From Past to Present, Part 5: Let the dancing begin.
One of my fellow racers wanted to take me salsa dancing during a trip to California. I agreed to go. I thought it would be a lot of fun. I thought I would have no problem picking it up with a dance background. I was so wrong, and I ended up embarrassing myself. I made a promise to myself that when I returned to Canada, I was going to learn how to dance salsa, so that doesn’t happen to me ever again.
I asked a friend of mine to teach me some moves. He was from Ecuador and loved salsa dancing, which he did all the time. He agreed to help me. He would come to my trampoline club and teach and practice with me after coaching late in the evenings.
I ended up loving it so much that I wanted to take dance lessons at a ballroom studio. Next to my friend’s race shop was an Arthur Murray dance studio.
I went in to enquire about dance lessons. After further discussion, they were intrigued by my dance and gymnastics background.
Instead of setting me up for lessons, they offered me a job. I was a little confused as I didn’t know how to dance, so how can I be a teacher? They said they had a training program that would teach me how to instruct and dance ballroom, including club dances such as salsa, bachata, merengue, etc.
If I did not want the job at the end of the training, I could just walk away, and I would have learned to dance for free. It sounded good to me, so I agreed to move forward. I let them know that I was racing cars on weekends, so I was away (during the racing season). I also told them that I prioritised trampoline over everything and that teaching dance would be secondary.
As the three months of training was coming to an end, I was enjoying myself. At this point, my injury from the car accident was nearly at 80% recovered, and it seemed that it was the best it was going to get. The next time I went dancing, I redeemed myself and impressed my friends. They were surprised as I never told them I would be doing that.
I agreed to take the job. My only concern was that I still didn’t feel proficient at any of the dances. I’m the type of person that wants to be the best at anything I do. Not only that, but people were paying a lot of money for a lesson with me. I wanted to feel that people were getting value for their dollar.
They acknowledged my concerns and promised me that I would receive more dance training every few months. Almost two years had gone by, and my dancing abilities were still poor. Over that time, I maybe received two dance training sessions? Due to my background in coaching, I took the theory that I read from the syllabus books and gave the information to others. However, my demonstrations were sub-par.
I had to do a professional show with one of the other teachers. I watched a video of the performance the following day, and it mortified me. How could I call myself a professional dancer? I complained to my boss, and they promised that they would bring coaches in to train all the staff with better techniques.
Finally, someone came to do a clinic with the teachers. I grabbed my dance shoes and went into the ballroom. I was so excited. They asked us to grab pen and paper and work on sales. I was disappointed and frustrated. Here we go again, another training on sales. We always worked on sales.
I was so good at sales that I could sell you the shirt you were wearing.
That’s great and all, but that will not make me a better dancer. I took matters into my own hands and found a studio where I could take lessons to improve myself.
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When I arrived for my lesson, I informed the instructor that I was also a ballroom dance instructor, but I could not dance. He was baffled; how can you be a dance instructor but not know how to dance? Throughout the lesson, he was boggled about how I had so much knowledge and understanding of the syllabus but no ability to execute physically.
My first lesson was a real eye-opener for me.
I knew I was not very good, but it turns out I was actually TERRIBLE.
Until that day, I had nothing to compare it to. That moment I decided that I would quit teaching ballroom dancing until my level of dancing was truly to professional standards. I spoke to my boss at the studio to inform them that I am giving them my two weeks’ notice. I didn’t explain or get into details. I took 2-3 lessons a week.
After three years and many lessons later, I was finally ready to go back to teaching ballroom dancing, but this time I had the quality to back up my knowledge. I did not return to Arthur Murray and decided to work as an independent instructor.
In 2008 recession hit the USA, and companies were pulling out their sponsorships. Things became financially strained. I decided that it would be best to take a break from racing. I also decided to commit more time to coaching and dancing.
2008 was an Olympic year, so it was jam-packed at it was. So, I sold my race car, trailer, and truck. In 2004 I had bought a Yamaha R6 Supersport motorcycle. I loved my bike, and I decided I would keep it. I thought if I wanted to, I could always race my bike. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the end of my racing carrier, and what a wild ride it was. I reflected on all the fantastic craziness I was privileged to be a part of.
From the outrageous parties to the business meetings at the strip clubs, wheeling the golf carts, the adrenaline rush of racing, to all the amazing people I met. As a female in a male-dominated industry, it was quite a unique experience. I felt like I lived a thousand lives in such a short period of time.
I can probably write a novel on my adventures, but I will tackle that another time.
Thank you for reading. Read the previous article: Recovery and The Car-Racing World
— Jen Lee