Interview by John with Ranse and his approach to Wedding Dances and American Smooth.
Capital Dance School Director John interviews Ranse about his career and his views on American Smooth and wedding dances.
John – How long have you been teaching at the Capital Dance School?
Ranse – I have been with the Capital Dance School for the past nine years…although I had taught at the studio before I went to America…it was my first real dance ‘home’! The best thing about teaching at the school is the fantastic location, some fantastic students and the best group of dance colleagues, in the business…we are like a (dys/functional) family…who cares.
John – What would you say is your speciality?
Ranse – I would say that my specialty is American Smooth and Rhythm, as well as show dances. I also work really well with wedding couples and people wanting to learn the fun Latin dances. I also teach Ballroom and Latin American dancing.
John – So did you live in America?
Ranse – Yes, I lived in America for many years (if I said how long you could guess my age)…I will admit to 39! I originally moved there to continue my dance training and attained a BFA in Dance and Performance. At the same time I was teaching and competing…just busy, busy, busy!
John – What is your favourite style of dancing?
Ranse – I don’t think I have one particular favourite style of dance, it all depends on the music, who I am dancing with, and the particular need (lessons, competitions, shows or just for fun).
John – Can you tell us a little more about American Smooth?
Ranse – In many ways American smooth is what people generally think that ballroom dancing is like- it has lots of movement, the dancers really relate to each other, and to the music and it is very visually appealing. They think of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers with an updated beat, fantastic choreography and a little bit of jazz…like this clip here
John – What would you say is a perfect dance for a wedding couple?
Ranse – I would say that the American smooth style of dancing is very suitable for wedding dances because what you want to portray is the interaction between the couple and also provide something for the audience (the guests) to enjoy. And also to take a few fantastic photographs to add to the memories of a first dance.
John – What advice would you give to those who have never danced before?
Ranse – I would first of all say don’t be afraid – in many ways dancing is just like walking and we all took some time to learn how to walk but once we figured it out we can do it quite easily (even without falling down). One of the biggest things to be aware of is that dance and dancing is unique to the individual and so whilst it’s difficult not to compare yourself to others, that’s the one thing you should try and avoid because ultimately any learning is a journey and each person’s journey is a slightly different one – but in the end you all reach the desired destination.
John – What are your views on competitions?
Ranse – The dance competitions are fun and exciting to both professional and amateur dancers. They provide an opportunity to put your dance practice to good use, they are engaging and add a little bit of glitz and glamour, which isn’t such a bad thing. I think the challenge with any competition is to make sure you remember why you are doing it and not let the competition become so stressful and so overwhelming that you lose the joy of dancing.
John – How do you approach life and dancing?
Ranse – Be the life of the party – but it should not stop there…it’s good to embrace life with the same positive focus and excitement that you would hopefully approach dancing. I think my secret is just being ‘in the moment’, enjoying being with people, enjoying dancing and the opportunity to engage with others and have fun.
John – When did you start dancing?
Ranse – I started dancing I guess when I was around about five (movement classes) then formal instruction started when I was 10 and I went to a theatre school for about six years. I then continued my dance training in New York, Pennsylvania and in California, primarily as a contemporary dancer. I started ballroom dancing when I was a teenager and I continued to do this in parallel with my contemporary dance training/performance. Once I retired as a contemporary dancer I continued with my ballroom dancing, as a competitive dancer, teacher and coach, much of which I still do today.
John – What is your advice to anyone thinking about starting to dance?
Ranse – My advice to anybody who is thinking about learning to dance is that it is wonderful that you’re thinking about it…and it is even better if you do it…not just once, the best is doing it again and again and again because practice makes almost perfect!
John – Where do you get your motivation from?
Ranse – My motivation comes from the idea that everything is possible and the only thing that holds us back is often ourselves… our own self-doubt. We should put away fears and put away the doubts and all those negative thoughts that go through your head and say to yourself…you know what I’m gonna’ give it a go and what’s the worst that can happen… at least I tried.
John – What do you remember about the founder of Capital Dance School, Gwyneth Walshe?
Ranse – I remember the first time I met Gwyneth Walshe, that was many years ago and I will always remember her fiery red hair, she was a petite woman but she had a steely gaze…and what a grip! She was a fabulous communicator and she really was able to provide some excellent instruction, she was also a huge supporter and provided me with great guidance and advice and really set my path into the career I have today. I think the fact the studio is still in operation is in many ways thanks to the wonderful foundation that Gwyneth created and also those whom she trained and coached, who stayed loyal to her and studio for years. Vernon Kemp continued her legacy and maintained the excellent standard in instruction and professional development. Here we are now thinking about so many years ago and the studio is still going strong!
John – What benefit does dancing have for people?
Ranse – One thing is that with dance, whether you attend a social or group class once a week or whether you take private lessons, for a particular occasion or as a hobby, dance provides a wonderful way for individuals to release those stresses and strains that fill our daily lives and even if it’s just for one hour a week, it provides an escape for you and can be something else to feel and to do something that you don’t normally do that is a wonderful thing to do. That’s a wonderful gift to yourself.