the NDCA meetings or anything like that, you know, but, but people will talk to me, you know? And, and so I thought I could at least ask them the questions they want to know and have the conversations, or even if it's just champions, you know, as you're doing, people want to know what they think, but you know, how do you, how do you engage these people, right? So, yeah, I just want it to bring more of what was sort of happening at the top, down and, and, and, and, and let people at the bottom, see, what's that, yeah, I didn't really go so much to the you know just inter interviewing people. I didn't think that was like my strong suit. I like to think about things. I like kind of the philosophy and the epistemology of a lot of this. So those are the kinds of conversations I like to have, and I wanted to, and people just seemed interested in at least initially, and it's gone really well.
So, yeah, but I'm not like it's not a, and as you know, it's, it's, I release an episode when I feel like there's good stuff to talk about and I've had a good conversation and that's it. Right. I wasn't good at doing the, the scheduled, you know, thing. yeah, it's just my brand of, of, trying to find interesting stuff to talk about. And when it happens, it happens.
Samantha: Well, and I think that that idea of I'm, I'm not going to release something for the sake of releasing it. I'm going to wait until I have a reason to have a really deep conversation with this person about this topic. And then if it comes out well, then I'll publish it. I think that makes for good quality, right? You, you have something to say then over the course of your podcast and you are, even though it, it always is going to end up feeling slightly like an interview, you can boil it down to more of that we're sitting around a table and just talking as friends and these are the, these are the types of topics that come up. and I think you are in a position with, with your history in the space, the fact that you are a judge, the fact that you have been in the industry a little bit longer, you're really in a position to bring people's guards down, and have conversations that for me to have, would probably feel a little bit taboo at this time. so, it's nice tuning into The Framework and kind of listening to some of that behind-the-scenes stuff.
Ikaika: Yeah. And, and I don't, I don't know why, how these sorts of barriers were erected in the first place, you know? But what, I mean, that's another interesting question. Right. You know, why, why does it seem that the people at the top are so, you know, un untouchable they're, you know, they're, they're so far. Like they're, they're so good at this thing. I always try not take myself too seriously. Right. Like, what am I good at? And not even that grade, like compared to the people at the, you know, the best we have, but we're good at doing five dances. That's it? Like, that's why we're walking around like strutting, like, you know, Oh my gosh.
I don't know if you, you know, "I've arrived" all the time. That's, that's my contribution to the world. I mean, you can say in one way, we're teaching, we're really enriching people's lives and that's true, but given some of the, you know, some of the, the, the grandiosity of it all, it's like, do you understand this is, this is all we're doing really? And this is our, this is our skill. It's a cool skill, right? Like it's, it's a cool skill. It's very marketable and people really are happy engaging with you with it, but it's not like we're curing cancer, you know?
Samantha: Right. Yeah. My, my husband likes to tease me all the time because I'll, I'll get a yes out of someone for the podcast, that I never thought in a million years that I would get, and I'll like run through the house and be like, Oh my gosh. They said, yes, I get to talk to so and so, and he's like, okay, congrats? What did they do again?
Ikaika: The rest of the world doesn't care. Yeah. There's this pull in one way, as I was saying earlier, I'm completely obsessed with this thing that we do in this, this process. Right. In thinking about it. And especially in the process of being a coach, like, I really, I take that very seriously in the, in the micro, right? Like day-to-day, I can't, you know, I'm just trying to be better and, and, and, you know, provide the maximum value to my couples and my students.
And then, you know, at the same time to zoom out and macro it'd be like, and if I like. And it doesn't matter. It's not really. You know, it, it, it could stop at any point. I have to be like, yeah, whatever, you know, I was a dance teacher. Yeah. You know? And so that, that calms down the stress a little bit later, you know? So, it's like, it's, it's that, that switch I think is, is, is helpful. Cause you can have perspective about, wow, this is so important to you and, and, and you want everything to be perfect and you know, you, you, you want to improve and, and feel good and what your status is and whatever, all that is at the same time, be like, yeah, but it's, it's fine.
In the grand scheme of the world, it's, you know, That's whatever.
Samantha: Yeah. Do you, with your coaching, are you more competitive based or do you offer private lessons to couples? Youth? What, what kind of space are you working in when you are in the studio?
Ikaika: Yeah, I mean, I'm sort of interested in the difficulty of teaching people who don't know anything, but that's interesting to me, but even still, I. I mean, I have entirely competitive, couples, mostly couples, which is which I feel blessed to have, because I think a lot of people wish they had more couples. but yeah, I have a pretty decent, I don't know what you would call it a team, I guess, or whatever, you know, base of, of, of couples, that are amateur competitors. And then I have a few pro-ams that I. You know, I get to dance myself a little bit, you know, it's still it. but yeah, my problem when I'm not teaching, because I think about this a lot, like, you know, I have a friend who's like a wedding getting married. Right. And they're like, Oh, we would love for you to, you know, help us.
You're a friend, you do this, right. Like, that'd be really special. And I think like, well I'm not the best person for it first of all right. There's someone who can do it better than me. So, if I'm being honest, I should send you to them. And then also, I don't, if I feel like I'm going to teach a good lesson, I need to be able to define what is good first.
and that's hard to find in something that's like an art. So, the competition framework, although flawed in, in, you know, whatever ways it is, it still offers you a place to start and have an idea for what good is that. And so now let's kind of work backwards. You know, bring you in that direction. But without that, you know, it's hard to say what's good.
And so, then I feel like I don't really know where I'm headed in, in teaching that person, you know, like, honestly, I can do, like, what I think is good. Right. But you know, who knows, who says that's good. And then the competitive world there's like this sort of agreed upon, the, the market of, judges has decided that for now this period, or in that type of dancing is good.
And if you do something like that, you are likely to be rewarded. and so, I kind of stick to that because I don't want to make my own decision about what, you know, w what art is good. And so, so because of that, I tend to stay on that side of things, because it's more tangible, if you can call it tangible. Right. But.
Samantha: Yeah, I, I, I am on the other end of the spectrum. I tend to work a lot with social couples that are just looking for date night or wedding couples. And then I occasionally have Pro-Am students that are like, yes, I want to compete. And I it's stressful in a way, but it's also very, comforting because you do have that structure and that framework and you can be like, okay, if you want to learn bronze syllabus, I know exactly how to get you through the bronze syllabus. Whereas if you have a wedding couple, it's like. Oh, okay. Tell me what your dress looks like. Tell me what your goals are, what your knee injury was from, what the floor you're going to be on. Oh, you can't lift your arm because you're in sleeves. Okay. How do we take this out? All right. We've spent three hours on the box step, and we're still not stepping backwards on our right foot. How can I adjust this for you?
Ikaika: I'm right there with you. Yeah. So, this is what I mean, it's, if someone comes in and says, I want to take a lesson because I want to, well, I mean, even if I don't want to compete, but I want to learn that type of dancing right out of the gate, you know what to do, right.
Or like at least something like we're going to start over here. So, you know, in this general type of stuff, right. If they come in and say, well, we're going to do a wedding dance. You don't know where to go without tons of more information to, to, to anchor you. Right. And sort of set your North star, like, okay, now I know your floor is this big.
Like, I need more things to just because otherwise it's like, well, we're just going to dance. Right. Like, you know, how did you envision this going and, and, and all that. So, yeah. So, for me, it's always hard to sort out where's home base outside of the competitive world, you know, I'm leaving, I'm leaving with up to some non-dancers to tell me what they want and then somehow, I'm supposed to, you know?
Yeah. So that's, that's hard. And I would have a huge amount of respect for people who can do that well, because that's just like a type of thinking or like a, a sense of, um, certainty that like, where they're headed is the right direction that I, I don't have, like when I'm outside of the competitive world. Right. Like, so yeah, like I said, I'm, I'm good at my one thing and that's it. So, I mean, how do you find, is that am I, am I speaking out like there's, I mean, I assume that's what it's sort of like for you, when you have someone who comes in and says, I just want to learn to dance. I'm going to go out. It seems helpful to still stick to the side of the, some of the established norms and the competitive stuff, like use the syllabus, maybe?
Samantha: It's tricky. and that is something certainly, that I am still developing in my own teaching style. it's conversations that I'm still having with other instructors that are in the space to try and decide if what my gut feeling is the right answer is something else that other people have done. so, for the longest time I still stayed with the syllabus.
It's like, all right, you're going to do bronze one essentially. I'm not going to call it bronze one. I'm not going to use that terminology, but lesson one, we're going to learn a Box step. We're going to learn a left rotating box. We're going to learn an underarm turn. I'm going to count it as slow quick, quick, and I'm going to count it as one, two, three, so it can work with three, four and four, four music.
We'll go into a single, you know, single time swing instead of a triple time swing. We'll kind of just get you moving. Lately, I have been throwing that out the window for a lot of my couples. Which is very, it's a very nerve-wracking thing to say. But most of the couples that walk in the door recently that I've had, I just want to be able to dance in their kitchen.
They're not going to ballroom dance socials. They're not going to the Vienna ball. They have no interest in competing. They might dance at a friend's wedding, but they just want to dance at their house comfortably for fun. So, the entire lesson now becomes a merengue basic, or a bachata basic, but not using those terms, just getting them moving together.
So, it's really working more on the lead and follow framework that I think a lot of instructors.
Samantha: Yeah, I know, right. But working on the lead and follow and the communication between the partners, which I think in a traditional syllabus style would be peppered later on in future dance lessons, but not the first thing that you teach when you walk in the door.
Ikaika: Hmm. Yeah. It's hard to, um, yeah, it's hard for me to know where to go. Like I'm like, okay, I guess you want to dance in your kitchen? I mean, like, I, I, again, I, I always feel uncomfortable as I feel like for me, the honest thing to do is just say, look, go to this person. They're good at that. I'm not. Sorry. You know, I think, I think again, like, well, not again, but I think it's difficult because I'm in a situation where having the next lesson come in and me converting them to a, you know, regular client paying my mortgage or, you know, the bills. Like I don't, I don't feel that pressure.
Ikaika: I'm able to do something that is, you know, I'm able to be honest in that way and just say, look, you know, someone else is better at this than me. And if you want, a better version of that, someone else can do it better probably.
And just refer them to someone else. I think a lot of people, the truth is it's not the case and they, they wanted, they need, they need it, right. They need the business and, and, and respect, you know, for, for hustling in that way and trying to do your best. but I also think like if things were ideal, that's not the type of student they would, they would want, you know, because their thing is something else.
so, so you're in this weird kind of standoff where you kind of know someone else might be better. But you, you need to eat, so let's see if I can get them in and teach him something anyway, you know? and then, you know,
Samantha: there is a flip side to that.
Ikaika: yeah, it’s rough,
Samantha: which is that as scary as it might be, if you are, a gig worker, independent contractor, small businessperson, however you want to word it. If you were in the position where you are, accepting people's time accepting people's money. You can either accept everything that comes in through the door and be uncomfortable or feel like maybe you're not the best person for the job. Or you can say, Nope, this is the one thing that I'm really good at and I am only going to accept this segment of clientele, but I'm going to build a reputation and I'm going to build my business on this cornerstone. And the first six months, year, two years, while you're building that reputation of yourself is going to be really hard. But if you look five, 10, 15 years down the line, then you, you haven't put yourself in a situation where you're just teaching anyone that comes in the door.
Ikaika: Yeah. Well, that's interesting. You, you, you put that way, so the time value aspect, right? Like, so yeah. We do something, we set a price point, you know, somewhere in the past and felt right. And then over time maybe raised it, maybe we didn't, you know, depending on how the market responds, right? And so, we are exchanging time in the context of this skill or this, this hobby, whatever you want to call it. and so, for me, it seems like, well, so the rates I charge, or the value of that lesson is pegged to my ability to produce or to provide value in this thing. And so, if I were to teach a lesson on something else, but charge the same to me, that feels like, well, that's not, that's not why I charge that much.
I'm not good at that. Or at least I'm not, I'm not that good at it. Right. So, so. You know, so then again, I don't know how to think of, you know, what's my time worth, is my time worth this just because I've decided my time is worth this? It doesn't matter what I'm doing. You know? So, it's, I mean, I don't know what the answer is, when I think of that way, it's like, well, why is my time, my, my just general time is worth that more than someone else. Why is that person's time worth less? Well, then it must be because there's some differential in our skill at this thing, I guess. And so. Yeah. I mean, so if I would pay a lawyer $500 an hour to do this, it's like, supposedly, because they're that good?
They're a better lawyer than the $400 guy.
Ikaika: And if I wanted to do a different type of law, I shouldn't be paying him $500 for that when he's not that good at that. So yeah. Yeah. So that's a that's again, if I was going to teach a wedding dance, I should probably charge 20 bucks an hour for that, because I'm not good at it.
These are interesting things to think about. Yeah. These are interesting things to think about. for me, like, you know, what does my people say that well, it's my time. My time is worth that. And I'm like, yeah, why? Based on what? You know, and, and, and is all uses of your tire all uses of your time. We're at the same, just because you're used to charging that really, you know?
Anyway. Yeah. So that's all. So, these are the things I like to talk about, right?
Samantha: Yeah. so, going back to, your, your time, what your time is worth. So amateur competitive couples, obviously not currently, given the state of the world, but previously, and hopefully in the future, you are associated with a university.
Do you coach the university from a collegiate competition perspective or specifically from an amateur couple perspective?
Ikaika: Oh, interesting. Um,
I guess both, I mean, From a, from a competitive approach. I think the best thing for, well, at least for me, is to consider that these people are going to dance together forever. hopefully. and as far as when I come in to help facilitate that, if I do my job, well, I can help keep them together because you know, it always gets rough at some point.
But yeah, I always assume they're going to transition to. Basically Greg. I mean, the transition is kind of a murky thing. Anyway, they just graduate college. Are they going to keep dancing or not? Right. And many of them, yes. And many of them, especially, yes if they do well and have a good time. So, it's almost like the more likely you are, the more you assume they're going to keep doing this, the more likely you are to teach the type of lesson that helps them keep doing this.
So, I like, Yeah, I like, I like treating them like they're any amateur couple. Right. They're just young. and then when it comes to the team aspect, I think, well, the, the truth is it's not a team sport, unless it's a formation team. Right? First. So, for the most part, it's not at least not in a couple of sites and the team might teach, but it is very much like a team sport or it feels like it in the training.
You know, so at the, in the studio on campus or, or even in your own studio right there, there's a sense that we're a kind of a team and that at least we trained together, maybe like sprinting, you know, like you train together, and you go out and you compete against each other, but still, you feel like a unit more than, then, you know, then you would with the people from another country, right? So, like Jamaica and sprinting, right? You have like the best sprinters in the world. Somehow from this tiny country, three of them in the world, you know, best in the world, all from there, they're going to compete against each other, I guess, in the relay they're a team.
Right. But in a they're competing against each other, but the fact that they train together. so diligently, right? And that, that, that builds a comradery. At least you would say comradery, is very helpful and it's worth being a team for that benefit. Right? You get into a very much a steel sharpens steel, you know, you can see this effect, up until recently in England, you know, so for a long time, most of the best dancers in the world came from England.
And there were, you had them train like top three in the world, all in the same studio, same teacher, just grinding away, trying to beat each other and in the meanwhile passing everyone else. Right. And if they were, if they were not, you know, if they somehow had to stay so far away from each other, or they were never seeing, you know, what the other guy was doing and trying to outdo each other, I think they would be worse off for it.
So, on the competition day, you're your own unit. You do your best and, and I think training them to be successful amateur couples in the long run is good. But in the studio, creating an atmosphere of, of, of teaminess and, and comradery very beneficial, not just because it feels nice to, you know, be part of the community. and that may actually be the biggest benefit, but it also is helpful to you to kind of in a friendly way, joust, and kind of one up each other.
Samantha: That has to be a hard thing to balance though. striking the right chord between building a family, building a support, a supportive team, to go cheer each other on at competitions while also maintaining an inner team competitive aspect to it.
How do you strike that balance between, Asking the most out of your couples to compete for themselves, but also wanting to build an atmosphere that is cordial and friendly, not, not, at each other's throats all the time?
Ikaika: Yeah. Well, yeah, it's, it's really difficult and you probably never really get it exactly right. You know, like the team gets, you know, super competitive at some point, you know, and, and that's ends up being. Toxic. and then, yeah, I don't have any problem firing people. Right. Just go, right. Like it's not worth interrupting the, the, the vibe of everyone just because you've got a weird problem.
So, there are just bad apples. and then you've got teams that can be a little too, like, Oh yeah. You know, we're just friendly and having fun. And, and we go to comps because we like it. You know, and then you're like, well, but you could be more, you know, if you had a little bit more of that tenacity, so you kind of go back and forth, I think I would err toward, I would err, on the side of the, the teaminess over the individual, you got to win at all costs sort of thing, because it doesn't feel nice.
Like day-to-day to go into work when everyone's so charged. Right. So yeah. I think having a big team with a lot of people that are happy to learn to dance, and try to compete is better than having like three killer, like champions that are just so good, but, but the energy is not helpful, you know? I mean that can also be inspiring for a certain type of person.
So, yeah. But yeah, it's, it's a difficult balance to maintain. I err toward community, because I think it's always better. Yeah, I think, I think a lot of people, the COVID situation, I think has really taught people that a lot of what they miss about the dancing is not really just getting up and moving.
It's also that sort of home feeling in the studio or the competition and seeing your friends like we had, we have a community is pretty tight and, it's nice.
Samantha: Yeah, it's definitely found family when it's done. Right. And you, you go to competitions to cheer people on, to compete for yourself, obviously for those that, that are doing well to get the external validation of your awards and your achievements, but it's really about being part of something much larger and wanting the best out of everyone in the room, so that the sport can continue. how do you strike the balance?
Ikaika: But it's just to, sorry, sorry to interrupt. But just to put a cap on that, I think the way I often talk about it with those sorts of intense couples that want to win, I think it's pretty reasonable and true to just say, look, it really is in your best interest to have your number one competitor right next to you. Like that's going to make you better. And actually, there are a few, there are a few, um, there’s a Blackpool lecture, I think it was Andrew Sinkinson. who's a tremendous icon from the, so through the eighties and nineties, he was talking about how, you know, in a moment who was supposed to be lecturing, he was caught in a sort of unawares by an emotional thinking back to his camp publishing days and saying that, you know, he, he was a better dancer for his, because of his competitors.
You know, and, and if you know, that's true and it is then as a competitor, even though it's uncomfortable, and even though you may end up on the short side of that stick and you may be just, you know, second place all the time, you're still better than you would have been without it where you might've been sixth, right? Like you're strong because you, you know, that push puts you way ahead of anyone else. So, if I can get that through and let them know that the real truth of that, they're usually eventually happy to have other like-minded serious people around and it's not, so it's not so much conflict.
Samantha: Definitely. Well, and that actually brings me back to something that we talked about in the very beginning, which is that idea of, coming from a small pond to a bigger pond and suddenly realizing the difference and like figuring out how to still be competitive in this larger world. I mentioned on a previous episode, my own experience moving to Utah and suddenly having this, Oh goodness. This is, I have a sea of information that I do not know. How in the world am I going to learn it as quickly as possible? what was your experience?
Ikaika: Where were you coming from?
Samantha: So, I was on a collegiate team in West Virginia, and then I was teaching out of Pittsburgh.
Ikaika: Hmm. Got it. Utah's, I mean, it's always been pretty serious, but. They're like even more serious over there, right? Yeah. So that's a, talk about a serious pond to be in. Yeah. Yeah. Interesting.
Samantha: Yeah. And I kind of knew that when I, when I'm first moved, obviously BYU and UVU have they're, they're fantastic reputations for, amateur and collegiate programs. What I didn't realize until I was actually living out here is how many of the, so you think you can dance, dancing with the stars, the performance dancers are also born and bred in Utah.
Ikaika: yeah, a lot of pretty people out there. I think like really good with the camera.
Samantha: Yeah. Lot. A lot of pretty people that have been dancing since they were two.
Ikaika: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They come out of the womb with the feet closed, turn out.
Samantha: Exactly. So, what was your experience when you first moved to the Bay area? You mentioned that, that you suddenly had this kind of wakeup call that you were not at the level that you thought you were previously at. How did you turn that into motivation to get to the level that you're currently at?
Ikaika: So, I remember walking into the now closed, but it was, it was called the Metronome Ballroom at the time. So, I walked in there and that was in San Francisco and right nowadays there aren't really any studios in San Francisco, you know, commercial real estate it's become space. Right. It's very expensive. But I walked in there, because a friend that I had met on some message boards while I was in Hawaii, who was from the Bay area. she suggested that I maybe contact a few, one of these few teachers that were teaching there. So, I, I called this woman. It happened to be Valentina Kostenko, so the Smooth champion, when she used to live here.
And so, one of my first lessons in the Bay area was with her. so that was already sort of a new thing, right? Like I got in position with this superstar. Right. I actually didn't know who she was at the time, but like, you know, she's like, okay, let's do a little dancing. And I, once I had her in my arms, I was like, Jesus, right?
Like just power and like, just ahh. I didn't know what to do. Right. So, know she, she was, she was nice about it. but then a couple walked in who was, I think a youth couple of there were like 18, maybe. So, I guess on the end of youth, something, but you could tell, they were like, you know, they were younger than me. I think I was I don't remember. Anyway, so yeah, so they're dancing and, then I guess a group of them came in and, or maybe they weren't youth, maybe they were just out of youth, but young people, you know, maybe my age slightly younger. And they just started practicing and it was like, I'd never seen live that kind of dancing, except for like the one time with a pro at the Hawaii star ball.
And I was like, Jesus, like, I didn't know, this was even possible. And it just seems like a nothing thing for them to just here on another practice day. Like they're so good. And I had that normal moment where I'm like, Oh shit. I mean, I can't, I'm not going to be able to like do that. Right. Like it's too late. They're good. You know, whatever. But then, the same thing sort of happened. I'm like, well, some of these girls are pretty cute though. So, so I mean, if not these girls, you know, at least if that's, you know, I mean, that's you know, I don't know what else I'm going to do. I just moved here. Right. Might as well at least try and at least try and learn to dance better and maybe get in with that crowd.
So yeah, a couple of things I'm stubborn. I I'd pushed through a lot of those sorts of barriers of doubt and sort of imposter syndrome, you know, other things, in, in, in martial arts, in surfing, and I did a lot of rodeo, you know, when I was a kid, oddly So I, I kind of was quick with having that conversation and getting past it, but for a lot of people, I know that's sort of the kiss of death.
Right. It's, it's seeing the top and then suddenly knowing how far you are, you know, and that, that can be more realized I'm a little bit. but yeah, I mean, I, I just was like, well, you know, and going to like crawl up into a ball and die. Right. So, I'll just, I like this, you know? Okay. So, I suck whatever, you know, I, I won't suck for long.
And then I actually asked them real questions. I'm like, how long have you been doing this? And they're like, I've been doing this for, you know, I guess one of them started when they were in their early teens, you know, so, you know, seven years, you know, something like that. And that was not too bad, you know, like I could do, I'll still be my twenties.
I'll just. Just work hard. How much do you practice? Well, I do two hours a day. Okay. So, if I do four hours a day, I can do it in three and a half years. I mean, that's simple math, but I thought, you know, so that suddenly it wasn't too bad, you know, for a lot of the day, I didn't, you know, after work, I didn't have much to do, so I thought, yeah, three and a half, four hours.
I can do that. Maybe some days I'll do six, cut it down to two and a half years, you know, just dumb. Right. Like just thinking that it was all math, but like that, that got me past, like the initial, you know, I'll never be that good and do it. And then, you know, got me ready to grind because many other things, it's just a grind.
Samantha: Yeah. It's putting in the time putting in the hours, putting in the repetition. Yeah.
Ikaika: Yeah. I mean, w I mean, I, for me, probably, I know the Bay area was pretty intense, but I imagine Utah, might've been a little more intense. I don't know. So, something interesting about Utah is you have I, without knowing for sure.
I hear it's very cliquey. and I, I hear its, clique-y in a way that's also interesting because of the involvement of the church, right? So, I'm not sure if that's affected, Like your integration to the dance scene over there. Is it like, I assume it's maybe better if you're also a member, easier to get in.
Samantha: Yeah. I mean, it's, it's the, I think for someone that is not growing up in Utah, the easiest way to get into the dance scene in Utah is to go to either BYU or UVU. If you can qualify for their teams, you've got a partnership, you're in. I came to Utah post-graduation. So, going back for an undergrad was not in my plans.
I'm not a member of the LDS church, so I stick out like a sore thumb that way. yeah, I, I think my mindset.
Ikaika: You stick out like a sore thumb, because just everyone knows whether or not people are affiliated. Is that what it is? Do you don't have a patch or
Samantha: it took me a very long time to realize that, you know, I grew up on the East coast. So, if you want to get to know someone, a colleague, a friend, whomever, you say, Oh, you know, we should grab a cup of coffee sometime. Well, you can't drink hot beverages if you're a member of the LDS church.
Ikaika: Oh yeah, right. So you out yourself. With a Starbucks coffee. You are known.
Samantha: You know, after a competition. Oh, let's go get drinks. Right. You don't drink. Okay. so, so a lot of,
Ikaika: Oh, can you have tea?
Samantha: You can't have tea, but they can have hot cocoa.
Ikaika: Oh, okay. No, but you would count maybe herbal tea, huh?
Samantha: Something. But you were mentioning before that you were partially LDS, you were LDS for a certain amount of time,
Ikaika: as far as I know, uh, I think there's a pretty strong presence in the Pacific. And so, there was, uh, a BYU, you could call it a satellite, sort of up the road from where I grew up partially anyway, partially where I grew up. So, I didn't know. I mean, as a kid, we went to church or what I thought was just church. Right. And I didn't really understand that there were different brands of Christianity, you know, just Jesus and stuff.
And then, I think on Monday afternoons, the, the missionaries, would come over and that was really cool cause they were like young guys and we'd chat. And I don't know if I just wasn't paying attention maybe, but like I thought, you know, it's just that Bible, this Bible, Book of Mormon is another gospel.
You know, didn't really pay attention. So maybe it was a bad, a bad Mormon in that way. But anyway, at some point we moved and, and I just sort of found out that we used to be that, and now we're not, we just go to this church and we're just other Christians now, because it's convenient. Now that I'm saying that it sounds like we were bad participants, but you know, it was a community that we were in and there were a lot of like really nice people, very welcoming.
And so, yeah, I mean, it just sounded like we were in a cool group, but I didn't know that it was, it was that right. It's only really when I moved over here and then realized, you know, how prevalent there is a community in the dance world. Like, you know, did I really start looking to like, what is it, you know, cause for me as a kid, I moved around a lot, you know, with my, my parents split up.
And so, I was, religion was sort of in a little bit here and there, but mostly like wherever we were because my parents had so much on their plate, but they wanted it to be in our lives in some way. But it had to be like, convenient. Like how are you able to get us there and back, you know, when they weren't juggling work and all that stuff.
So, yeah. But yeah, I guess technically I was, of the cloth for a while.
Samantha: Yeah. so, so yeah, the, the ways that I had learned growing up were ways to socialize with people in a new area, were not really readily accessible in the same way when I moved to Salt Lake. The good thing is that I moved to Salt Lake and not, Utah County. There's nothing wrong with Utah County, but I think being an outsider in so many ways, it would have been even more extreme had I moved to Provo and Orem. Salt Lake is more diverse, a lot of transplants. There's a large tech boom. So, it, it felt less obvious that I was not from Utah at least initially.
I don't know. It's, it's been an interesting, interesting experience.
Ikaika: Well, what, why did you end up there?
Samantha: My husband. As is most often the case, he was offered a job, so we moved.
Ikaika: Good. All right. Cool. Yeah, the tech boom over there is really interesting. Every year when I go for, um, the pro nationals, it's just like growing and growing over there that drive up to Provo is always a little different with the, you know, giant structures everywhere coming up.
Yeah. I mean, I understand, you know, I think they call it the promise land. Um, but I mean, I. It's beautiful, man. Especially, especially staying in Provo like that weekend. Like the snow is just coming down, you know, it's not so bad anymore. It's on the mountains there it's stunning. I mean, I was never a mountain person. I didn't have the opportunity growing up in Hawaii, I was a beach person, most of my life. but that having it all happen there with that sort of majesty. ahead of you. I can see why, a band of people might've arrived there in the past and be like, this is where we're staying. Yeah,
Samantha: We're good. We found it.
Ikaika: It's beautiful.
Samantha: Yeah, no, yeah, it is. It is gorgeous. Utah has been very kind to me. but yeah, it, it definitely is.
Ikaika: Um, what, what's your, what are your thoughts, I'm curious about the, uh, the PR the sudden proliferation during COVID of everyone's online presence.
Something that's been fun to watch from my perspective is, uh, people that would have said probably straight to your face in January, let's say, or February, like take lessons online. Why would you do that? Just come into the studio and take lessons, right? Like that's a waste of time. You're not going to learn anything. The 180 on the sort of subjects from many people, now, you know, it's like, ah, well, we have an online seminar and by the way, we're doing a, a webinar in this, a zoom meeting. And Oh, and, and now I have a podcast, we, we have two podcasts, so suddenly, it's, it's, uh, there's a big, big pivot into, into all of that. And I'm just from my angle. I just, because I don't teach online. I'm not going to; I don't want to do it. You know, so I. So just go to the studios, how retro and, but I'm still watching it all happen with, with great interest.
Samantha: Yeah. I love it. I'm fully supportive of it. Obviously, the podcast came out of the pandemic for me. I am teaching online lessons a lot now. I think access to information, the more access that you can have to information, the better.
Like the fact that, there are a couple of different dance apps out there now that have some of the world's best dancers that are offering, you know, instructional tutorials on their drills or workshops. I think it’s great. From a Pro-Am coach perspective. I am a huge fan that all of these wonderful individuals have figured out how to use zoom. So, I can have a lesson with some of, I can bring a coach into work with my students without having to fly them across the country to work with my students.
Ikaika: Oh, you're doing that too. Oh, that's cool.
Samantha: Yeah. so now I love it. I think everyone's approach to it has kind of been interesting. You have some people that are doing, you know, the bite-sized content. You have folks that are doing memberships, pay for it versus free, private lesson versus prerecorded content.
I think, I think it's interesting. I think dance needed a push into the 21st century. And if this got us there, then there we go.
Ikaika: Yeah. Yeah. I'm obviously an advocate, right. As a podcast person, but, um, it's, it's, I think it will be good moving forward, everyone to have a little bit more of an open mind of sort of possibilities.
Like we were talking about earlier it's right. It's like, well, you know, our jobs require us to go in, in a way where the state governments are often not really okay with, for the time being and you got to pay the rent. Right. So, I, I, I respect the hustle, you know, in some way. Yeah. So, I like that. It's just, w what I found interesting was the, you know, the vehement like, no, don't go do online stuff.
Right. And then now, like, let's do online stuff. It has been funny to watch.
Samantha: I think an interesting consequence of that. I was talking with Wayne Eng two weeks ago about this. I think one of the issues that we've had in the past is that anyone and everyone can create a YouTube video, right, with zero qualifications or with all of the qualifications, anyone can record a YouTube video.
So, I think if good quality instructors are now going to be available online. If you can get anyone's workshop anyone's lecture series available online, it's going to educate the consumer in a way that they haven't previously been educated about what to look for in the dance instruction that they're seeking. So, whether that's asking about certifications or looking for buzzwords, like Dance Vision, or NDCA, or ISTD or Fred Astaire or Arthur Murray, and knowing that those are related to syllabi. What is a syllabi, what is the process for making sure that your dance instructor that's on the other side of the screen actually knows what they are talking about?
Ikaika: Yeah, I've seen a number of sort of Facebook fights, you can call it, about people commenting on, you would say the, you know, whether or not someone was qualified to be teaching online lessons. At some rate, you know, it was a decent raise, like $65 an hour for someone who is a pro-am student to actually teach someone online.
Then other pros in the area, of course, jumping on them, be like, why are you, you're a pro-am student? Why are you teaching? Why are you charging this much, blah, blah, blah? And that student was like, why can't I? Yeah. You know, like I'm not charging as much as you, but I can at least teach a beginner and a, this is what I want to charge.
And. You know, that's it got really heated. and it, yeah, in a way, when you, when you remove all the gatekeepers, it's one thing when it's like entertainment content, right? Like, and you can watch all the entertainment you want and, and, and the, the networks are not deciding what's airing. It's like, well, you can have all of it when you want, whenever you want.
And so, it's it choose your entertainment to, as you, like. When it's something like information that's. Hopefully you want it to be good. Cause you're trying to learn a skill. When you, when you removed the gatekeepers, you suddenly realized the value of the gatekeepers, you know, with, with the people to, to say these people are good and therefore qualified, they have this, they have this, they have this, we have decided they're good.
And they kind of christen and not christen, and, um, and you know, the knight you and, uh, send you out there, right? You you've been deemed worthy because otherwise we end up in that sort of situation like you're talking about where Person X can say, I'm the best teacher in the world. Person other X can say the same person, Y and to a, to a non-dancer who doesn't know the difference they can readily follow either for a long time and not know that, you know, that it wasn't the same. So, yeah. I'm actually curious how the hell we, we may kind of bridge that gap of, yeah. Everyone can put something out, but can we be honest, this is the word, this is the worst part. Can we be honest and say that not all practitioners are equally as good.
That's very unpopular to say it. It's hard to say because you don't want to be the guy who says I'm not as good as them because they never went, especially with an online audience. Like everyone can just shift immediately and go over there. Right. So, they got to kind of say like they are, but if we, if we can't say that not everyone is of the same skill, honestly, then we have no way to filter out. And I don't know, it seems like it's going to be messy otherwise.
Samantha: Yeah, it's, it's tricky. I liken it to the same, the same situation that you run into with trades people. So, if you are looking for a plumber. You're probably going to look for a licensed plumber.
You're looking for an electrician. You're going to look for a license electrician. That doesn't mean that there aren't un-licensed electricians out there that are doing work, but you as a consumer,
Ikaika: better right?
Samantha: Some sometimes better. But you as a consumer, you're going to look okay. What are the certifications of the person that I'm hiring? What are their reviews? What are their prices? And then for you as a consumer, with that information, you can decide what you want to prioritize. Is it price? Is it reviews? Is it qualifications? and depending on what area of the country you're in or what country you're in, you might not have access or good access to a local dance instructor that is a world champion or has been certified by one of the adjudicating organizations.
Ikaika: Yeah, likely not. Yeah. I mean, there's so there's so few of them to go around and incentives are such that if you are that sort of tier. Then you'd want to be in a, more of a metropolitan area where you can command a higher price. yeah. So, yeah, that's, that's, it's very interesting how we sort that out. I mean, even the certification systems themselves have certain tiers to them, right? Like he would say, like, if you ask someone, there was a while where being certified by the ISTD was like the thing, you know, and then that wasn't as good as Terpsichore or that wasn't as good as just having Arthur Murray, you know? So yeah. Even then you don't know, because I think what happened was there was one certification system as someone else thought like, well, I got to make my own again. Right. I can write my own book and make my own syllabi. And no one stopped me from doing that. And as long as I get enough people to buy in that, I've got. Yeah. What, what are we talking about? Like the process of, of, of how do you find out what is the best source at your price target, I guess. What, w what's your, what's your gut tell you on which metric is it?
Is it reviews? Is it results of, of, of, of students? Is it, what is it?
Samantha: I, I think right now, it depends on what the student's goal is. I think Google reviews right now, just across the board, or board, are King, if you have somebody that's walking in the first day, that is not part of our industry. very rarely are you going to have someone that does a Google search or something that says like, Oh, who were, who were the top Latin professional dancers of the last decade. Okay. Now how in the world do I find their contact information to figure out what city they teach in? No, most, unless you are a competitive mindset person, you're going to Google ballroom dance studio in your local city and see who has the best reviews.
I would hope then once they walk in the door that they're looking for some of those buzz buzzwords or looking for an indication somewhere along the line of why this person is calling them a professional dance instructor. But I don't know if the consumer is educated enough now to be asking those questions.
Ikaika: Yeah, they would have to know what the certifications themselves are. Right. It's like I have a DVIDA license. What's DVIDA. I have a USISTD license. What is that? Okay, sounds good. I don't know what it means. At least you did something.
Samantha: And how many of us are volunteering that information on the first lesson, right? Like, we're not, we're saying, hi, how are you doing? What are we working on? Let's get started.
Ikaika: almost by definition. The, the better the teacher is the less likely you are to find them because they're just busy. They don't need a website. You know, they don't, they need to have a Yelp page to have a review or whatever it is, right.
They're just, they're booked, and they got a list, a waiting list. So, you're never going to hear about the most. That's what almost always happens, right? Is that you you've been in a scene for a while, and then you realize that there there's people that are actually there, the people that the people you work with go to and you wish you knew so that you could go to them, but you can't, you don't, you, you can't get on the list right.
In a way. And, um, there’s no, like just, Oh, I just logged on to Richard Gleave's website and booked the lesson. He doesn't need a website. He doesn't need the, the, the, the lead generating stuff. So, you can't find him.
Samantha: well. And that goes back to those, you know, the tiered nature of our industry, the fact that there are certain conversations happening behind certain curtains or behind certain doors that other people at a different level are not, are not privy to it's the same with taking lessons. Unless you know how to get in touch with people you're not getting in touch with people, for coaching lessons or training.
Ikaika: Yeah. Yeah. I always wondered when I met someone like that, like, you know, can I get a lesson? Okay. Yeah. When do you want it? I don't know. When do you have a spot? Oh yeah. I have lots of availability and I'm always like, Ooh.
Should I, should I be concerned? Or, you know, like, yeah. It's how do you educate the consumer on something that, again, at least with a plumber, I should, I don't know. I, I, plumbers are so vital. I mean, they've, they've saved more people than doctors in the years, you know, like hygiene. Um, but. Yeah, dancing again, like I said, it was like if only we were as important as plumbers.
Yeah. In a way, a lot of, a lot of the people that I know that are on, w you have so many things, Yelp, Google, whatever reviews, Thumbtack, uh, uh, Task Rabbit, I don’t know, whatever, all the different places where someone can find you and then, and then hire you. There, those sorts of people. And I don't mean those sorts of people in any other way than the people that are on those and that generate leads that way. we, we really need them because I've heard someone say and they said it sort of tongue in cheek, I think. But it was just that they're the, they're the front end of the dance business.
Ikaika: Right. Like they will get people in and get them interested and get them excited. And unfortunately, they have a pretty big turnover because eventually people. Well, not a pretty big turnover, but there's a type of student who then like sees, Oh, there's another level, another thing. And oftentimes that teacher is not really the teacher for them. And then they kind of move on and they go up that ladder, you know, up the tiers, because those people at the top, they don't do that.
They don't want to do that. They don't even have that skillset. If you want to call it marketing or whatever, right. To figure out how to get new people off the street, they're kind of just counting on the other people to get them in, get them interested. And it's assuming those people are going to move on eventually. And one of them might find them. I think it's actually a weakness in that business model. I think, I think everyone would be better served finding out if I moved to a new area and no one knew who I was, I should be able to get people off the street and teach them how to dance. And I think we're actually finding that now, but, yeah, that seems to be the filter up process that happens.
Samantha: Well and, and it goes back to networking amongst those levels. Right? So, if you and I were in the same city, I would hope that if I had a couple, I've worked with them for 15 hours, they're starting to say, okay, I do want to start competing at a very high level. I see some spark of inspiration in them, and I get them to a point where maybe I'm not the right instructor. I can be like, you know what? I've got this guy over here. He does competitive amateur students at a really high level. Let me, let me give you his business information. And on the flip side, if you had somebody reach out that said, I really want to learn a wedding dance to the song from dirty dancing, you can be like, you know what, that's not my game, but I've got this lady over here.
Ikaika: That's what I say.
Samantha: go over. Right. so, so finding,
Ikaika: I think that's important because. Your students will then really feel like they can trust you. Right? Like you, you, you, you really test someone's honesty, when they will tell you something that's not in their immediate best interest, you know, they'll just, they'll tell you anyway.
And it's like, okay, well, this person is willing to tell me something that, you know, not directly benefiting them, but is the truth still, and then, you know, if I were recommending someone else, I would definitely want to send them to the person that's trustworthy, you know, that I can, I can know is going to level with me. so yeah, that's, that can only be a good thing I assume. I mean, I I've heard that myself. It's almost always in some capacity when I try and refer someone to someone else, they doubled down and want to stay because they suddenly feel like they can trust me more. It's weird.
Ikaika: You know, they're like, Oh, Hey, you know what? I can't do the wedding down. Sorry, can you go so well, but we really just feel like we can trust you. So, could you help us? We're like, yes, you can trust me still. I'm not the guy. Right? Like I can't do it. Right. So, you can trust me from over there. Yeah. I mean, once you can trust is that if I do it, it's not going to be very good or it's not going to be as good as if you went to someone else.
So, but sure. You really want to, you're my friends, we'll do it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe it's only a good thing, right? Yeah. There's a lot of, there's a lot of, not that, because again, and I understand that people need to keep people around. Right. Like I get it. So, I'm not judging, but it's just a, it's a tough spot to be in.
Samantha: Definitely, definitely. And I think our industry is an interesting one because it is consumer-facing business, it is competitive sport, and then it is artistic expression. And there are so many different moving parts and different motivations for wanting to learn ballroom dancing, or want to be a part of ballroom dancing, and those aren't always, congruous with each other. There are a lot of times where the art and the business are in conflict or the sport and the business are in conflict. And how do we rectify that situation so that we can get this industry that, that you and I are so both passionate about out to as many people as possible and to share it with the world in hopefully a positive way not a negative way.
Ikaika: Well, I I'm, I have nothing but respect for that. The people that are good at that. Cause yeah, like I said, it's not, I just love everyone who's good at stuff I'm not good at. And I, I always want to talk to them and find out what's that like, you know, I, I just, I think, I think very early on that teacher was right.
She's like, I don't have enough time, you know, and I'm going to be more helpful to everyone by just really drilling down at the one thing I can do. Offering maximum value that one thing and leaving the rest of everyone else, like when, what they're good at. Right. So yeah, when people are like, I know this one guy, in our area, he is.
Yeah, I think the truth is you wouldn't call him like a top tier teacher, you know, although everyone's business card says, Oh, from social to competitive, right. Like, which is funny. it's, it's, you know, of course it's true, but it's like, it's like true with, with, uh, you know, quotes, um, it's a specific truth.
So, but so he says that he's not, he's not a, he's not a low tier teacher either. Right? You would say, you know, somewhere in the middle, but this guy is super good at just drumming up people from, you know, from various walks of life and always networking with, you know, nonprofits and things. And, um, he's just got this energy about him that he just, I don't know, just people keep coming in.
Not everyone stays with him for very long, but he himself is responsible for so many sorts of. Connected teachers and stuff being very, very booked because he does the thing that those guys, guys can't do. And, and, you know, if you think of the scene as a sort of an ecosystem, like a, like a forest, right? Like he's the canopy at the top pulling in all the, all the energy, it sort of drops down to feed the rest of the forest, the bottom, or the top, I guess, upside down. Yeah. Super, super important. Super interesting.
Samantha: Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. Well, there are many more conversations to be had I'm sure. But we will go ahead and, uh,
Ikaika: the good ones go for two plus hours.
Samantha: Yeah. So, anything else, um, going back into the interview mindset rather than conversation, mindset. Anything else that you want our listeners to be aware of before we wrap for today?
Ikaika: no, I think, uh, I think now's a really good time to do sort of the thing we're doing. Like, I guess if anything, just keep thinking about everything, keep thinking about everything, keep thinking about interesting questions and, and interesting, uh, ways of looking at, you know, wherever we are and it'll, it'll certainly get better.
And I'm actually curious if you had like one pressing issue that is like the thing that needs to be figured out about what we do. know, what is it? Right? Like, and I mean, in like the most honest way, like if you really got to pick and you weren't going to be judged it, wasn't going to affect your career at all.
And you can say it and publicly without getting pilloried by, you know, the, the who knows who, what would that be? Like that's what I always want to know, because that's probably the most interesting thing to discuss and. The only thing that's more interesting to discuss that, that thing is actually why can't we discuss it? That's also it. Yeah. So, I get from a lot of people that way. I can't talk about that. Right. Yeah. That's interesting. So, yeah, so I love this. I think, uh, I think we should do more of it and, maybe if you do have an answer to that, we can, we can save that for next time.
Samantha: There we go. Awesome. Well, thank you so much.
If you are listening and watching this, now, I'm going to tell you two things to do. The first is to hit the subscribe button and the like button because I have to because it's YouTube. And then the second is go find The Framework Podcast on your favorite podcast platform of choice and make sure you are following that as well.
So, I will link in the description below. thank you so much for being a guest today.
Ikaika: Thank you for having me. It's a big pleasure.
Samantha: Thank you again to Ikaika Dowsett for being a guest on today's podcast. If you want to check out The Framework Podcast, like we mentioned, the link will be in the description box below. as I also mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, I have also included the link to the GoFundMe campaign to help offset some of the medical expenses, um, for Ron Montez's family,
Once again, I'm Samantha, your host from Love Live Dance. You can follow us across social media at ballroom chat, and if you have not already done so please do make sure that you have given us a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice. We really do appreciate that and that. Really does help us get this podcast out to many more potential dancers that are starting on their dance journey as always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing.