We can’t all be blessed with one right foot and one left foot, which is where dance schools such as Arthur Murray come in. At just two months before “I do”, they stepped in, literally, to get us from Laurel and Hardy to Fred and Ginger. Here’s how.
Dance is not necessarily a skill most people have on their resume – unless your name is Joey Tribiani, and highly skilled in jazz hands. While my then soon-to-be husband would tell anyone within in earshot that he’s “got rhythm”, the truth is even his jazz hands needed work. Not unlike most men who simply refuse to teach their significant others to drive, we headed straight to the professionals, for a little dance direction.
Located in the centre, up on a hill overlooking Khreshchatyk, the Arthur Murray International Dance Studio is tucked in behind a school basketball court and office buildings. While little business actually goes on here, it’s highly appropriate school children can be seen playing in the adjacent courtyard: this is a place for learning after all.
It’s been pre-arranged we will meet with Volodymyr Nikolaev, who is there waiting for us in Latin dancewear, ready to get started. He is very personable, speaks Ukrainian, Russian and English, and looks to know what he’s doing. He invites us onto the dancefloor – a large, rectangular sized room with floor to ceiling mirrors covering one wall. The whole thing, for the next 45 minutes, is ours.
The Rise And Fall
As in all things, it’s good to start at the beginning, and so after a few key tips on posture, poise and pointed toes, we are shown the boxstep for the waltz. We haven’t picked our music just yet, but this is a pretty solid option for a first dance. Men start with the left foot, women with the right – and guys, should you need a little help remembering how this goes, you can just remember “women are always right”.
Once we’ve got the step mastered, we try it connected as a couple. It’s interesting. I’m so used to leading it’s hard to give up the control – ladies I’m sure you can relate. It will take a few more lessons to fully get used to the sensation.
More steps are thrown in, such as the underarm-turn, the left-box turn, the right-box turn and so on, and by the end of our 6-week stint, it’s actually looking not bad.
I’m surprised, but proud even more so – I had no idea my partner on the dancefloor and soon to be partner in life had it in him. A few altercations occurred along the way, with one of them ending in us being told to “cut it out”, but all in all, it’s been a pleasant and worthwhile experience. I think I ended up leading a little for our first dance, old habits die-hard after all, however I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I may even take up the tango now that we can check off the foxtrot on our dance resume.
To begin with, I need to say that I already consider myself to be a reasonable dancer. Blessed naturally with a bit of rhythm, a built in aversion to not looking stupid got me to where I was and where I was happy.
I had no inclination to take any dancing classes, not because I didn’t want to improve my skills, I always want to do that, but the reality is that this just held little interest for me. But, with an event looming at which I was going to have to dance in front of a number of people and I knew that it would most likely be filmed too, logic kicked in and I agreed to give it a shot. What could I lose?
My first impression of the Arthur Murray School of Dance was how friendly everyone there is. We know, in Ukraine, that we will not get a smile at every interaction with another human being. But once inside Arthur Murray’s mirror lined walls, everyone has a smile. For some (students...) that smile is a nervous one.
Our course included both private lessons and group sessions. In private, with Volodya as our instructor (the man has the patience of a saint) things progressed well. He confirmed that I did indeed possess the natural rhythm I’d always suspected. By adapting that to the Arthur Murray method, I was, pretty quickly, managing to move in a less awkward manner.
For clarity here, I’ve danced, we’ve all “danced”, but that has always been a free-spirited-after-a-few-drinks-at-an-event kind of dancing. This was stone cold sober and formal dancing to boot. It takes a little getting used to. It takes repetition for the movements to become more natural and for the steps to become automatic rather than counted out in your head.
Quick Quick Slow
Feeling less stupid about it all, we left after that first lesson knowing that this was actually going to be a lot of fun. And, as we left, we booked ourselves in for the group class that coming weekend. Turning up then that Saturday, horror of horrors, I actually knew one of the people there, from real life.
The bubble in the studio is great, you can make all the mistakes you need, nobody can see you. Then, there’s this guy, there’s no avoiding him. He’s noticed me too and I know going through his head right now is “oh crap, I know that guy” – pretty soon though it was abundantly obvious that I had the edge over him in terms of the fact that both of my feet are not left, and so I felt better.
The group classes are fun. Something like a dozen people who can make up therefore six couples (be aware, there are more girls than men, just saying) and the instructor gives you a few steps, has you paired up with someone and away you go in an anti-clockwise circle around the room, making small talk with the stranger you’re now within the personal space of. After two minutes the ladies stay in place and the guys (or, guy substitutes as there was only myself, left feet, and one other chap so a couple of girl instructors had to “man up”) move on to the next lady in line and make the same small talk again. For someone who is a little shy, I can think of nothing better than this. Really, all everyone is thinking about is whether your slow comes after your quick-quick after your slow-slow.
At the end of it all, I have to admit that I came out of it an even better dancer. The formalities of the Foxtrot hold no fear for me now. We can attend events and (even though I know my wife will go back to leading) I will cut an even better rug than I was ever able to before.
The people at Arthur Murray are nice, their motto is “Walking In, Dancing Out” and the only thing that needs adding to that is “with a smile”.
The Arthur Murray Dance Studio has a long and wonderful history as the largest and most well-known dance school in the world. In fact, many will not realise that its story began here, in Ukraine – western Ukraine to be exact, where Arthur Murray was born. After his parents immigrated to the US, Murray started giving dance lessons in Manhattan, the year was 1912, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, there are more than 280 Arthur Murray studios throughout the world, located in more than 35 countries. The studio here in Ukraine opened in 2011, the first such school of all CIS countries. Classes offered include waltz, tango, foxtrot, rumba, cha-cha-cha, samba, swing to salsa, bachata, merengue, Argentinean tango, hustle and bolero. “Call now, dance tonight!”
Arthur Murray (Lyuteranska 10a)
Catch the teachers and students of Arthur Murray in action at their Grand Showcase 2013 ball on 8 December at 18.30. The gala features freestyle and theatrical routines by Arthur Murray students together with their dance teachers; a professional dance show; dancing master-classes in polonaise, polka and quadrille for all; the option for you to show off your moves in the sophisticated setting of the Fairmont Hotel – the biggest dance hall in all of Kyiv; a gala-dinner; and finally lots of prizes and surprises! Plus, special guest certified adjudicator of Arthur Murray International (Ballroom and Latin dances) and Regional Coordinator of Arthur Murray Dance Studios in Europe, Rebea Al Asir (BR). Don’t miss it!
Fairmont Hotel (Naberezhno-Khreschatytska 1)
For more information call 229-9937.
by Lana Nicole and Paul Niland