Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathy Corcoran.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Kathy. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was fortunate to learn as a young child that anyone can learn to dance. That is the message I want the world to know. I believe that given the time, I can teach anyone to dance. I can’t make everyone a great dancer but I can make anyone dance well enough to have fun and be proud of their dancing.
When I was ten I begged for ice skating lessons. I was a good skater my very first year. My teacher recommended dance lessons because dance improves grace and timing. Dance also teaches expression and interpretation of music. I learned ballet, tap, and acrobatics.
One of the greatest benefits of dance for me has been the confidence I have gained. As a child, I was very shy and had no self-esteem. Skating and dance were the only thing that made me feel good about myself.
At age nineteen I married my high school sweetheart. It wasn’t unusual to marry young in those years. In one year my marriage ended in a horrendous incident. I had a six-week-old baby and I needed a job.
I saw a want ad for dance instructors at Arthur Murray’s. It paid well for a part time job and I could work from six to ten at night and not be away from my baby during the day. They taught me to dance, to teach, and to sell. I worked for them for three years before moving from Riverside to Orange County.
I worked for many years for independent studios. Most of the time I had full time jobs in sales and marketing but continued to teach part time. I did a lot of teacher training for studios.
In 1984, while working for a General Contractor and Architect, I opened my studio. It was open a year before I left the construction company. I hated the headaches I had working in the stress of the construction business but the pay, the company car and the expense account was hard to say goodbye to.
I don’t know how I did it. Often after working both jobs, we went dancing. Country Western clubs were everywhere and there were swing dance contests almost every night. My teachers and myself had summer passes for Disneyland. Often after closing the studio we would go catch the last set of the featured band and enjoy more dancing.
I judged the contests sometimes. Judging the contests was a good way to train my teachers. I would ask them why they did or did not like the contestants. I would point out things like the dancer was taking too big a step or dancing with their feet apart. One of the most difficult things for a dance teacher to learn is how to analyze what the dance student is doing wrong and how to fix it.
I joke about being ambid-dance-erous. Dance teachers must learn to dance both the man and the women’s part, with great skill. They must also learn to count the beats while dancing and to talk backward to their students. Example, while dancing the male part the teacher must call the steps in reverse for the ladies part.
I am not a big fan of dancing in the contests or judging them. I competed when I was in my twenty’s because I needed to prove to myself that I can dance but my ego is behind my teaching. When my bride and grooms tell me how many compliments they got on their wedding dance or one of my students tell me they got compliments on their dancing, I am on a high.
Swing dancing and dance contests have been very popular in California for many years. West Coast Swing is California’s state dance. There are many swing dance competitions and dance organizations that support swing dancing. I belong to the LA Swing Dance Club. They hold their dances in Long Beach. There are swing dance clubs in San Diego and Palm Springs. I served first as a Director and then as a Vice President for twenty years on the board of directors for the The California Swing Dance Hall of Fame. The organization does a formal dinner dance and show where great California dancers are honored and given gold medals for their achievements. I was inducted into The California Swing Dance Hall of Fame, receiving a gold medal in 2010.
I had a five year business plan for my studio and I had a business partner when I started. The five year plan was a good idea but the business partner was not. She had personal problems so I had to buy her out. I would have never taken a partner had I realize that a partnership is more risk than a marriage. Someone else has access to your bank account and may have different ideas about how to run the business.
When I opened my business, I designed it the way I would want a studio to be if I were a dance client. I would want a comfortable nice ballroom with highly trained and patient teachers. I would want reasonable rates with no contracts or pressure to buy.
My ballrooms got bigger thru the years and so did the staff to support them. The bad part of that is the overhead and working with young teachers with big egos.
About fifteen years ago I made the smartest business decision ever. I closed the big studio and built a six hundred square foot ballroom addition to my home. I improved the value of my property and no longer have to deal with teachers or landlords. I was scared at first because I was downsizing my business but I have had all the business I want ever since and I have never been happier.
My ballroom is beautiful. My students enter or wait for their turn for their lesson in a pretty, flower filled patio. I am strict about not entering before their hour as to not interrupt or disturb the privacy of the previous students. My studio is unique with its private ballroom. Private lessons at other studios mean you have your own teacher but not your own ballroom.
Men especially like the privacy as they are more afraid of starting dance lessons than women. The reason for this is most females are socialized into dancing. We share dance steps with our girlfriends or are involved in cheer or take dance classes when we are kids. Males are not socialized into dance. Unless they have a parent or sister who teaches them, they don’t learn they can dance. The second reason that females are more comfortable about dancing is we will risk making a fool of ourselves because we want to dance. Males judge themselves and other males harder than females do. Men are never willing to risk making a fool of themselves. They either do it well or they don’t do it.
When men come to my studio they learn that I get them. They learn that I am a coach and most men have some experience working with a coach. The coach tells them to do it again and do it again until it is body memory and the good news is, body memory is permanent. I break dancing into four parts and teach them one at a time. I explain, no matter how coordinated they are or how smart they are it doesn’t matter because we start in kindergarten. I compare learning to dance with learning to juggle. If you take four balls and throw them into the air and try to catch them you won’t get anywhere, but if you take one ball and you practice, soon you will add the others. The first ball is the step, the second the timing, the third the lead or follow and last the style. It never fails.
My goal for my clients is to look good on the dance floor and feel good to dance with. I specialize in beginners and weddings. I teach all levels of dance. I teach all the social dances, Foxtrot, Waltz, Swing, Cha Cha, Rumba, Tango, Merengue, Samba, Mambo, Country Two Step, Freestyle etc.
I enjoy taking people’s fears away and sharing their high when they discover they can dance. It’s fun to help my students find the right music for their wedding dance or to choreograph their favorite song.
One of my teachers said, “dance teachers are very secure people because we have our arms around someone or they have their arms around us, all the time.
Teaching dance is my drug of choice. I am high tonight after having an incredible day.
I started my day with a walk with my friend Carolyn. I am fortunate to live in paradise. Yorba Linda is entwined with thirty horse/bike trails totaling one hundred miles. It was once one of the most per capita cities for horses in the country. With the price of properties now, the horses can’t afford to live here anymore. There are five horses I visit in the morning with apples and carrots. The trails are beautiful and filled with lots of good mornings to walkers, runners, bikers and doggies.
My first class today was with Carol and Bob. They have been with me for many years. They dance with me for an hour lesson each week and they dance on Saturday night at Disneyland for two sets without leaving the floor. Every year we pick music and I choreograph it and they practice it. They perform their dance at my once a year party. Three years ago, they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary at a party at my home. Dance is a safe and healthy exercise.
Next is Jennifer and Hector. They have been clients for almost twenty five years. I taught them a Viennese Waltz for their wedding dance and they have been clients ever since. They have a romance others envy. Their dancing is one of the ways they keep their romance alive. Wednesday night is their lesson followed by a dinner date. They are like family to me. They are often asked if they are professional dancers.
Popping in for their first lesson a few minutes early was Kathy and Joe. They apologized for coming in during Jennifer and Hectors lesson but they were welcomed. Jennifer and Hector are no longer shy about their dancing. We were working on a very fast swing and my new clients were enchanted. Kathy and Joe were here to learn a dance for the celebration of their twenty fifth wedding anniversary. They chose a Louie Armstrong song. I asked Jennifer and Hector if they would demonstrate a foxtrot so they could see what their dance could look like.
I asked if they would do a lift at the end of the song and they obliged. I have watched them dance for all these years but I was still blown away when they hit the lift. I got goose bumps, it was amazing and my new dancers went crazy over it.
Such is the life of a dance teacher. I make my living teaching people to have fun with skills that will last them a lifetime. The benefits of dance are many. Exercise, self-esteem, confidence, balance, poise, grace, timing, social grace, romance, friends, I could go on and on.
I guess I have. One of the benefits they have learned in recent years is, dance helps to prevent Alzheimer’s. They have known that exercising your brain and exercising your body were preventative, but now they know that dance delivers both and was found to be the most effective.
I didn’t get rich in money teaching dance but my life is rich in people and dancing. One of the classes I am most proud of is the Salsa classes I am invited to teach each year at a local high school. A very fine teacher got my fee and classes approved by the district because he knows he is giving his students a gift. He said that without these classes his students may never have this opportunity to learn they can dance or how much fun dancing is.
I welcome students from teen to adult. My services are available to singles and couples. I offer private lessons only unless clients want to form their own small group. I am proud to offer a private environment for the comfort of people of alternate lifestyles.
My rates are very reasonable. I charge from sixty to seventy five dollars per hour, based on how many lessons are purchased. Next April, I will have been teaching dancing for fifty years.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I think starting a new business like mine in a bigger city is more difficult. My business is a very personal one so a smaller community is a benefit because I get a lot of word of mouth business.
- My rates start at $75. per hour. A package of 5 lessons is $70. or $350, 10 lessons are $65. or $650. and 20 lessons are $60. at $1200.
- Address: 17746 Ladera Circle,
Yorba Linda, CA 92886
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 714-993-0906