Your name? Tonya Bennett
Company Name. No Frills Dance
Best advice you can give to a bride. Spend more time working on the relationship than you do on planning the wedding.
What has been your strangest request? Once, a mother-of-the-bride hired a couple of dance instructors to attend her daughter’s wedding reception, theoretically to encourage the guests to get up and dance. Once there, we found out that it was primarily so that the mother could dance a few solos with the male instructor. My job was pretty much to hand the music to the D.J. and make sure my partner got out of there safely!
Do you work with an assistant? Not formally, but a few of us independent dance teachers keep a casual association that allows us to help each other develop and grow.
What would you say is your style? “No Frills” – it’s not just a name! I’ve been in the business a long time, and I’ve created my own low-key, yet professional, style. I want to teach without the ‘strings’ or hassles that you sometimes find at the big dance studios, and I’ve found there are a few students out there who want to learn that way as well. I don’t have a big, chandeliered ballroom full of fashionable-looking instructors dancing amongst a student body of 100 people. But I do have excellent teaching skills, a love of dance, and a passion for passing along what I know at the pace and in the way that suits the individual I’m working with. All at a reasonable rate, with no long commitments or binding contracts. That’s what I call learning to dance with No Frills!
Who is the person you most admire? My husband! We are alike in all the ways we need to be compatible, and different in all the ways I need to grow. And when I am confronted with those aspects of me that are particularly difficult to change, I find that my weaknesses just happen to be his strengths.
Who is the person that inspired you? Originally? It’s hard to say because I came to dance later in my life than you’d normally expect. But back when I was new to dance, I loved to watch Fred Astaire’s movies – not for the plots, but for the dancing. I still think (and I’m not alone in the dance world) that he was the consummate dancer – he could do anything. If he were alive today, he’d be at the forefront of tap, hip-hop, Ballroom, you name it.
What is your proudest moment in your business?
My proudest moment came at the end of a long teaching day. My last lesson was a couple, and the wife seemed a little out-of-sorts during the lesson. We pressed on, and I gave it my best to make it as fun and easy as I could for her energy at the time. By the end of the hour, I was exhausted and unsure that they had gotten anything out of the lesson. They had only been out the door about 10 minutes when she called as they were driving home. She said, “You know, Tonya, I really had an awful day today, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to come tonight. But you know what? You were the best thing that happened to me today. Thank you.” In that moment, I knew exactly why I do what I do.