I met up with a good friend recently. A friend who generates a cortege of excited dance partners when he enters any room as if his talents radiate a clearly identifiable aroma of awesome. Mr. Tim Gregory.
Those of us who have had the experience of working or dancing with Tim will often describe their involvement as a blend of a challenge and fun. If you haven’t heard of or seen his work, here is a bit of behind the scenes of this Redding, California native.
It was 1998, a girl and a swing class.
In our conversation I asked Tim to tell me how he got into Ballroom Dancing. A smile began to crease the corner of his chin as he started to describe his first dance lesson at the important age of 15 as “involuntary fun”. The only reason for him even going was because it was an excuse to hang out with a girl he liked. So, at that point, he didn’t even have any interest in dancing nor did he even plan on taking the class.
“I was just there to watch. Turned out, the couples were uneven and she needed a partner, so I apprehensively agreed to do it with her. I justified it as an excuse to hold her hands,”
During the lesson, he surprised himself by picking up the steps fairly quick and at how much fun it was. In time his attraction of the girl passed but not that of dancing.
After graduating High School, Tim joined the Navy and his first duty station was San Diego, CA. Being 18, and new to San Diego, he was left with the decision of what to do on his downtime. Having previously enjoyed martial arts and dancing he wanted an activity to remind him his now far away home. The closest place that taught Jeet Kune Do was in LA, so he looked up places to learn ballroom dancing.
“The military phone-book in my barracks room only had two dance studios listed. The first dance studio listed had two phone numbers. The other studio, somebody called Arthur Murray, only had one phone number listed, so I called that one.”
Soon learning that this somebody was actually one of the top studios in the U.S. Tim recalls his first few weeks at Arthur Murray’s as being a lot of fun and always having something to participate in.
“I was there all the time. The instructors didn’t over-teach, and they listened to what I wanted out of my dancing while still allowing me to experience other dances and expand my horizons.”
On October 7, 2001, US Armed Forces invade Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks and begin combat action in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban supporters. As a member of the U.S. Navy this Intelligence Specialist was deployed.
The War on Terrorism begins with Operation Enduring Freedom. Stress was at an all-time high and while underway in between his 12 hour shifts Tim found himself stirring and homesick. After only dancing at the studio for about 8 months and typically not taking any notes this Petty Officer 3rd Class decided to write everything down that he knew about dancing in his downtime.
“I came home late Jan of 2002. My teacher instructed me to call her as soon as my feet touched American soil and I was happy to hear that when I did my next lesson, she said I didn’t forget anything”
The feeling of happiness to be home was short lived. March 20, 2003 the United States leads a coalition that includes Britain, Australia and Spain to invade Iraq with the stated goal being “to disarm Iraq in pursuit of peace, stability, and security both in the Gulf region and in the United States” known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Back at sea moving between the USS Boxer and USS Cleveland, through the Mediterranean, this soldier was away from home and back practicing alone using his safely guarded notes.
“Dancing was the one constant in my life, kept me focused and happy. When I got back from my last tour I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. I worked part time as an instructor and my training at Arthur Murray San Diego was wonderful. I was lucky. “
Experiencing training every week at his studio and staff training twice a year in Los Angeles with other studios in Southern California, Tim would have whole weekends on: sales training, teacher training and personal dance training given by the best in the industry. The running theme quickly became always do what is best for the student and that there are great dancers and there are great teachers and you are lucky if you are both.
“That was always my priority and I worked at wanting to be both. In this profession, the dancing is the easy part. Having to adapt your instruction to each individuals learning style/personality type so they will understand it can be very challenging and you have to realize that it’s not about you.”
“It’s about the students.” I have always favored statements like these. When teaching a group class or private lesson or even when at a party dancing with students, it’s not about you being the teacher. So many in our industry seem to think it is more important to show students how “amazing” they are personally which ultimately highlights how much what the student doesn’t know in a way that is insulting. Dance instructors are there to help students improve and feel like they are worth our time and that we have plans for them.
When asked about what can dancers do to optimize their learning efforts he stated the importance for a full education and began to illuminate that when potential students hear the prices for dance lessons they often mentally eliminate the value and thus the need of group lessons and studio socials. He speaks about dance with such conviction that you really start to feel that dance is not just an interpretive art but more of a philosophy or exact science. I learned a lot of statistics like the fact that private lessons are where you obtain 80% of you skills while group classes and parties make up the other 20%.
“Dancers who only take group/social/DVD lessons or those who never experience private lessons are immensely damaging their learning curve. Private lessons are for learning, groups are for introduction of new concepts and patterns, and socials or going out dancing is for implementation and practice.”
Often Tim is asked to coach dance instructors and students alike to realize the importance of all three learning facets. He describes how social dancing helps you develop the ability to make a mistake, recover and continue among floor craft, musical identification and dance to dance continuity. His principles on group classes help a dancer realize that they build your awareness of all the lead and follow types outside your regular partner and give you a chance to sample patterns/techniques to come later.
“Don’t care what the dance is being taught at the group, dancing is dancing. It is all just moving to music with basic patterns and turns. I teach people how to dance not a dance.
Dancers that achieve a high level of dancing and stop going to groups and parties because they want to compete become bad lead/followers and can only dance comfortably with their teacher, and often only when doing a routine.”
Tim spends his days serving our country using his master’s degree in computer networking at Ft. Huachuca and his nights social dancing, coaching and choreographing for a NY and AZ based film and photography production company. It has truly been an honor to have him a part of The Ballroom Dance School Community and personally in my life.
You can find Tim Gregory on Social Media like Facebook @ http://facebook.com/TimIsDance