Inside the Ballroom Box - Duffy Betterton

Samantha StoutDecember 06, 2022Ballroom Chat: Episode #64
duffy betterton ballroom chat

Duffy Betterton is the owner of Dance Dress Couture, and the Ballroom Box. Samantha and Duffy discuss her entrepreneurial projects and growth as a dance industry vendor. The pair also delve into her dance experience as an amateur in both the ballroom and country ballroom scenes. 

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] 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. We have a very special end of year holiday edition to the podcast today with one of the OG supporters of Ballroom Chat. Um, today I got this chance to sit down with Duffy Betterton of Dance Dress Couture, and more importantly, the Ballroom Box to learn all about her entrepreneur projects and her dance background.

We got talking a lot about her dance experience as an amateur in both the ballroom scene and the country ballroom scene. Um, as well as talking about her mission to inspire and equip dancers through the Ballroom Box. So I hope you enjoy my conversation with Duffy Betterton.

Well, thank you Duffy so much for being a guest on today's podcast.

[00:01:05] Duffy: Thank you. I feel honored.

[00:01:08] Samantha: I, I am so excited. We obviously have been in touch. I, I feel like for the better part of like the last two years. Has it been that long? Yeah. Um, I

[00:01:18] Duffy: think so. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:01:19] Samantha: But we, we didn't have the opportunity to actually meet in person until Ohio, which just kind of came out the blue.

[00:01:26] Duffy: That was so fun at Ohio Star Ball. I just came in kinda at the very end, and then to see you, like right before you competed, you were gorgeous. So pretty. And so it was really, really fun to just make that connection after we had chatted so much back and forth. Yeah,

[00:01:42] Samantha: for sure, for sure. That's, that's the fun that I get to like start having now that I'm back in the competitive swing, is like actually meeting people in person that I've either talked to for the podcast or have connected via social media over the last two years.

[00:01:56] Duffy: Yeah.

[00:01:56] Samantha: So it's nice to finally like be able to give people hugs and be like, oh my gosh, it's so nice to see you.

[00:02:03] Duffy: Yes. I love that about competitions and Yeah, just the whole dance thing. Um, we always say like, dance is about community and connection and that's it. Right? Like when you go to an event, um, showcase or competition or whatever, just to be able to connect with your dance family.

And then, yeah, over the last couple years with all the craziness, connecting with people digitally and then being able to reconnect with them over the last year or two has been really, really fun,

[00:02:31] Samantha: For sure, for sure. So, um, our listeners hopefully are starting to make the connection as we're talking that you are the beautiful soul behind the ballroom box subscription box, big early supporter of the podcast.

Thank you so much for that. Um, but you also have dance dress couture and you yourself are a dancer. Imagine that folks. Yes. Um, yes. So I'm gonna start you off the same way that I start everybody, which is, how did you get into the dance industry and what has your journey looked like thus far,

[00:03:03] Duffy: Okay. Okay. So, um, I started dancing actually. I grew up dancing, doing, you know, ballet, tap, and jazz. Um, and have always like, loved to dance. And then, um, as a newlywed, I've talked to my husband into going to some like, community social classes. And he's a music guy, so, um, he's actually pretty good and he enjoyed that. It was fun. So we danced for a while, um, just socially.

And then, um, after I think our second daughter was born, we went back like on a date night to another, a different studio and actually started taking lessons. So for years it was our date night. We would, um, once a month we would go do a lesson, go eat dinner, and then go back for like the live band party.

And, um, loved it. It was a really great connection for us. Loved dancing with my husband. Um, we never switched partners. We were that couple that was always like, had our spot in the corner of the studio and like did our thing and totally loved it. And, um, eventually the dance instructor and myself talked him into doing a showcase routine and it was so much fun and I loved every minute of it. He actually really loved it too. We did a song from Xanadu. So, um, you know, trying to like Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly, like, how fun is that? It was so great and we took it to a competition and I was like, what is this competition world? This is amazing. And I totally fell in love with it. And he was like, please don't ever make me do that ever, ever again.

So, um, but that was okay because he was very, very supportive. And, um, so after that I went to a couple competitions just with my instructor and fell in love with ballroom competition side of things. And my husband has been like my biggest cheerleader and, um, is really supportive and still will do date night, social night with me, which is great.

Um, so anyway, I started competing and not long after that, my mom had started ballroom dancing and so she started competing and um, really it didn't take very long. She also got hooked very quickly and loved it. Um, when I was growing up, she would go dancing and, you know, it was like the seventies, so she was like disco and, you know, all kinds of fun stuff.

So it felt great for her to be dancing again. So we were at a competition and we were new amateurs and we were looking at all these dresses and we said, oh my gosh, we wanna wear these dresses. We tried some on, we understood the difference and like our store bought, you know, formals that we were wearing to our first competitions versus the dresses.

And so we were trying to figure out how, you know, we wanna wear these. And we had this studio full of friends who had tons of dresses and so my background was website. And so my mom said, let's just build a website where people can sell their dresses. So, um, I was like, sure, I have time to do that. I have three small kids, and yeah, I can, no problem.

Let me just add that to my plate. So, um, anyway, I, we built a website and then we had an event and all of our friends brought their dresses and they said, here, just sell them for us. And we were like, no, no, no. You're gonna take them home and, you know, , we'll let you know when somebody's interested in your dress, right?

And, um, they were like, no, no, no, you just keep it. So anyway, We were like, well, let's go to an event. So we went to an event and then we discovered that not only did we love competing as ballroom dancers, but we also actually love vending as ballroom dancers because we loved the people. We loved helping new dancers find that perfect dress that they come out of the dressing room and they spin and twirl and they go, I feel pretty, I want to dance in this.

And so, you know, over time that just kind of grew. We kept going to competitions. Our inventory grew. We opened a shop in February of 2020, which was not a great time to open any kind of retail shop, but the ballroom industry shut down completely, um, in March, obviously. And so we, you know, stayed in touch with our people as much as we could.

Um, we had been traveling to events for a couple of years, um, at that point. And I had had this idea of the ballroom box, um, before. The, um, before Covid came and before everything shifted, but I hadn't really had the time to like just dive into it and really do it. But what gave me the idea for a subscription box for ballroom dancers was, I love getting mail.

I love getting packages, and I love packaging things up and shipping them and sending, you know, gifts to people and stuff like that. And so one day I had gotten at like five foot fun. And I was like, there's so many things from being vendors in the dance industry that we have people come up and ask us for all the time at events.

Do you have, do you have lashes, do you have, you know, I mean safety pins, I mean, just all the random little things, right? We're vendors and we love our people. So we're, we have this little thing called our black Betty that's full of all these tools, right? So anyway, we've just built this long list of things that dancers need and we also hear a lot of new competitors say, gosh, I wish I knew dot, dot, dot. How to do my hair. I wish I knew how to put on lashes. I wish I knew how a tan, I wish I knew, you know, all these things before they get there. So anyway, all of those things just kind of married together and then, That spring of 2020, I just dove into the subscription box idea and said, all right, let's do it. And so we launched that summer with the ballroom box. And so, um, we decided to do a quarterly subscription. And it is always things that are just designed for ballroom dancers. So it's, it is my little baby and I love it so much. I love shopping for it. I love getting all of the boxes in. I love packing it. I love when people video and post, you know, and they're opening the box and they're like, oh my gosh, I didn't even know I needed packing cubes, but this is so perfect. Thank you for showing me how to pack my dresses. Or, I mean, there's just so many fun things that. It's just been so much fun to develop and come up with it and share it.

[00:09:51] Samantha: For sure, for sure. There's, there's so much that I wanna chat with you about. Um,

[00:09:57] Duffy: I'm so sorry I talked by too much.

[00:09:58] Samantha: No, no, no. I love it. I love it. Um, let's, let's start with the ballroom box, cuz, cuz we're here and then we're gonna cycle back to dancing and amateur and, and fending and like all of that. But while we're on the topic of ballroom box, so Yes. Um, you had sent me a message I maybe like two months, three months into doing the podcast, you were like, I came across your podcast. I have this thing. Is there a way that we can partner. And I was super skeptical. I was like, nobody knows about this podcast. Who was, who was this scammer that's gonna reach out to me about this thing?

And we chatted for a little bit and, and you sent me the first box and immediately it clicked for me, like, oh, she's on to something here. Um, because that first fall box that you sent was so perfectly curated in a way that I hadn't seen like a dance gift package done before. And now to like see the boxes grow and develop over the last two years. Genuinely. I know this sounds like a sales pitch to my listeners and I, it kind of is, but it's, it really is coming from a place of someone who has now been a subscriber for two years going into the third year, like the Peta Jane tanning mousse. I, I genuinely texted Duffy emergency text message. It is sold out everywhere. Do you have it? I'm about to go to a competition and I'm out. And she's like, yep, I got it. I'll send it. Like amazing. That is something that is in my, my kit. The bobby pin finder, the magnetic little bobby pin finder, honest to goodness story for you and you'll love this. Um, we were at, I think it was Vegas and my husband was with me and he has seen me struggle to get out of my hair-dos for the better part of the last decade. And I handed him the bobby pin finder and sat down in front of him and he was like, what is this? And he started using it and he's like, oh my gosh, this is the coolest thing ever. So he's now like super excited about this little teeny tiny magnet that happens to find all of the bobby pins that are stuck into my head.

[00:12:17] Duffy: Right.

[00:12:18] Samantha: It's, it's awesome. Um, the packing cubes, I'm like, I need four more packs of this. Uh, this is on my Christmas wishlist this year cuz they're awesome. The dance journal that, um, you partnered with, uh, girl with the Tree tattoo.

[00:12:35] Duffy: Yes.

[00:12:35] Samantha: This is where I'm taking all of my notes for all of my interviews because it's just so convenient. So there, there are probably 15 to 20 items that I've accumulated over all of these subscriptions that are now in my, like, I have to have this in my life because it's just so darn convenient and they're things that I never would've purchased for myself. . And I think that's the brilliant thing about what you do is you have these contacts with other vendors and other product designers that you, that you can reach out to that, you know, myself or another dance instructor may not be able to, um, or have that same relationship with, but you curate the boxes in such a way that I'm like, oh, I would've thought to get this exfoliating scrub, or the lippy clippy or, you know, all of these things.

[00:13:25] Duffy: Yes.

[00:13:25] Samantha: But it makes my life so much easier now that I have it.

[00:13:30] Duffy: Yay. That you just like, make my heart so happy. That is exactly my, um, dream and intent behind it is, um, to, uh, we say to equip and inspire dancers and so, Every box as I curate the box and think about kind of like what the theme is for that season, I try to think about tools that dancers need, tools that dancers are gonna use.

And then I also try to think about like treats or just fun things like we did the, um, pink champagne shave cream, shave butter with a really nice travel razor. Um, and so like the shave cream is just a total treat to be able to use, but I mean, we need smooth legs. Like this is an important tool that we need.

Um, and so how, you know, like you said, it's things that, not necessarily that you would go by yourself or maybe even that you would think about, but then as you get it, you're like, oh yes. Like that's my goal is to equip dancers so that they don't have to think about all those little details. They're just ready to, you know, showcase or dance and compete.

[00:14:42] Samantha: For sure, for sure. And I think you do a really good job as well of making sure that the box isn't just targeted at one level of dancer. I think you do a really good job of, you know, the, the lipsticks or the eye, uh, the eyelashes or the tanner, maybe that's not for the beginner dancer. Maybe that's overwhelming to them, but they also get the discounted dance vision subscription or, um, you partnered with, um, is it Ballroom and Co?

That's not the right name. Um, Max and Val.

[00:15:23] Duffy: Oh yes. Yeah, yeah. Yes.

[00:15:24] Samantha: Subscription service at one point. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, so you have things that are very professional, dancer friendly, and also very amateur dancer friendly and right. You have the male boxes and the female boxes for the holidays. So I feel like you're doing a really good job of making sure that everybody has, has the ability to be equipped and inspired through these quarterly subscription boxes.

[00:15:49] Duffy: Yes, thank you. The majority of the year, so spring, summer, and fall, it is focused for women. Although there's a lot of tools in there that the guys have loved to like the cooling sweat towel and the fan, and I mean the foot bomb. There's so many things that go both ways. Um, but at the holidays we do, um, kind of wanna honor our guys and do something a little different.

So we do a full box for women and a full box for men. And, um, that's also very fun to curate and like shop for the guys. Think about, you know, what tools do they need, what kind of things are good for them? And, um, so yeah, I'm really excited about this holiday box. The guys thing is so fun and unique and I think they're gonna really like it.

[00:16:38] Samantha: Yeah, it's my, I got the mini box for a bunch of my, um, male students last year and they loved it. And again, I know this sounds like a sales plug, I promise we'll get, we'll get to the rest of the interview and we'll stop talking about how awesome the subscription is in, in a moment. Um, I'm planning on doing the same for a bunch of my, my students that have just got above and beyond this year.

I know that's not realistic for every instructor because it is, it is a higher price point than the average like, holiday end gift. But if you, if you wanna kind of just, you know, celebrate your students or celebrate your teachers, students that are listening, if you wanna give your teachers a fun gift, the, the mini holiday box I found was really successful with my guys last year.

[00:17:23] Duffy: Yeah, that was fun too. I think you actually helped me kind of brainstorm that we were talking through like, how can we do this as a giftable, but you know, the price point's a little bit high at the premium size that has all of the goodies, and so we kind of, you helped me curate, um, something special that was just, um, like a half of that and still very, very specific for dancers.

So we have that again this year. We have a mini box, uh, for men and women as well. So you can kind of choose like which of the two things. And some things are shared between the do boxes and some are different, so Yeah. Yeah, it's fun.

[00:18:00] Samantha: Awesome. Um, okay, we're gonna pivot away now. We'll, we'll come back to the ball back at the end, but, but we'll pivot away for the moment.

Um, okay. So you started off as a social dancer with your husband. Went to the first competition, you were bitten by the bug. He found it overwhelming and terrifying. That tends to be, um, my experience with a lot of my couples is occasionally, both will love it. Occasionally both will hate it. But more often than not, one will be like, I wanna continue doing this.

And one will be like, oh gosh, please, never again. So how as a student then, do you navigate personal relationship with your husbands and picking up this now ProAm relationship with your instructor so that you can continue to compete and your husband doesn't feel, you know, pressured into doing something that he's not comfortable with?

[00:18:57] Duffy: That's such a great, great question. And honestly, I struggled with it for a good bit. I mean, it was probably. A year or maybe even two, a year and a half, at least after that first, um, like showcase thing that we did. And because we had worked really closely with our instructor at that point, and Mike was really comfortable with him and knew that there wasn't like, you know, that it wasn't like weird or anything. It was very professional. Um, I think that that probably helped a lot. And then, um, one thing that I struggled with personally was, um, as I started competing a couple of times I felt myself improving and my dancing was improving. And so then date nights I would kind of be like, I know more. I feel like I, I know more patterns.

I can do more. And so, Honey, if you're listening, I'm sorry. Um, I struggled a little bit on, um, you know, when we would just be social dancing, like I want to be doing more. And so I kinda held myself back for a little while and my instructor was really fabulous. He was just the right balance of pushing me to be like, I know that you love this and I know that you want to do more of this, but I also understand that you don't want to. Better than your husband in a way that makes it difficult to dance with just him. Does that make sense?

[00:20:32] Samantha: Absolutely.

[00:20:32] Duffy: And so because he knew us, he understood it and he would encourage me to obviously dance and compete because he was a good instructor and he saw how much I loved it. Um, but then he also understood that when Mike came in for a lesson that we were gonna work on our social dancing and where we were.

And he just really helped me and like encouraged me to be like, okay, when you're on your date night, when you're social dancing with your husband, don't be thinking about all of the other patterns that you know or how you should be dancing. Like you if you were at a competition. Enjoy the company of your spouse and just stay connected there.

Does that make sense? So, Yeah, I, kudos to Jeremy. He just really helped me kind of walk through that. But it was a journey. It was a little bit, cause for a while I was like, no, I don't wanna get better. And I was like, wait a minute, oh, I do wanna get better. I, and I do love this. And, and I had to do like a really heart to heart check in with my husband and be like, are you really okay with me? You know, competing and doing this. And I think he saw my joy and he saw how much I loved it. Um, and so, you know, he's a good hubby, so he encouraged me, you know, to keep going and, and you just have to shift gears, you know, like what's my purpose dancing here and what's my purpose dancing there kind of.

[00:22:00] Samantha: Yeah. I, I love that idea of, of what is your purpose in this moment, right? Um, is it to show all of your tools, all of your tricks, all of your technique? Or is it to just enjoy the moment and kind of have fun with it? Um, and it can be both simultaneous simultaneously and it can just be one or the other, right?

Like we can have fun and enjoy the moment and still have high level technique and high and do high tricks and all of that. We can also just say, okay, I'm not gonna worry about getting the technique a hundred percent. I'm, I'm gonna have a more cuddly, uh, hold and a more loose hold. Yeah. Because I wanna be snugly with my person.

So, you know, um, I like that. And I love the fact that you had a very supportive and understanding instructor too to kind of help guide you through that and kind of take it at your pace. Um, cuz it is, it is tough when we're talking about. Amateur couples that may have different goals and different wants.

And different needs, right. To, to balance that. Um, and as an instructor you always wanna like push your students to their, their highest potential, but sometimes you have to understand that there are other things at play. You know, real life happens. occasionally. Yes. Yes. Yeah. Um, did, were you focused on a particular style of ballroom dance at the time when you were competing or were you dancing?

[00:23:26] Duffy: A little bit of everything. Um, so what, when I first started, I was doing smooth and rhythm. and, um, so yeah, just kind of concentrated in both of those. Um, and just mostly did local competitions and, um, actually the dresses, traveling with Dance Rescue tour and going to different events. We started meeting, um, you know, other teachers and studios and really kind of opened our eyes to other experiences. So we were doing, I, I started with N DCA and local competitions and dancing, smooth and rhythm and, and love it. Loved it. And um, in the midst of that we started going to USA competitions with the dresses and also loved that, loved the Am/am world and um, you know, got to know, or, you know, have gotten to know a lot of.

Um, other like competition owners and professionals and amateurs. And then also we discovered the country dance world. So that is actually where I'm competing currently is in country. Um, I was doing ballroom, um, until this year I kind of set a goal for myself and in order to meet that goal, I needed to kind of put all of my, um, lesson and competition money into one basket because it was too divided to really be able to focus and do well. And I set some goals for where I wanna be at the end of this year. And so this year I've just competed in country. So, um, we still get to wear all the beautiful blingy dresses. Um, we have special boots and the guys wear hats and it's a totally different environment, but the competition is still pretty fierce.

[00:25:17] Samantha: So I want to totally hear your side of, of the country ballroom world, cuz I've, I've seen it, but I have not yet participated in it and I am so curious about it. So is that through, and I'm gonna get this acronym wrong. UCWDC,

[00:25:35] Duffy: you did it. Yes, that's right. That's right. So there's actually two kind of organizations in the United States. Um, U C W D C and also A C D A, um, are the two like big country organizations. They're very similar. Um, in both areas. You have eight dances. Um, and so, um, for smooth, for rhythm kind of sorta West Coast is one of those that's like smooth. Is this smooth or is this rhythm? But the West Coast is very westy style, very, very westy style, not as much ballroom.

So the, from my perspectives, the things that I see that are a little bit different in the country world, um, is that the atmosphere is a little bit more casual as far as the competition room is considered. Like there's not as many big lights. There's not, as, the production maybe isn't as big at a bar competition.

But there is so much camaraderie. Like all the people know all the people and everybody is friends and laughing and having a good time together. And people come just to watch and support their friends. I mean, they do in ballroom too. Um, but it, it's just, it's a little bit of a different feel. Everybody's on the, um, you know, sidelines as you're getting ready to go on, you're on deck and everybody's laughing and having a good time together. Um, and there's social dancing until we hours in the morning, and it's a big deal. Everybody, um, social dances, the social dancing doesn't start until sometimes 10 or 11 and goes till, um, the DJ finally is done playing music at like two or three sometimes. Um, and then there are also workshops all day long at the country events.

So, um, It's a really great place for kinda all levels of dancers because they have workshops all day long. So a day that you're not competing, you can go and take a workshop from a professional, um, you know, industry leader who is just amazing, um, in any of the different styles. So, you know, Walt's nightclub, two step, uh, west Coast, I mean, all the different dances.

Um, there's, uh, workshops and so they just really encourage that. And then you can also, you know, work with, um, a coach or an instructor directly. Another thing that's kind of interesting that's very different is that, um, the judges are approachable, so, um, very different. So you wouldn't approach them obviously during a session or before your session, but if you go back and you look at your marks after an event and you have a question and you're like, what could I improve on in that?

Um, my experience has been that the majority of the judges that I've gone back and said, okay, I see that I got this mark and I'm really curious about how to move this up to the next level. They're like, oh, well this is what I saw in your dancing and here are some ways that you could improve that and.

Sometimes you see that in the ballroom world as well, but I feel like it's not as common. Um, and um, definitely more so, um, in, in country. But I will say that the competition is still very fierce. Like there are a lot of women in my category, um, and there's age groups and the divisions are all different.

The, um, the divisions and the ages and the division. And like bronze, silver, gold, we have like newcomer, novice, intermediate, advanced, and then you have your pro, pro still, and then you have couples, which is like amam usually. Um, so it took a little bit to kind of navigate and figure out, you know, just a different system.

But the competition, I mean like these dancers are really good and they work really hard and um, so you have to win your way out to kind of move up to the next level. And so, I mean, that's a pretty good system to kinda kick you into gear and be like, okay, you have to know how to do this all on your own.

Good luck. Yeah. Not really. I mean, the coaches help you, but. Yeah,

[00:29:58] Samantha: it, it feels like, and you can correct me if my perception of this is wrong, but it feels like the country ballroom, competitive circuit is like the midpoint between ballroom dance and like West Coast or Lindy scene, right? So, so West Coast and Lindy, you have more of this workshop, uh, Jack and Jill competition, very casual, like low, uh, monetary entry point.

It's a little bit more stripped down. It's, it's very focused on like, let's have fun. Let's come together, let's learn from each other. Um, but still has that competitive aspect to it.

[00:30:38] Duffy: Yeah.

[00:30:38] Samantha: Ballroom dance. Competition is competition and there are very strict rules and the judges are approachable occasionally, but you're not really supposed to approach them during the comp.

You're supposed to approach them the day after as they're, it's, it gets a little murky, um, you know, high financial barrier to entry. You have to have the look and the presentation and it's very structured and there is a sense of comradery and friendship, but also people are like laser focused on what they need to accomplish on the dance floor.

[00:31:16] Duffy: Yes.

[00:31:16] Samantha: And I feel like country kind of takes the best of both. Where the, where when you're on the dance floor, like the expectation is you are going to do your best and show us what you have and, and you are out there to compete, but. We're gonna be fun about it in the ballroom and we're gonna have, you know, we're gonna cheer for you and we're gonna have workshops and, you know, maybe a little bit lower financial costs, somewhere in the middle.

[00:31:41] Duffy: Yeah. I think you're right. There is even like, um, usually after a day of competition is when they do the Jack and Jills. So they still do like West Coast and Two Step Jack and Jills, and some of the competitions are even on like the Westy circuit for those. Um, so it, yeah, it is kind of like you said, it's kind of like a middle, it, the, it's not as expensive to compete.

Um, and really it, you can't, you're limited on how many heats you could do. Like you could never do 50 in your division and style because there aren't that many opportunities. Does that make sense? Like, Yeah, so the financial output is less than what you would maybe do at a ballroom competition, a larger ballroom competition.

Um, and yeah, I mean, I definitely, the cheering and everybody is friends, but then when you step on the floor, you do need to like, have your hair done and be on a dress and look like you know what you're doing and you better know what you're doing or, you know, you don't get the marks to move on .

[00:32:51] Samantha: I, I How do you feel as an amateur, um, as a ProAm student? How do you feel about the, the system in both West coast and in country about, you have to get points in order to get out of your division, cuz in ballroom it's really up to the instructor until a certain point whether or not you progress from bronze to silver or from silver to gold.

[00:33:15] Duffy: Gosh, that's a great question. And that's hard because yeah, I've experienced both. So like, as a, um, amateur student, I'm like, yeah, okay, I'm ready. And when my teacher thinks I'm ready, let's move on to that next level. Um, and then you do want, you know, obviously when you go to competition and ballroom, you get feedback based on where you place on, whether or not you're really ready for that level or not. Um, but I have, I, I will say that I have enjoyed, um, in country, I've enjoyed achieving the next level. Like I, not that I didn't achieve it in the other, because I did obviously, um, my coach and my scores showed that when I was, when I competed in ballroom. Um, but I guess that feels like because it's coming from an outside source, maybe that it is like I've really achieved.

Yes, you got, so you get a gold graduate is what it's called when that judge thinks that you have mastered that dance at that level. So like my goal is to get gold graduates from all the judges and all the dances, right? . And that means I'm ready to move, like from newcomer to novice or novice to, you know, same thing, silver to bronze, whatever.

I mean, not silver to bronze, , bronze to silver. So I, I, I have enjoyed, I didn't realize I was as competitive as maybe I am until I started competing in dance. Um, but I like getting those marks and I like having worked for it and seeing the improvement. You know, last year I got, well with honors this year I go to, I got a gold graduate.

And so when I got those scores back, to be able to look at it and go, okay, like I worked really hard for that and it's showing up. And so I, I have enjoyed that. I like seeing those marks.

[00:35:17] Samantha: So is the, the gold or the gold with honors separate then from your placing within your, your heat or your division?

[00:35:26] Duffy: Yes. So, um, the way it kinda works, Let's say you have five women in a one age division and one stop, you know, one dance or whatever. So everybody's doing Walts. So, um, the one who has the most gold graduates, the highest score that you can get for Walts, she's gonna be first place. Second place would be the person who has four goal graduates and one goal of honors.

Does that make sense? Yeah. So it is a little bit separate, but it plays into where your placement is.

[00:36:01] Samantha: Right. But that, I really like that because that, thinking about it from a competitive perspective, especially as an instructor of students, that gives you immediate feedback. Is the student being placed at the right level?

Are we ready to graduate? And maybe they only took third place, but out of the seven panel of judges, four of them gave them this gold graduate status, which means yes, if we wanted to progress, we could progress or we could stay here until you get that first place. But the placement and the skill check are, are being seen differently.

Whereas I feel like in ballroom, if you're competing and you're using the competition marks as your marker, as your sole marker, it really depends on who shows up that day. You might be the top of your division at one comp and the bottom of your division at the next comp, and nothing changed except for who else was on the dance floor.

[00:37:03] Duffy: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, you're right. I agree. I think that's, that's definitely the case. And, and there is obviously, um, at uc, comps a little bit of, you know, how do you as a judge, it would be hard to separate what you're seeing on the floor if everybody on the floor is goal graduate level, you know?

So, I mean, who shows up does play into it, obviously a little bit. Um, it's a subjective thing, right? I mean, when it comes down to it, but the whole idea of the judging is that they're looking at, have you, have you mastered that dance at that level? And so, you know, that's what they're basing it on.

[00:37:49] Samantha: I like that. Um, I wanna dial back just for a second. Um, you mentioned that there were eight dances, um

[00:37:56] Duffy: mm-hmm.

[00:37:56] Samantha: that you were competing in, so, I'm gonna go through the list that's in my head, and then you can fill in the, the gaps.

[00:38:03] Duffy: Okay.

[00:38:04] Samantha: Uh, waltz?

[00:38:06] Duffy: Yep.

[00:38:06] Samantha: Two step?

[00:38:08] Duffy: Yes.

[00:38:08] Samantha: Triple two.

[00:38:10] Duffy: Yes.

[00:38:11] Samantha: Nightclub, two step.

[00:38:13] Duffy: Yep.

[00:38:13] Samantha: West Coast.

[00:38:15] Duffy: Yes.

[00:38:16] Samantha: Chacha rumba.

[00:38:20] Duffy: East Coast.

[00:38:21] Samantha: East Coast.

[00:38:24] Duffy: And Polka.

[00:38:26] Samantha: Polka. That's where Polka is living these days.

[00:38:32] Duffy: You thought it was gone, didn't you?

[00:38:35] Samantha: I love the idea of polka. I thoroughly enjoy dancing bad polka. And I like to point out to people that, uh, the King and I, they're doing a polka, not a Viennese waltz.

[00:38:50] Duffy: Oh, good one.

[00:38:51] Samantha: But I've never competed in polka. How is that, how does that feel? ?

[00:38:56] Duffy: Um, it's really fun actually. And, um, it's, um, very high energy and three Pokas back to back is murder, so . Um, and every time I sign up to do it and then I get to the event and I see that those heats are all back to back, I was like, why did I do that again? Like, I could have chosen to only do one or two pos, but you know, when you're signing up you think, yeah, I could do it. And you know, hopefully there's enough people at a competition to that. There'll be some heats in between so you can breathe because yeah, three pos back to back and it's usually at the end right before East Coast and so you have like Polka and then East coast like, huh.

So, you know, you have to do some cardio to prep. That's, but it's really fun actually. Polka is a pretty fun.

[00:39:51] Samantha: Yeah, that's the one thing that I appreciate, appreciate about most competitions is because we've got these, you know, five dance or four dance slates with, with the different divisions. You know, that Viennese Waltz is gonna be the last dance that you have to do in smooth or, um, you have Viennese Waltz and then you have Foxtrot to like give yourself a breather before quick step.

If you're doing standard, you have, you know, jive is, is balanced away from Samba.

[00:40:20] Duffy: Yes.

[00:40:21] Samantha: So you have a little bit of, of breath. You have East Coast into Bolero before you have to worry about Mambo. So Right. We can kinda space out the cardio.

[00:40:31] Duffy: This year in country, they changed the order of the dances and um, so the way that they changed it, you kind of do your smooth first.

So it's like Walt's nightclub, triple two West Coast is kind of like the oddball. And then, um, Uh, two step Chacha Polka and East Coast. And so, um, everybody's like, why they did it, because, so you do all of your dances, like you do all of your Walt's, and then you do all of your nightclubs, and then you do all of your triple twos.

So it's not like a round, like in ballroom. They do have now at several competitions what they call eight dance, and it's kind of a separate little competition. And you do it, um, in flights like the pros. So they'll do, you'll do your first flight, like your smooth flight, and then you can't really step off the floor.

So we have convertible dresses that you just like, kinda shed the long skirt. And then you have your short skirt and you do the second flight, which is all of your rhythm dances, and you only have like a ten second break between each song, you know, like the pros,

[00:41:39] Samantha: right.

[00:41:40] Duffy: Um, yeah, it's kind of fun, but. For the regular competition, it is like everybody does all their watches and then everybody does all of the um, yeah, you do all of your chachas back to back.

You do all of your Polkas back to back. So you do one style at a time of dance. Um, so it's just kinda interesting.

[00:42:02] Samantha: Yeah, for sure. I, I feel like, um, that could be incredibly beneficial or, or incredibly confusing. Um, I, I guess, I guess that locks you into, I only have to remember my Waltz routine for these three dances, and then I can shift out of my Waltz routine mindset and it can go into triple two.

Um, so from that perspective, I, I kind of like the blocking, but I would also feel like I just danced my Waltz routine. Don't make me dance. My Waltz routine, I guess. ,

[00:42:35] Duffy: yeah. Yeah. I think that there's a little give and take there. Um, yeah, I think it's both. And you're like, okay, I'm ready for another, Music choice.

Now I'm ready for a different feel. Um, so yeah, I, but the other thing is, is that it affects the dresses, right? So the way like a, a bar and competition might be all rhythm one day and all smooth the next day, all standard and then all Latin. Well, in country you do all of your dances in like one time period, right?

So like you, I'm in the afternoon, so we do all of our Waltz and then we change into our triple two skirt or dress, and you do all your triple twos, then you change. So you could have up to eight, eight dresses, or a lot of people just have two or three, or you, we have convertibles where you just change the bottom half.

So like I have. Costume that has five different bottoms and I have a leotard. And so then I just change from my Waltz skirt to my triple two. I have pants and I have a fringe skirt, a round skirt, um, and uh, like a night clubby skirt.

[00:43:53] Samantha: So, so much more like the showcase or or spotlight performance concept when it comes to costuming. Like every dance has its own feel and its own look and

[00:44:05] Duffy: Yeah.

[00:44:05] Samantha: Costuming.

[00:44:06] Duffy: Yeah.

[00:44:07] Samantha: Interesting.

[00:44:08] Duffy: Yeah.

[00:44:08] Samantha: Interesting.

[00:44:09] Duffy: Yeah.

[00:44:09] Samantha: I feel like that's kind of a good transition point to talk about.

[00:44:13] Duffy: Okay.

[00:44:14] Samantha: Uh, dance dress couture. So you mentioned in the beginning that it kind of just came out of. We love seeing these dresses.

We wanna be able to dance in these dresses. We know that we've got a studio full of women that have just the closet of dresses from a bygone era that have, they've danced their season and they've gotten judges notes back that they don't wanna see them in orange next year. So could you please find a pink dress or a black dress, or a teal dress or whatever.

Um, so I guess first question is, when it comes to resaling someone else's work, how do you navigate when you acknowledge that it's a Dore dress or it's an Elle dress, and how does, how does that kind of work within the space as a reseller?

[00:45:07] Duffy: Yeah, so, um, we started as consignment and we are still 90% consignment. We offer all levels of dresses, but we really do kind of concentrate on the higher end designer dresses for several reasons. Um, the biggest reason is that they're the best quality, they're the best prepared to, for a dance journey. And so, um, we kind of educated ourself on who the best designers were, and those are the dresses that we kind of, um, you know, go after seek. Um, or actually, I mean, people bring 'em to us all the time. We get new dresses. Monthly from people who've either found us online or find us at a competition. And, you know, sometimes people get dresses and they wear it for a competition. They may wear it for a whole season. Um, they may, we actually have several dresses that are new that somebody ordered and then they got it and decided that they weren't gonna wear it. Or unfortunately something happened, it's happened in their family or their health and they can't wear it anymore. So we have several new dresses from designers, um, even though they're on consignment. Um, and so we, we enjoy working directly with designers as well sometimes. Um, and it is interesting. So there are some competitions where people will come up and they'll be like, oh, your consignment, I'm not interested.

But then they'll go next door to a designer who also has consignment because they've traded in dresses for somebody. And buy a consignment dress there. And so we're like, you know, we're kinda the same thing, but that's okay. That's, that's totally fine. Maybe we're not your people and that's alright. Um, there are a lot of competitors out there who want to wear these beautiful, expensive dresses but can't afford six or $7,000 for a brand new dress.

And so, um, we are able to come in and kind of meet those competitors and those dancers at a place that fits them. And it's a, there's a lot of dancers out there at all the levels and also all the sizes and so we really enjoy caring. All the sizes, tiny, short, too tall, long, um, to, I mean, all different shapes.

I mean, as women we come in all different shapes and they're all beautiful on the floor and they can move gorgeously. And so when somebody comes in this morning, I had somebody come in and try on a couple of dresses and things that cued around her belly didn't feel good. So to be able to say, okay, I have this other dress and I know it might not be the exact right color, but let's just try it on so we get a feel for the style, and then I can help you find the right thing that feels really good.

So finding a dress that accentuates the body parts that she feels confident in is so much fun. I mean, I love, love, love helping someone feel good and address so that they're ready to dance. And um, so I think your original question was like, how do we kind of navigate. Um, carrying designer dresses and, um, I think some designers may not love us being out there because we are primarily consignment.

Um, but we do have some designers who actually will send customers to us when they know that we might have a better fit for them, um, either financially or, you know, um, if you know, a dress or something like that. So I think it kind of works both ways.

[00:48:57] Samantha: Well, and, and sometimes, you know, you buy a dress from one of the designers and it comes time to retire that dress for your dance journey. Maybe that designer isn't in the resale business or the, the dresses, you know, pass hands so many times by the time it comes to you that they're like, that dress I made a decade ago, it's been on five of my dancers. I can't put it back in my store. So having, you know, an option or an avenue to find, to, to give that dress another life past you, I think is, is fantastic.

[00:49:36] Duffy: Well, and the thing is, I mean, like I was saying before, the quality of these dresses, I mean the fabrics, the stones they're made to dance in mm-hmm. , they're made to do sport in. They're nice dresses. And so it's a shame for them to be hanging in someone's closet and not being used when there are so many dancers out there who are looking for that dress that feels great on their body.

So, um, we do do a lot of alterations. We have a couple of wonderful seamstresses who we will come in and will say, can you make this wall dress a rhythm dress? Or can you add this? Or can you put mesh in the back of this or add sleeves or take these sleeves off or re stone this, or, you know, whatever. So, um, it's kind of fun to kind of navigate that and help somebody find, you know, the thing that feels right for.

[00:50:32] Samantha: Well, and the fact that you offer that in house is such a huge boon. I feel like, uh, because that's definitely one of the things that I've run into in the past is I've seen a dress online or I've, I've walked through the vendor area and I've seen a dress and I've gone, oh, that's cute, but I wish it was.

And then immediately my dress, my, my brain goes, okay, you're not gonna spend $4,000 on a dress that you don't love and then have to hunt for a seamstress and cross your fingers that they're able to do, you know, put sleeves in or take sleeves off, and what is that gonna do to the dress? So the fact that somebody can walk in and be like, okay, I do love that dress, but it needs to be cinched in here, or the skirt.

Can we chop the skirt? I think that's a huge help to your customers and makes those dresses a lot more accessible for sure.

[00:51:20] Duffy: Yeah. Yeah. Definit. Yeah, it's fun too. You get to be creative and dive in. And we've talked like, do we start designing our own dresses? You know, we've been in the market long enough that we kind of have an idea.

Um, but honestly we were like, you know what? We're gonna stay in our lane. This is where we're at. This is what we've been good at. Um, and, and then we added men's wear. So about. I guess 2019 we started adding some menswear and because a lot of competitions are smaller and don't have anything for the guys, nothing.

Yeah. So they show up and if they forget their pants, they're just outta luck. Which you would be surprised at how many men forget their pants. Um, and show up at a competition. ,

[00:52:08] Samantha: I definitely don't know anyone's professional partner that, uh, has been wearing a dress shirt for the last two competitions cuz none of the competitions that we've been going to have male vendors definitely, definitely don't know anyone that would be in that situation.

[00:52:27] Duffy: Yes, yes. You know what I'm talking about ? Yeah. So we started carrying men's wear and um, all of our men's wear is new. So, um, we carry all of the basics. So, pants, shirts, vest. And then we have expanded and started carrying more like Latin and some velvet. And then we have accessories. You know, the guys, the poor guys, they get like a blingy tie in a pocket square, and that's like all the bling they get. Um, so we have a few shirts, you know, rhythm or Latin shirts that are stoned a little bit, but for the most part they're pretty simple. Um, we do do custom tails and suits as well, so if a guy we like went shopping and sought out who some of the best vendors were and, um, work with them on getting custom tails and suits, so, yeah.

[00:53:18] Samantha: That's awesome. That's, that's fantastic that, you know, you're catering to the guys as well as the ladies. Um,

[00:53:24] Duffy: it is fun, but I'll have to tell you really quick. It's funny. Um, so when I'm at competition, I'm always like checking out, um, all the things, right? Like I'm watching the styles for dresses, but I'm also watching the style for men. So I had to be really careful and be like, I really like your pants. Oh wait, no. Um, I, um, the thatlooks really nice. What is, what brand? So, um, yeah, it's been kind of interesting people. I, I hope that people don't think that I'm like watching, um, you know,

[00:53:55] Samantha: you're checking out their bums. It's okay. Dancers have nice bums. You can check them out. .

[00:54:00] Duffy: Yes. Yeah.

[00:54:03] Samantha: Yeah. I, that is kind of the fun thing about, um, or, or a uniquely dancer performance, uh, industry issue is like, you never want to objectify someone, but at the same time we're always like, oh my gosh, that dress, it looks great on you. Who designed it? And then you're like, wait,

[00:54:25] Duffy: yes.

[00:54:25] Samantha: I, I literally just mean, I mean you look gorgeous. Yes, of course. But the dress, okay, I'm just gonna stop talking now cause there's no way to work myself out this.

[00:54:36] Duffy: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

[00:54:38] Samantha: Yeah. Yeah. Um, I know that because you're, because you were in um, consignment, it might be a couple years still before we see this, but I'm really interested now that we see more gender neutral couples on the Ndca a floor where that's gonna go from a costuming perspective. Um, one of my hopes is like that I get to dance with a female student of mine and that I can like get the female instructor like suit set on the dance floor, cuz I think that would be really snazzy. I've seen a couple female instructors that are in like very nice practice shirts and dress pants when they're teaching their, their students.

[00:55:22] Duffy: Yes. Yes.

[00:55:22] Samantha: The guys are getting really fun with their costuming and their outfits. So it'll be interested to, I will be interested to hear from you when you start to get some of those pieces in. Um, how, how they,

[00:55:35] Duffy: that is gonna be interesting. I've been watching as well and then just watching, um, like we started carrying practice wear in our shop and then we have some practice pants for women, um, that actually some teachers are getting for competing to dance with their, you know, female students.

Um, and I just picked up this really great pair of velvet pants, um, that I can't wait for somebody to test out and see. They just look like they would be so much fun. Um, and then, yeah, I'm keeping my eye out and shopping and thinking about those female teachers. What does that look like? How can you bling it up and, you know, Yeah, yeah,

[00:56:16] Samantha: for sure, for sure. Well, I can't believe it's been an hour already. I feel like we could talk for another five, but we will, we will go ahead and wrap it up here. So, um, let's start with the basics. Where can people find you to either follow along with your personal dance journey or find out more about dance dress couture, or the ballroom box?

[00:56:43] Duffy: Okay, so I'll start with the Ballroom Box. Ballroom Box, um, is online. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram just at Ballroom Box. Um, the website is So the idea there is Ballroom Box Me, like send me that box, I'm ready to get it. Um, and we do have the quarterly subscription and then the holidays.

Um, right now use Ballroom Chat in the, um, little, uh, checkout coupon code and you get a special coupon and that does apply to subscriptions and the holiday one time. You can order the one time gift, um, for women and for men, and also the mini box. And then the website for Dance Dress Couture is

Very simple and easy to get to. And we are on Facebook and Instagram at Dance Dress Couture. And then I'm on Facebook as Duffy. So.

[00:57:39] Samantha: Easy enough. And what is, cuz this episode is coming out just in time for all of our lovely holiday shoppers. When is the cutoff, um, to get the holiday box or the mini holiday box shipped to you in time for Christmas?

[00:57:55] Duffy: Yes, the cutoff is December 18th, so we will ship the majority of the boxes actually right before that. Uh, probably the 16th or 17th. And um, you know, you might be able to edge it out 19th or 20th, but, um, that's kinda the point and I'll. For those of you who are watching the um, box, we'll have a bow on the front instead of our regular box actually shows like the big ballroom box logo. Um, but the holiday box is packaged like a gift so that it looks like you're receiving a nice little gift when you get it, and it'll come shipped in a poly bag mailer so that if you're buying it and it's a secret, the people in your life don't have to know what they're getting before they get it. But one other thing about the box is that we do keep all of the contents for each season a surprise until after the boxes have all been shipped. And then we do a full reveal. We do a sneak peak. So the sneak peak for the holiday box is already out. And every season you can go on our website and see a sneak peak of one item, but usually there's six to eight items. In every box. So you don't know what you're gonna get until you get to open it.

[00:59:11] Samantha: Yep. It, it makes it feel like Christmas morning four times a year. Um, which is fun. And I love the fact that it's got a little bow because a lot of us are gifting them, and then we don't have to find our wrapping paper or tape or anything else with it. Yeah. It just takes care of itself

[00:59:26] Duffy: right. It's ready to go.

[00:59:28] Samantha: Perfect. Well, thank you Duffy, so much for being a guest on today's episode.

[00:59:34] Duffy: Yes, thank you. I, I really do feel honored. I was searching, um, a couple years ago for more information about ballroom and competition and found your podcast, and I love listening to it. I love listening to all the d. Um, industry people that you pull in, teachers, professionals, competitors, marketing side of things, all kinds of fun things.

Um, so I feel really honored to like, be a part of being on Ballroom Chat.

[01:00:03] Samantha: Aw, thank you . Thank you. Yeah. Um, well, yeah, so, so for our listeners, go check her out, support, uh, the podcast using Ballroom Chat. Uh, if you got the ballroom box and yeah, give her some love. Thank you once again to Duffy for being, uh, not only an amazing guest on today's episode, but also a big supporter of the Ballroom Chat podcast.

As we mentioned during the episode, if you are wanting to pick up one of their holiday boxes or pick up a subscription for yourself, uh, you can use the code Ballroom Chat during checkout saves you a little bit on the price of your box, and it also helps support the podcast, which I really do appreciate.

Um, you can also find links to everything that we mentioned in the description box below. As always, I'm Samantha. I've been your host with Love Live Dance. You can find the Ballroom Chat podcast at Ballroom Chat on Instagram and Facebook. Um, you can also become a supporter of the podcast either through the Ballroom Box or through Patreon.

If you go to, you can support the podcast. Um, we occasionally post behind the scenes content. We're trying to grow our patron page and some of our patron incentives there. So, um, do check it out if you are so inclined.

Uh, non-monetary ways to support the podcast. Make sure that you like and follow Ballroom Chat on all of the social media pages. Um, like, and follow us on YouTube, on Apple Podcasts, on Google Podcast, Stitcher, uh, Spotify. All of the places where you can consume ballroom chat. Just give us a thumbs up, a like, or a review or share the podcast with your friends. We also appreciate that as well.

And as always, stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing very soon, probably in 2023. Ah, it's the end of year already. Bye.