Jim Manly’s Humble (and Funny) Beginnings

Ballroom Dance Lessons in Charlotte, NC

Taking Ballroom Dance lessons was one of those things that my wife and I were supposed to do with another couple to keep our marriage interesting and to give us an excuse to get out of the house every now and then. That was back in 1992 before Dancing with The Stars and other the other hoopla about dancing. As it turned out we should have taken those lessons because 2 years later we were separated and heading for a divorce.

There is a happy ending to this tale however. As it turns out, we were separated and divorced, leaving both of us to move forward. My Ex remarried and moved to Georgia with the kids. I stayed in Charlotte trying to figure out what to do next, and of course tried to figure out the dating scene again after almost 14 years of being out of it. I never enjoyed the bar scene and there weren’t any of the new social media for dating services, just the want ads in the back of the tabloids and an occasional friend offering to make an “introduction.”

So I finally decided to take Ballroom Dance lessons. Not knowing at all what to expect, I called the local chapter president of the United States Ballroom Dance Association and asked her where to take lessons and who was the best teacher. She named all of the studios in Charlotte at the time, and added that Terri was the best teacher if I could find her. A few phone calls later I found her at a franchised studio and had my “complimentary lesson” scheduled.

When I went it the place for my lesson, I was terrified! I didn’t know what they would ask me to do, I hadn’t danced since Jr. Cotillion in middle school, and everyone on the dance floor looked like they knew what the heck they were doing. I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life, until I met Terri. She was sweet and respectful of my anxieties, and we just talked for a few minutes. Then she asked my if I would show her what I could remember from college dances or Cotillion.

We took to the floor and danced a little East Coast Swing. After a minute or two we stopped, and she called another instructor over to watch us. “You have the basic steps right but something just doesn’t feel right,” she said to me. “I’d like Susan to watch us for a moment if you don’t mind?” Susan came over and watched intently.

After just a few bars of the music, she placed her hand over her mouth as though to stifle her laughter, and in a very soft and polite voice whispered, “You’re doing the girl’s part.” “Huh?” I sputtered. “You’re dancing the girl’s steps,” she quietly repeated. After one of those awkward silences that seems to last forever, we all three broke out into raucous laughter, doubling over. “Where did you learn to dance?” Terri asked. “My older sisters taught me,” was my innocent reply.

The two female instructors both looked at me kindly. Then Terri assured me that she could fix this problem, and it wasn’t the worst she had ever seen. They see all kinds of beginners and at least I could keep the beat of the music, even if I rocked on the wrong foot. So off I went on this new adventure, a little humbled but confident that I was in the right hands. We set up a series of lessons to undo all the old habits that were built into my dancing skills (that “girl’s part” stuff), and set about putting the right fundamentals into my brain and my muscle memory.

That was 17 years ago. And I still like to tell that story because of the humiliation I might felt if I had been introduced to Ballroom Dancing by someone less sensitive than Terri and Susan. Terri taught me to dance the right way, and we performed many showcases and won at several competitions together. We are still friends and I always delight in seeing her.

When we started Metropolitan Ballroom in February 2008, I wanted to make that lesson an important part of my studio. At Metropolitan Ballroom, no matter how you dance today, where you learned or who taught you; you will be treated with the utmost respect. No matter what your goals are for dancing, our covenant with you is that we will do all we can to help you meet those goals. We will have a great time with you doing it, and will probably share much laughter together in the process. But we will always respect your time, talent, training and the investment you make.

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