Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Stephen Platt of Arthur Murray Dance Studios
Current Location: Orange County, CA
Stephen, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Before jumping in, can you tell us a little about yourself and Arthur Murray Dance Studios?
I started working for Arthur Murray Studios as a part time job while getting an MBA degree at ASU. I have had a great love for dancing and especially ballroom dancing since Middle School, so it seemed natural to become a business owner with Arthur Murray Studio.
My wife, Georgetta, started in the studio at about the same time and we eventually married and started our journey with Arthur Murray. In our time as business owners we have owned studios in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and now all of our studios are in Southern California. We are affiliated with studios from San Diego to Santa Barbara and as far East as Riverside. A total of 11 studios.
What else should we know about Arthur Murray Dance Studios?
Ballroom dancing has become a national past time with the advent of Dancing With the Stars. We teach competitive and social ballroom dancing. Many of our couples come in as empty nesters for a date night or to find a fun hobby to do together. We get lots of wedding couples, people going to reunions and cruises. Lately with Covid-19 there have not been as many activities, but we've had a lot of people looking for a safe recreational activity. We have dancing for those who want to learn virtually from home, people who want 6' distancing and people who are comfortable wearing masks and doing the other necessary things to stay safe.
We like to say we change lives through dancing. We help people reach physical fitness and weight goals. We get shy people out on the dance floor feeling comfortable and confident in social situations. Couples that are trying to reconnect have had remarkable success through touch dancing. I've seen so many lives change and brought health and happiness through dancing in a professional yet fun environment.
Can you tell us about what you've all been working on recently?
We have been making big advancements in Virtual Lessons, Dance competitions that are live, but done in remote locations with everything being uploaded to our off site judging panel real time, and wonderful shows that are magical with the power of today's editing programs. It's been a big adventure and so rewarding to our clients and teachers alike.
Ballroom dancing in the era of COVID can be tough, what are some of the obstacles you've faced recently?
As you can imagine, touch dancing is challenging with 6' distancing. We've made great strides in keeping the environment safe for staff and students alike while still making sure it's been fun and engaging. I'm happy to say that to my knowledge, we have not had a single problem with an outbreak of Covid in any of our affiliated studios. Masks, washing hands and keeping the number of people in the studios to a proper number has really helped the whole process.
Are there any lessons that you've learned in your years growing each studio you're involved with?
My biggest take away is not to take the dancing too seriously. It's all about having fun, moving to music, and enjoying this with a dance partner. When it becomes about winning contests, it can possibly stop being just fun. I mean really, we don't make a physical product. It's all about having fun and getting the weight loss, socialization, connections and confidence as a byproduct of this great sport. It's like a light work out while laughing the whole time. You get going and just don't want to stop while this wonderful music is inspiring you to move and express. It's such an incredible high...how can it be anything but good, clean fun?
Can you tell us about a moment you found particularly inspiring?
My wife and I were in a remote border town in Italy on Bastille Day, the French Independence Day. We were sightseeing and shopping along the little winding cobble stone streets as the sun began to set. It was a beautiful Italian evening. We noticed all the shops were closing up and people were walking to what appeared to be the center of this little town. We followed them and discovered a bandstand with a dance floor. They were celebrating the holiday with music and dancing. My wife and I can't speak a lick of Italian, but we spent the evening dancing Tangos, Rumbas, Cha Chas, Swings and all the popular ballroom dances with the Italians of this little town. It was magical and will be a memory we'll share forever. If we couldn't dance, we would have stayed on the sidelines and eventually gotten bored and left, but because we could communicate with the Italians through the language of dance, it was fun and easy to make a connection. We have many stories like this. Knowing how to dance has made vacations, cruises and events more meaningful and memorable.
What role do you think it or the arts play in today's society?
When you really look at the important things in life, fame and fortune fall short of just being happy. We seek to enjoy life, make connections, and find peace and happiness. The arts are designed to make life full and beautiful. Without the arts, life can be a little drab and task oriented. I feel for so many, it's already that way and we don't know how to enjoy life anymore without a TV, computer, or cell phone. Putting all those aside and going to a play, a concert or laughing and dancing on a Village Square with strangers can make life more fulfilling and happier. It's experiencing life rather than looking at it from a screen.
As we make our way through this global pandemic, what are your hopes for Arthur Murray Dance Studio's future?
Arthur Murray Dance Studios have been around for 108 years. It's the 2nd oldest living franchise in the United States. Dancing has been around forever and as long as there is music, people will want to move to it and it's just more fun with a partner than without. So I feel that for the world of dance, it will be here for a long long time. I pray the same is true with all the rest of the arts. I need color and beauty in my life. I trust there are many just like me in that regard.
What role do you think Arthur Murray Dance Studios and the arts in general play in helping to unify society?
How do the arts bring people together. I can only speak about my field of ballroom dancing, but it always impresses me when I go to a party where there is dancing- and I know today that's a problem with Covid-19, but under normal circumstances- and I see people coming together. We have the option of changing partners and it's exciting to lead or follow a person you have never danced with before. It usually is such a physical, emotional and confidence building experience. Lifelong friendships seem to happen all the time. Listen to what the stars say on Dancing with the Stars. "I've met such a great group of people!" "This is an activity I'm not going to stop when the show is over." It's because of the endorphins caused by the music and movement that makes people smile and have fun with another person without even needing to tell a joke or be witty. You just dance to the music and people come together, maybe like no other social experience. I can't really think of anything that brings groups of people together more effectively than ballroom dancing. It changes your perspective about what is important in life. Instead of thinking of the next business project you have to get to, you're thinking about going dancing and having fun with your dance buddies. I think that's a healthier activity to look forward to as opposed to just working more.
Where can we learn more about the offerings at Arthur Murray Dance Studios?
If you wanted to get involved with Arthur Murray Studios, go to our website: arthurmurraystudios.com or call the Arthur Murray Studio closest to you. Your first private lesson is only $40. You could be dancing tonight!
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