Studio Manager Jessica DeVries sees a deeper purpose in ballroom dance, and she wants nothing more than for everyone who walks through her studio doors to sense it too. From Jessica’s perspective, dance isn’t just about events, impressing guests, getting the girl… it’s about connecting as humans in real time rather than through digital representations of ourselves. So rarely are we sharing each other’s space anymore, leaning on each other to get to the next step; that’s why Jessica wants to help future dancers like you to see that nothing keeps our human side more real and present than dancing at Arthur Murray Royal Oak.
When did you first realize your love of dance?
Growing up, I did ballet and jazz. I was really interested in ballroom dancing but I thought all ballroom dance was choreographed.
When I was in college, I saw some different movies and I always wanted to learn how to partner dance – you can actually go out and use it, go out to different clubs and meet people and have a good time.
I started as a [ballroom dance] student in college. I’d go on my lunch break, and then go back and have a lab. It was a way to get active and get out of the college mindset. I really appreciated what it gave me as a student; I would look forward to it through the whole week – even visualize it. It was my little highlight.
So often in this world we don’t pay attention to each other, it’s a world of technology and media and not a real world of human connection anymore. Dance lessons are like you are talking with someone. Everyone really likes it by having not only conversation, but you’re in the same physical space, you’re using each other to dance and it creates more of a feeling of being real and human – not just zoned out with phones and TV and social media.
What about your history with Arthur Murray?
I became a student of Arthur Murray in west Michigan, was in the Ann Arbor Arthur Murray location for five years, Houston Arthur Murray for 2.5 years and now Royal Oak for over three years.
What is AMRO like for the prospective student?
I definitely think for anybody stepping in to the studio for the first time, it can be exciting but also scary. There’s music playing, people dancing, they’re wearing dance shoes – but the hardest part is just walking in the door. We welcome them and make them feel comfortable, chat with them at the beginning and find out what you’re looking for. We figure out a game plan for what they’ll work on for that day. We pair them up with an instructor and get right on the floor to start dancing.
The instructor is on the floor with you the entire time – it’s not just, “go do this.” We make the transition to the floor really comfortable. And, the students are friendly and welcoming because they love more people to dance with and have more dance partners.
Talk about what makes Arthur Murray Royal Oak unique.
The range that [our studio] has gives people more options. You’ll hear students say, “we thought everyone would be in their 50s and 60s, but there’s such an age range here and definitely a huge experience range. We have a ton of new people walking in the door every single day who have never taken a lesson before, and then others who’ve been around for 13 or 14 years.
What would you tell someone on the fence about coming in?
People are held back by their fears or [existing] routines – we’re such patterned people. Just know that taking a step out and doing something different is not going to be a [negative] experience.
Give us a call and we can set up a first lesson or you can come in. [When I first became a student], I went into the studio and I think it helped me – they made me feel welcome. Or you can send an email – whatever is the easiest way to get comfortable and get the confidence to take your first step.