The Interesting Expert of the Week column spotlights experts from within the ProfNet Connect community that we think readers and reporters will find interesting and timely. With nearly 50,000 profiles, ProfNet Connect offers journalists a vast database of experts and influencers on virtually every topic imaginable. In addition, reporters can also submit a ProfNet query to request experts on a specific topic.
Dance is more popular than ever, with television shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” casting a spotlight on the sport.
This week, we sat down with Gregory Day, a former professional ballet and modern dancer, and a U.S. and world champion in the ballroom/Latin dance categories.
Day is co-owner of Chicago Dance Latin and ballroom school, and a national judge for the U.S. Dance Championships. He also coaches dancers and skaters, including the top current world and Olympic ice skaters.
Gregory, you are a former professional ballet and modern dancer, and a champion ballroom dancer. Do you have a favorite style of dance?
I don't have a favorite style. I love dance and have some training in a lot of additional styles: flamenco, African, hip-hop, etc. To be good, one does have to specialize. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the success in ballet and ballroom that I did. What is exciting is great music, great choreography and great dancing -- no matter the style.
What impact have movies like “Strictly Ballroom” and TV shows like “Dancing with the Stars” had on ballroom dancing?
The movies and TV shows have re-introduced dance to the general public. Dance is popular again, and male dancers are respected for their abilities to make dancing smooth and sexy, while maintaining their masculinity. Women love men who dance well! Also, many more women who grew up taking dance classes and loving dance are pursuing ballroom dance as their grown-up hobby because of the exposure through the movies and TV shows.
What advice can you give to someone who is interested in taking up ballroom dancing, either as a hobby or career?
As a hobby, make a commitment to take enough lessons – probably 20, minimum -- to decide if it is something you want to pursue. Stay consistent and keep the lessons close together at the beginning to learn more quickly. I have a number of blog posts at Chicago Dance Blog that offer more pointers about taking up ballroom dance lessons.
For a career, get training to be a good teacher and learn at least a little about sales: give people what they want, not necessarily what you think they should want. Ballroom University is a resource we offer teachers.
You also have an MBA. How does your business background help you coach dancers?
Earning an MBA gave me analytic tools to apply, and deepened my understanding of systems and people. One example is trying to apply Lean Management principles to make the education process more efficient and help people learn more quickly.
How can dancing help a business leader? What skills can it teach them?
Ballroom dancing is about working as part of a team. Being a leader is about being in partnership -- making suggestions, getting feedback and then continuing the dance. Being a good leader requires having a plan and being flexible enough to deviate from the plan when required to continue making progress. A leader in dance must be trustworthy and their role is to guide and showcase their follower. Dance requires balance, strength, grace.
A good dance and good partnership looks effortless, but requires an incredible amount of work and commitment to achieve that level of success.
What has been the most rewarding experience you've had in your career?
I've been blessed to have many incredible experiences in my dance career. I would have a hard time picking just one. However, the most rewarding experience has to be seeing the success that students have achieved through dance, such as increased self-confidence, improved health or simply achieving goals that they never thought they could accomplish.