Growing Pains - From Gymnast to Pro-dancer - Megan Rund

Samantha StoutMarch 31, 2021Ballroom Chat: Episode #45
megan rund ballroom chat

Megan Rund discusses her start in gymnastics, what happens when your plans suddenly change and your life has put on a completely different path, and the growing pains and culture shock of moving to Utah for college and for ballroom dance. Megan and Samantha also reflect on the interesting challenges of navigating the transition from amateur and student to professional and especially pro am instructor.

Megan Rund is a former Utah Valley University Tour Team member. She and her teammates won the Blackpool Standard Team Championship and as an Amateur, she and her partner became Ohio Star Ball Smooth Champions. She is now a Rising Star and Open Professional Finalist in the Smooth Category.

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Episode Transcript

Samantha: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat, the podcast dedicated to sharing the dance journey. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Today, I'm joined by Megan Rund. She was a member of the UVU touring team and was part of the standard formation team that were Blackpool champions in 2015.

She's also a former Ohio star ball, amateur smooth champion, and she is currently a rising star and open professional smooth finalist. I have the opportunity to talk to her today about her start in gymnastics. What happens when your plans suddenly change, and your life has put on a completely different path? The growing pains and culture shock of moving it to Utah for college and for ballroom dance. And then the interesting challenges of navigating the transition from amateur and student to professional and especially pro-am instructor. So I hope you enjoy my conversation with Megan Rund.

Well, thank you Megan so much for being a guest today.

Megan: Hi, Samantha. Thanks so much for having me.

Samantha: So, we worked together previously, at Ballroom Utah for a little while. But for the folks that are listening or watching, what was your kind of introduction into the ballroom industry? How did you get into ballroom dancing and ultimately to UVU and onto your professional career?

Megan: Yeah, so it's kind of a interesting start. I didn't have much dance background at all, actually started from a very young age as a gymnast. So that was my, that was my thing from, I mean, as soon as I could walk, I was in the gym and you know, that was kind of my life for majority for majority of my life all the way up through high school and I had a pretty serious injury.

My gymnastics career was pretty troubled with quite a few injuries actually, but I had a pretty serious injury that took me out for a long time. I grew a lot. I had a huge growth spurt. And so coming back to gymnastics was really tough. I didn't, I didn't know my body anymore. I was kind of starting from square one. And it just, my heart wasn't in the same place it had to be in to keep going at the level I was going at. And so I had met a lady just out of the blue at a, at a gymnastics competition. And she had mentioned she had done ballroom dancing, and I had no idea what even that was. I mean, I'm from a very small town in Indiana.

So in general, it's not, not widely done or known about, so. So I was like, that's interesting. And she was like, yeah, you know, I was kind of telling her about how I had decided to just stop competing and things like that. And she was like, Oh, well, you know, you should give it a try. Like, you know, you're already athletic, you know, why not?

I'm like, okay. Yeah. And all the way through my gymnastics career, I had always been drawn to dance. I was always the one who was like the most excited at camps for dance, the dance portion of it. And everyone else was like, Oh man. I'm like, yes, dance. This is my favorite part. And it just never really clicked to me to actually like make it something I did.

It was just always gymnastics was, was what I did. So when that lady gala kind of sparked that idea of my brain, I told my mom, she was like, what do you want to do? Like, what is that? And I like Googled it. And I was like showing her. I was like, they like dance with a partner. And like, if they wear all these pretty dresses and I was like, it sounds really fun.

And so. When I was like 16 or 17 is when that all happened. And so then I went to a social studio in Indiana and I had just started taking lessons and started to learn how to social dance and really just fell in love with it. And the, so it was so, so wildly different than what I had been used to from gymnastics coming to this as a place to like express yourself and, you know. Coming from a place of quite a lot of structure and, you know not showing your emotions and things like that, to having an outlet was just, it was really life changing for me.

I was a very, very shy, timid person in my normal day life. I wouldn't go out of my way to talk to people. And, you know, I just, I was always the one in school who is in the back, not saying anything. So it really kind of gave me an opportunity to find myself as like a person and just find an outlet that I really loved. And so I learned how to social dance and I was like, you know, I really love this.

And I knew from the get go, I wanted to get out of Indiana. There's just not, not a ton of opportunities there and just wasn't a good fit for me. So I was always kind of thinking that gymnastics or, or coaching or something like that would be my route to kind of get me out of there. But I was like, well, maybe I'll, I'll try to try to dance and see how that goes. So I just got on Google and searched up, you know, ballroom dancing schools and Utah came up, you know. I had no idea that it was such a Mecca or a hub or anything like that for especially college students. And so I found UVU and I was like, okay, well, they have this touring team, which sounds like so much fun.

I was like, okay, if I apply and they gave me a scholarship to dance on it, the company, then I'll go. If not, then I'll know, this is just. Yeah, not, you know, not really worth it and I'll, I'll do it as a hobby. And somehow they, you know, it all worked out and they accepted me, and I moved out there. I honestly, I, I really knew not much about dancing at all when I applied.

I, you know, I think it was luck, a lot of it. Just getting out there and thinking back I'm like, why, you know. I just remember on the phone, I do did mostly American style, only American style when I had was at the social studio. And so I remember being on the phone call like the interview before, and they're like, Okay. So you're going to be in these technique classes, like International Latin and Standard. And I didn't even know what that was. I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah. great. uhuh. Sure. Like, yeah. And they're like, okay, so, you know, like what level are you? I'm like, Oh, you know, I don't know. I'll, I'll check it out. I'll get back to you. Like I don't, I have no idea. I just was kind of really out of my, my whole comfort zone, but I love that I love to be pushed and challenged and I was ready and excited and you know, so that was definitely, most of my learning came from, from UVU and the technique classes and the team and, and all of that.

So yeah, it just was kind of an odd, right. Just an odd turn in my life that, that took me to ballroom dancing. And then from there I started dancing with my partner Alan and Just from there, we really enjoyed and loved dancing together. And so we just decided, you know, we, we really love this and want to make this a career. And so that's when we moved out to Seattle. So yeah, yeah. Kind of a random, random start into it, but lucky and happy, it all worked out

Samantha: Definitely. Well, and I feel like that that story of like my life was planning in this direction and something happened and I found ballroom dancing as a result, is a story that comes up time and time again with my guests. It doesn't feel like the vast majority of ballroom dancers, especially teaching ballroom dancers, like that was predestined for us.

It just like was, you know, the door was open in front of us and we just happened to walk through on that day. And I was like, okay, cool. Now I'm here. Awesome. This is definitely the right decision. I also think it's interesting that you mentioned that you were an American dancer and part of the application process for UVU appears to be very international based.

I had Aaron on earlier on in the year and he mentioned kind of the same thing that he was this American dancer. And then suddenly he had to learn all of these international routines and film them with very little information to actually apply for the team. So when you sent in your audition tapes, did you work with one of the coaches at your studio to kind of get a base understanding or were you just looking at it as I am an athlete, I'm a performer. I know what choreography looks like and how to train for choreography. So I'm just going to treat this like choreography and I'll figure out the technique behind it, if I'm accepted and I can get kind of into those classes at UVU.

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. So like I said, ballroom isn't super huge in Utah Indiana, so my teachers really didn't even know international either. Right. They were pretty much just social dancers. So my audition tapes, luckily it could be rhythm or smooth when you send in your audition tapes. So I was able to do rhythm and smooth Audition tapes. And the nice thing is I think really what maybe drew them is I was a gymnast, so I did a lot of tricks. I was like, okay, let's cover this up. Not much knowledge with some good, good tricks in there. But yeah, but then once you get accepted, they send you all these videos that you do have to learn. And so, and they're mostly international style, so I definitely did treat it as, okay. This is just, I'm going to learn it as choreography.

And you know, they're saying the steps are like, all right now, fall away, double reverse. And I'm like, okay. So it looks like they're going backwards and just literally no, no idea whatsoever. I just remember being in my garage and like making my parents, like, can you please move the cars out of the garage so I can practice again and learn these videos because you know, you don't have a partner you're by yourself.

So, yeah, it was definitely intimidating. And then you show up in all these, a lot of them have lived there or had been practicing together. And, and so, you know, you want to make sure you're prepared and you know, what's going on, but yeah, I definitely treated it as this is choreography and hopefully, you know, we'll learn as we go. Crash course.

Samantha: Yeah, definitely. And then how, how did you feel about kind of the adjustment from rural Indiana to suddenly being in Utah? Utah has its own culture, its own ins and outs, its own kind of personality shall we say? Did you feel like it was just because you were part of the team you kind of had that found family immediately or did you have kind of a learning curve or a hurdle to get over, making the switch to living and working in Utah?

Megan: Absolutely. It was a, it was a huge, huge cultural shock for me and a really, really tough time actually. I mean, honestly I had never, ever even heard of the church or anything like that before I moved out there. Not, not even at all. I remember somebody asking me the one of the first days I was there if I was LDS, which is a Latter Day Saint, and I thought they were trying to sell me LSD. I had never even heard of that in general. And I was like, Oh no, no, I don't. I, you know, I don't do that.

I, you know, think like it was college. So I was like from a small town in Indiana, I'm like, yes, this is what college is like, you know, I'm like, Oh, you know, no, thanks. Yeah. I don't do that. They're like, what do you mean? Like, they were so confused and they're like, you know, are you a Mormon? I was like, Oh, like what? Like what? And so I called my mom. And like, what is this? And she sent me a pamphlet. So I like read in a pamphlet. I'm like, okay, what? Like what is going on? So I was 100% clueless going into it.

So yeah, it was really, really tough, especially being a female out there as well. There's some pretty different standards for the way of life. And so that was just a really tough adjustment feeling, kind of like an outsider. And, but luckily there were some people on the team who were kind of in the same position and there was very far and few of us, so we kind of like stuck together and that, that really helped.

But yeah, being on a team did make a big difference because like I said, I was so unbelievably shy growing up. That I, I think my first year, I can't even imagine, you know, going out of my way to having to talk to people or things like that. So being on that team really made, did make a big difference in everyone was so, so very kind and really welcoming as well. So that made a big difference.

Samantha: Yeah. And then obviously the team goes on to compete nationally and internationally. I mentioned at the top that you were part of the standard formation team that won in Blackpool. And then obviously you had your amateur career in smooth as well. How did you kind of balance the structure between wanting to push your own amateur career and kind of set up the ability to transition into a professional career, but then also wanting to make sure that you were an active participant in the team and that you were kind of focusing on bringing the entire team to obviously that championship level as well.

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. So that first year was actually the year we went to Blackpool my very first year. So that was a tough year, especially not knowing much. I know my first semester Alan hadn't joined the team yet. Well he had, but he wasn't on the team at that first semester. And so I was kind of on my own trying to learn things and I wasn't really succeeding just by doing the school and team aspect of it.

I wasn't getting as much of the information as I needed at the time kind of being behind the game. So my first semester there was no way I would've made to, to actually dance on the formation team in Blackpool. I just had no idea. So when Alan came and we got introduced and we had a tryout and we started dancing together. Then we were able to take private lessons and I was really able to then kind of like immerse myself and learn and get that extra, extra help I really needed and wanted. So that's when I really feel like kind of the dancing started taking that. That turned for me as wanting to do amateur and compete with a partner.

And then that really drove me being successful on the team as well. Which so I feel like they kind of went, went together because being on a team gave, gave Alan and I, a lot of opportunities to perform together and compete as well. So I feel like both kind of gave to each other and really just were so beneficial to have both of them.

Samantha: Yeah. And then obviously at some point you know, you graduate from UVU, were you studying something outside of dance education or dance performance while you're in college? Or was, or was the focus really

Megan: yeah, marketing and communications.

Samantha: So was your intention after graduation to go more into that marketing end of the world?

Or did you know pretty much immediately, like this is the path in front of me. So let me see how far dancing can take me?

Megan: No, it was kind of mixed feelings for me. I just, because I didn't ever feel like I, I never felt like I had that knowledge or I just felt like things just happened so fast. Dancing professionally wasn't ever something I thought I would do. I thought, okay, you know, this is a great opportunity for me to get out of Indiana and to do something I love and to travel and try something new.

And it wasn't until maybe like a year and a half or two years after being out there being on the team and competing amateur that I was like, okay, you know and then talking with our coaches who are very supportive and really gave, you know, a lot of information about, you know, dancing professionally and what it can be as a life.

Cause I really just had no idea. I'd only seen a very limited side of it. And so once I started kind of learning more and then, you know, looking at some of the people had left Utah and become professional and seeing that, okay, they were successful and they were enjoying it. I kind of like sparked a little bit of interest in me. To think about it. And Alan and I talked about it a while and you know, it wasn't a quick decision by any means. We went back and forth many times, but we knew if we were going to go be professional, that it would be best if we moved out of Utah and I was kind of ready to get out of there at that point.

It's a great learning, learning process, but that was my time. And so yeah, it definitely. It definitely was a slow process and a lot of back and forth, like, is this something that I think will support, you know, be able to support myself and if I have a family, is this an option? You know, and so it's kind of scary going from being an amateur to deciding, okay, we're going to move out there and turn professional.

And so it was kind of just another leap of faith, which I thrive on. It's just kind of go for it. And if we fail, I guess, you know, we'll figure something else out.

Samantha: Yeah. Well, and you, you are also in kind of in a unique position that Alan is not just your dance partner, he's your actual partner in life. You guys are engaged, which congratulations by the way. So I feel like that probably makes it

Megan: Thank you so much

Samantha: that probably makes the decision process even more nuanced and layered, right? Because it's not just, is this a good career option for both of us individually? It's also, can we sustain, like you said, a family with this, if it goes well, and if it goes not so well, what are our other options?

If you know, the, the dance partnership isn't the best for the career, or if, you know, if anything external happens, you're kind of stuck in a position where it's not just one of you that's impacted it's both of you. So, so what was kind of that decision process for you? You kind of mentioned that, you know, you wanted to take the leap of faith. You, you saw other couples that were making this work and other professionals that were making this work, but can you take me through some of the discussions that the two of you had about, you know, what the pros and cons would be moving in this professional direction?

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. So first and foremost, you know, Dancing isn't. I mean, my family definitely accepts and is super supportive, but it's not always the career choice that your family really wants you to take going into the arts. It was like, well, you know, have a backup plan. Like it's never like, Oh yeah, great way to go. So, you know, there's always that in the back of your brain, like, you don't want to disappoint your family and you know, you don't want to fail.

So, I mean, at anything so. That was always a big one for both of us was just kind of, you know, always those little voices in the back of our head, like, you know, dancers struggle or, you know, things like that, that isn't necessarily true, but it's pretty stereotypical conversations you can have with your family. And you know, we, we just talked about how much we loved traveling and competing together. Like that was such a big part of our lives. I mean, the entire time we were in school and the thing was when we would think about our schooling versus our dancing would always take, take precedent.

Right. So, yeah. You know, if we're traveling for the company, traveling for the team, that that's what we did. That was what was first. Or if we had a competition that was out of state school was kind of put on hold. So that's where it really helped make the decision is like, okay, if it was the other way around, you know, and we were really more passionate about school and things like that, then I think we would have taken a different direction.

But when we kept looking at like our lives at the time and thinking like, what would be our lives without this? It was like, well, I don't know who, it wouldn't, it wouldn't be fulfilling. So that really helped make the decision.

Samantha: Awesome. I want to circle back to your history with gymnastics because I think it's also good to kind of look at that lens. Obviously growing up as an athlete that kind of helps with your dance career, but you mentioned something very interesting, which was after an injury you didn't feel like your body was your own, or you couldn't connect with your body in the way that you, you had previously.

So if you're willing, I'd like, I'd like to kind of talk about the mental and emotional state at that time. And then how, because presumably, I mean, watching you dance now, you feel like you're very much inside your body and very in tune with yourself and your expression and your musicality. So what kind of was it about ballroom dancing or was it just about growth and development that allowed you to get back to a place where you felt more comfortable and more in tune with yourself?

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. It's such a great question. It was such a, it was such a tough time in my life that not really having, I always kind of defined myself through what I was doing. So I was a gymnast, you know, I, I did great in school and, and. I enjoyed that as well, but gymnastics was my thing and that's how I defined myself as a person.

And so when that ended and when I had to make that decision I really just, I didn't know who I was. I didn't know what I wanted. So it was just a very empty, confusing, especially at that age, you know, 16, 17 years old is already pretty tough. So that, that really just took it to a whole nother level of, okay.

I think, you know, the way I was mentally thinking about things, wasn't the healthiest and I wasn't in a good place where I would put my self worth on how I did at, you know, at practice each day or, you know, at competitions. So. That really kind of opened my mind to being like, okay, maybe I need to take a deeper look at myself and figure out, maybe what's a healthier way to go about things because I knew I never wanted to give up being an athlete.

It's just something that I love so much. And it really, it does bring a lot to my life, but instead of letting it define my life, letting it be an asset, and that's, that's really where dancing and ballroom dance just came into play is that you do have to be so in tune with yourself. And so, you know, okay, with who you are to put yourself out there in that way.

And the part of having a partner was really interesting and a good dynamic for me, having somebody to kind of support you and maybe be those positive reinforcement re you know, those thoughts that a lot of times, you know, we can be really difficult on ourselves. So. That's where I, I really lucked out with having a fantastic partner, Alan. He is so positive and, and reinforcing. And so that, that's really where my mindset started to change is that, you know, this can be something where I, I show who I am, even if I don't feel like I have the words to say it. And where I feel like I can be somebody else too. Right. I, I can be whoever I want to be on the floor and that doesn't matter.

It doesn't affect my, my work. It doesn't affect, you know, my life. I can still live a happy life, even if what I'm doing on the floor It feels foreign or I'm not successful that day. So it was a really huge mental switch for me and emotional switch that was necessary. I feel like I would have had a, really, a more difficult time in my life ahead of me if I had not had that event where I kind of like looked at like, wow, this is not, this is not healthy. This is not a good way to live. So it really did just change my life. I feel like 180.

Samantha: Yeah. What was the plan up until that point? Were you pursuing Olympic goals for gymnastics? Were you thinking about going into coaching? Was, was gymnastics kind of the career path up until that that injury happened?

Megan: Yeah, definitely. It was always kind of what I thought I would do was you know, if I had the opportunity and was able to get there was to be a college gymnast or coaching, I had started coaching and choreographing floor routines, which was so much fun and also really kind of introduced me to the dance, you know, aspect of it. And I was, it was doing pretty well with that and enjoying it. So that was always kind of my goal. I, I, I always kind of knew marketing communications. I really enjoyed that. So I knew that was kind of going to be the education route, but I always knew that I needed something else as well. So it was definitely my plan to kind of coach, you know, things like that.

Samantha: So one of the conversations that we've had actually just recently with Jessica Mancini she was ice skater growing up and she kind of had a similar situation where, you know, things happened and suddenly ice skating wasn't her future anymore. We kind of dealt into a little bit of the topic of like finding the balance for youth athletes, between pushing their athletics at a high level, and also getting the opportunity to still be kids and teenagers and having a well balanced life.

You mentioned kind of that, that your identity was tied up in being a gymnast and the separation allowed you to reflect a little bit more. Do you feel like prior to that point, you had balance in your life or because your identity was so tied to being a gymnast, that that was really the focus and the drive for, for kind of where you were spending your time and effort up until that point?

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. Definitely all of my time and energy went into the gym. So I would go to school. And then immediately, once I was done with school, I would eat in the car, change in the car on the way home or change really fast at home, and then head to the gym by 3:30. And then I would be there the rest of the evening until 8:30 or nine. Come home maybe eat something and, you know, try to do finish up homework, things like that. But all of my time and energy was always spent at the gym or at competitions. And so it definitely was not much of a balance.

But that's kind of just my personality in general. I'm very dedicated and very focused. So if I have my mind set on something, I really just go for it. So I definitely think that had a lot to do with A, my personality and B just the sport in general is, is pretty, can be pretty difficult for, for children.

Samantha: Yeah. So then the mind shift happens and you're like, okay, gym, gym, gymnast cannot be my identity anymore. I need to find something else I need to, I need to be a little bit more balanced. Now, you know, you've put yourself a whole body, heart, and soul into ballroom dance. How are you finding that balance or have you kind of gone back and said, Nope, I am a ballroom dancer? That is my identity now.

Megan: Yeah. So, you know, it's been a little tough. I feel like when we first got the opportunity to move to Seattle, I kind of went back to old ways and was very much gung ho and which, which is not a bad thing, but very focused on wanting to do well competitively and, you know, learn how to teach well and have a full schedule of students. And. So I put a lot of pressure on myself to kind of be the best, right, at what I was doing then and there. And really kind of then again, lost myself, a little bit. So we, we really just dove into the competitive field as pros, which is very different than amateurs. And we had a lot more opportunities at the studio. The studio is constantly bringing in different coaches. So we were so excited about that. And so we were just taking every opportunity. So what, while that was great. There were so many voices. So many different opinions, so many different just ways to think about things. And we were not at a point where we were educated enough to kind of have a filter, to take things and process it ourselves and then decide, okay, this works for me.

This is saying the same thing, just maybe in a different way. So we had not, we were not, at that point, we had just worked really mainly with one coach in Utah. Who we love dearly and just did so much for us. And so we were used to having. You know, somebody to run things off of if we had other coaches in the, in the studio. So we had a base and here we did not. We had so, so many different voices and we were trying so hard to do everything that everyone wanted and look the way everyone wanted us to look and be that way. And you know, it really, we got to a point where we just were like, who are we? You know, who do? We don't even know.

You know, we don't know who we are, you know, dancing together as a couple. We don't know who we are dancing individually. We don't know technically, you know, we feel like we have so many different ways of thinking and ideas and it was so overwhelming and almost disheartening because we were so, so excited and so willing and eager, and we wanted to work with everyone and we wanted to please everyone and do well and teach and.

It was a lot, it was a lot to jump into. And so we took a, we took a little break. We just had to step back and say, you know, this, this is not going where we want it to go. We're not able to, you know, express ourselves like we were able to before and have our own voice. We are, you know, regurgitating everyone else's voice and not in a good way. We were not getting the results we wanted because we, we were not clear. We didn't, we didn't have an idea. We weren't sharing who we were. We were trying to be, who everyone was saying to be. So we took a break and then the whole COVID thing happened. So now we took a much longer break, which has actually been really, really great for us to kind of narrow down who we want to work with and just really stick to a much more limited Amount of just voices to our dancing at the time and kind of find what we want and who we are, and kind of do that.

I feel like I just had that little bit of a journey again and just really trying to be me instead of, you know, something else or someone else.

Samantha: Yeah. Well, and I think that's a good point to make is kind of the, the struggle between wanting to know as much information as possible so that you can make informed decisions for yourself, but also being able to have a single point of truth or a single point of guidance in your life that you can bring those conflicting pieces of BA of information back to you and be like, okay, how do I process this in a way that works for me or works for me and my partner, or, or works for the direction that we're going?

I think especially for new students that are coming up, you know, we want them to be in front of as many coaches as possible because they're great opportunities. But at the same time, then you get into that, that issue of if you don't have, you know, a single coach or a single instructor that you really trust and can build a relationship with, it's very hard then to sort through what information you want to keep and what information you can discard.

With this time off that you've had, especially the last year, have, it kind of sounds like you're starting to make a plan of, you know, who the lead coach in your, in your dance journey will be and kind of build a relationship there. Are you still seeking out coaching opportunities or at this point, are you just taking a moment to find out the direction that you and Alan really want to go and kind of what your style is and what your voice on the floor will be?

Megan: Absolutely. So at first we did just take a break completely. We just said, you know, we're unhappy, we're not enjoying this and this isn't, this, isn't what we want. We, we want to be able to go and do this and enjoy this together and it wasn't happening. So at the beginning we did just take a break completely from competitive dancing.

We're still teaching and training our students and things like that. But. We did just take a break completely, and I actually took a break completely from teaching as well. I was just, was a very difficult situation going into also the Pro-Am aspect of it, which I was not prepared for. And so I needed to just take a break completely. So I did, I took a few months and thankfully we have a very supportive studio that understood that I was just burnt out and I just, I needed some time. And so I took some time. And then when I came back, Alan and I started to dance again together just with our ourselves, we just started kind of from a blank slate and just started to dance again together and kind of reignite the passion and the excitement behind it.

And then we have, we have, thankfully we are so lucky. I mean, With, you know, the whole situation right now has really brought an opportunity, which should have taken advantage of a long time ago, which is zoom coachings,

Samantha: right?

Megan: Like are just phenomenal. Yeah. I mean, so much easier than coach coming into the studio, taking whole days worth of lessons and really not retaining the information. And then now we can be, you know, each week consistent with, you know, our coaches, which is so helpful. So we have, we have started, you know, getting that coaching again which has been amazing. And we're really, really loving who we're working with and just kind of rebuilding from the bottom up, what, you know, our knowledge and what we've learned from the past and, or we want to go in the future. So it's just been a really good kind of transformational journey for us.

Samantha: Yeah. I want to talk about cause you've mentioned it twice now that you were, you felt very unprepared jumping from amateur to professional, and also that you felt like you were not prepared adequately for the switch to Pro-Am instruction and competition.

I, I want to kind of talk about that because I felt very similar where I was like, okay, I know how to teach. I I'm ready to make this a thing. And then the preparation process for the first Pro-Am competition that I did was like, Oh, I have never been told how to fill out application, you know, fill out entry forms. I don't know what to set my pricing as. How do I talk about package options? How do I prepare my students for walking in and explaining heat sheets and like the whole process behind it? So, so where were your kind of stumbling blocks or where did you have that, oh my gosh, I don't know how to do this and I don't, I don't have a resource at my ready to like, help me answer these questions?

Megan: Absolutely. So luckily, luckily we're at a studio where they helped fill out the competition forms and all that stuff. Cause that would be so overwhelming that that is tough in of itself. But it was more kind of a mental space for me. And when we started at the studio, the studio owner was pregnant at the time and she was the only female teacher there. So she was dancing professionally, obviously with her husband and they had Pro-Am students, things like that. So when she was farther along and went on maternity leave I then took over majority of her clientele.

And so a lot of those students were higher level pro am dancers. And some of them, you know, were competitive and I was not prepared for that whatsoever. Just in the fact of standing up for myself. And not letting you know, as a young girl, it's an interesting position to be put in dancing with uh, quite older, quite older men. And you know, they are paying you for a service, but yet you, you still have to be in charge. So it's a very odd dynamic. We don't really get trained or taught how to handle.

Samantha: Yeah.

Megan: So that was really where it came down to is I didn't have a strong enough voice. I was definitely allowing the students to kind of take advantage of me and being young and kind, and, you know And didn't, did not have a very good experience at all with that.

And so just kind of was a little bit thrown into the deep end and not much guidance on what is appropriate, you know, as a student to say and do, and what is not appropriate because, you know, you, you want to maintain those students, especially when they're someone else's, you know, and you have that pressure of being new and trying to fill a schedule.

And so you kind of put things or you let things slide a lot that are aren't okay. And then it just becomes the norm, which is unfortunate to be, to have that kind of in a workplace, but it is an odd workplace, right? You don't have HR really in ballroom dance studios, which is, which can be helpful sometimes.

Samantha: Right.

Megan: But yeah, it was definitely really tough. And that's when I had to take a step back and just say, this what's going on is not okay. You know, now I've allowed it and it, you know, I do put it on myself for not standing up and having a voice and kind of letting that happen for so long. But then I just put my foot down and that really shocked a lot of people.

When I did and say, this is not okay, I won't accept this anymore. I deserve to be treated better. And so that's when I just, I decided that at that point, and at this point just, it wasn't for me. And it wasn't something I really wanted to continue pursuing was, was doing Pro-Am competitively.

Samantha: Yeah. It's, it's definitely as you said, it's, it's a situation that nobody kind of prepares you for. I don't feel like even with mentor relationships, I think You know, I've, I've maybe had an instructor once or twice in my past that has kind of given me a heads up that, that you might run into a scenario with a student that doesn't really understand that it's a teacher, student relationship.

And I mean, I'll, I'll be very candid. I had a student a couple of years ago, who's no longer my student that essentially told me point blank, like I'm paying you. So if I want to be in closed hold with you, I can. And it was like, no, thank you but your, your, you know, $65 an hour, which is a take home of $25 an hour is not worth me feeling like you're sexually harassing me for 45 minutes. Sorry. Thank you. But no. That's not the business I'm in.

And I, I do feel like, especially when you're young getting into the industry and it's an older person. It gets uncomfortable. I mean whether, whether you're a young female instructor or a male instructor, you know we've had this conversation with male instructors in the past too, where it just, it's a fine line between I'm a professional ballroom dance instructor and my knowledge and expertise is being valued versus I feel like I'm a gigolo or an escort and you're paying me for access to my body.

And it's like, we, I think we as instructors need to have more of these conversations to be like, okay, how, how do you handle this situation? Do you have a honest conversation with the student where you say like, This is not okay. This is not, you know, the agreement that we're walking into. Do you suddenly not have any free time next week during their normal slot and not confront the situation, but just not book them again?

You know, you're right. There's not an HR, so there's no one, there's not a figurehead in the studio to go to and be like, what do I do? You kind of hope that the elder, wiser instructors at the studio will kind of step in and, and back you up in those situations, but it's tough. And especially if you're working with students that have more experience with other instructors, you also then get into the, well, that's not what so-and-so said, or that's not what I was taught to do with so-and-so. And it's like, okay, I appreciate that. I'm not your other instructor. You're working with me now. So you can either take my advice, we can either work together, or maybe I'm not the right fit, but you were put in that awkward situation where they weren't your clients, they were another instructor's clients that you were filling in on.

Has that just completely turned you off from the idea of pro am or are you kind of during this break, re-evaluating finding your voice kind of finding your strength and maybe pursuing that again in the future?

Megan: You know, unfortunately it really has it just, it wasn't, you know, it was just such a negative experience for me that I just I've found other passions that I have in the industry. Isn't, you know, I do, I help, I do a lot of the marketing and communications, so I'll, you know, and I do a lot of the event planning, things like that. So I found other avenues that I, I enjoy more at this time. But yeah, it just, like you said, it's such a delicate situation between you know, because dancing is so intimate, it really is. And there is such a big physical aspect to it, which is what draws a lot of people to it. But it can then be abused and taken advantage of, and if you don't, you know, kind of set a standard from the beginning, then you get kind of really stuck because, you know, With, you know, a lot of the clients that we have are very successful men in their own industries, right?

So they're, you know, CEOs, they work at large companies. And so they're used to being in charge. They're used to being in a board room full of usually other men. So then coming into a studio with a young woman, trying to tell you what to do a lot of times is not received very well, especially when you're not their original teacher. And have they have more experience than you. I had very little experience trying to learn their open level routines that, you know, I have not, I have not had that experience or that knowledge yet. So. You know, it just, it really was unfortunate. But I just, I don't see myself going back to it anytime soon.

Samantha: So it's interesting that you say you've kind of found this other avenue with marketing and with communications. I think that honestly is something I talked about it with Christine Bar Noël. I think that's something that our generation is doing maybe in a different way than previous ballroom instructor generations have done, which is try to carve out other areas that are within the industry, but also outside of the industry.

So talk me through kind of what you're doing. Are you working specifically with events and coordination with your studio? Are you branching out from just the local events to try and pull in other business opportunities? Kind of what, what is your path right now as far as marketing and communication goes?

Megan: Yeah. So all of it is really just through the studio. So obviously before all this happened, we would have, you know, large events, things like that, which I love to love to plan and decorate. And I love to do that. It's really a big passion of mine. And then the marketing and communications as well.

I really enjoy that aspect of it. So it has been, it was really nice when I took a step back thinking, okay, I love the industry. I want to still be competing professionally. That's not something I want to give up. But, you know, just teaching is great income, but I also, I want to find my own voice in myself within the industry. So, and just trying different things.

Because of this situation, we've had to do a ton of virtual learning and we've actually, the studio has created an amazing virtual site, which I do majority of the filming and editing. And so that was also a new aspect I had never done before and just kind of learning other, other pathways. So where I'll go, I'm not sure yet. I still feel like I'm exploring. But yeah, I really am enjoying trying to see like, okay, you know, there's more, more than just doing Pro-Am out there. That can be, you know, be a successful outlet.

So, which is what I appreciate about appreciate about you so much. I think it's so cool that you're doing this podcast and kind of. Finding your, you know, your voice and other people's voices and having them heard, which is so cool. So I feel like I'm kind of trying to do the same thing and just find where I, where I fit in the most and where I am most passionate.

Samantha: Well, thank you for that. Yeah, it's, it's definitely interesting. When you're like, okay, you know, the, the last year I feel like has shed light on a lot of the dependency that we have for traditional means of instruction.

So the fact that you're kind of branching out and pushing a virtual initiative and exploring with emerging technologies to kind of make dance instruction a little bit more flexible and malleable in the 21st century, I think is awesome. I'm very excited to, to see where this develops in the next five years, because I would hope that now that we know that zoom works, right, we know that people are interested in taking lessons online from their house or their kitchen. We can get coaches from Australia or England or France on our computer screen, and we can work with them within a matter of minutes. I would hope that that doesn't go away once studios come back in full force. But it will be interesting to see for sure. With the, the last thing that I want to kind of touch on is the switch from amateur to professional was that a mindset shift or a business shift that you had to make? And kind of walk me through that process of what just felt different and foreign when you made the jump.

Megan: Yeah. So, it was kind of both mental and business. When we decided we're like, okay, we, we do want to make this a career. We do want to go pro we, like I said, we, we knew we needed to get out of Utah. So, we had quite a few different interviews with quite a few different studios all across the country.

And really what it came down to was the studio that was offering us a place where we felt like we could grow and offering us the financial support we would need. I mean, we're broke college students you know, trying to move to a different state and start a career. So, we definitely needed somewhere that was going to financially give us an opportunity to build clientele.

And then who, who felt it just clicked, you know, you, some places just, you say, okay, you know, this is, this is it. And it really came down to two great options. And the financial aspect is really what kind of took us to Seattle because they were offering better cushion and for us. So, and that was more of like the business aspect of it, kind of deciding where to go.

But then yeah, mentally it's pretty overwhelming stepping out on the floor for the first time or thinking like, okay, we're going to be pro, like there's so much, you put so much around it, which truly doesn't need to be. Right. You know, if you feel you're ready and your coaches feel you're ready then you should just accept that and know that it's going to be a journey.

Just like, you know, amateur was that you go out there kind of thinking like, okay, this is it. Like we're going to go out there and we're going to like, just be the best and be amazing. And you know, which is. You know, it's such a, it's such a long haul that mentally we just had to make that switch from amateur being like, okay, each competition, like our goal is to win right.

To being each competition, our goal is to go out there and apply, apply the new information we've learned or, you know, to really put, put it back on ourselves. Like, did we do better where we are more cohesive we're, you know, picking the more specific topics each competition instead of the goal being okay, let's go out and make the final, let's go out and win to being, okay, this is the long haul.

This is not, you know, we'd go out there and it's the same. So, it definitely, that was more the mental side of thinking. Okay, where do we, where do we change our mindset to being productive each competition instead of feeling, you know, disappointed and just kind of lost and lost in a sea of, of dancers.

Samantha: Yeah. I feel like, especially in Smooth, well, I'm sure in all of the categories, but especially in Smooth, I feel like the challenge is not you know, can we get, you know, for second or third, it's more like, can we, can we tell our story better than we told it last time? Can we connect with someone cleaner than we connected last time?

Can we step out and kind of express ourselves in a way that we didn't explore last time? Right? It's like picking those moments to work on something and enjoying the process of competing in professional rather than wanting to be the champion. Cause it's like you said, it's a long haul, right? Like this is the, the end of career for dancers. So, the pecking order moving up that leaderboard is like set in its place. And until the top folks retire, it's, you know, you have to be really on your game to break in as a newcomer. So yeah, it's, it's less about trying to get the final goal and it's more about like what you can learn along the way and how you can improve along the way.

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Samantha: Yeah. Well, awesome. Well, anything else that you want to chat about today? Anything else that you want to make sure our listeners are thinking about aware of or reflecting on as they're kind of listening to this conversation?

Megan: Yeah, I think my main thing would be just if they are, you know, if they're, if you guys are in a place where you're trying to decide whether, you know, going pro or You know, if that's an option for you? I, I definitely think consider it because it's been a great, you know, majority has been a great experience. And if it's your passion, you should do it. And there's so many, like we were talking about there's so many other avenues, so don't feel stuck in kind of the traditional way to do things is find your voice or create something new, you know, create something that's never been done before and can really benefit the dance world would be a big thing.

And I think the only other thing would be is if you are, you know, a young woman in the industry and you feel like, you know, you're struggling with your students or you're struggling with kind of being respected or feeling valued to talk to somebody. Cause that was something I, I wish I would have done was to reach out and kind of just talk about my situation and ask like, is this normal because it felt normal to me, it felt like this is what happened and you just kind of dealt with it.

And you just, you know, you did, that's just how things were, which is, which is not true. So, I definitely think reaching out and asking for help, asking for advice and being clear about your, your intentions with your students from the beginning and, you know, knowing that you have, you know, they're taking lessons with you because you are a good instructor and you know, if they aren't going to respect your boundaries and things like that, then the money is not worth it.

I know at the beginning it can feel like keeping every lesson is so crucial and building a, you know, a full, full day schedule and that, you know, if you lose these lessons, it's going to be the end of the world. But there's always other students, there's always much, you know, better kinder, you know, students that you can find that will support your journey and, you know, help you grow instead of kind of tear you down and make you feel like, you know, it's, it's not something you want to do. So, I think that would be the main thing is just ask, ask for help, reach out to a female who's in the position or been in the position cause they can offer for some guidance.

Samantha: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, if you were listening to this podcast, female instructor, male instructor I feel like I am always open. You can always send me a message. Almost all of the guests that I've had have been very gracious in saying like, if you need help, if you have questions, reach out. So as always, their information is in the description box below. So, reach out, ask questions. We need to have more of these discussions because it always breaks my heart. When I hear, you know, someone, especially if I know them if I find out later that they've kind of gone through this, I'm like, Oh, I wish I wish I had known I could have helped, but yeah. Yeah.

Megan: Yeah, absolutely. And same thing. Yeah. You know, young, young men and go through this all the time as well. And just, it really is anybody in the industry, it just can be affected. So, it definitely same thing. If you, you know, need a support system, there's, there's lots of people out there I'm out here, so yeah. Definitely reach out.

Samantha: Awesome. Thank you, Megan, so much for being a guest today.

Megan: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It was great chatting with you.

Thank you. Once again, to Megan for being a guest on today's episode, if you want to follow along with her dance journey links are in the description box below.

As always, I'm Samantha, I'm your host with Love Live Dance. You can follow the podcast versions of these episodes at and you can follow us across social media at Ballroom Chat.

As always stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing very soon.