At Ballroom Dance Chicago, we’re constantly examining and exploring our roles as dancers, teachers, and inspired individuals in the lives of our students and the wider Chicago community. To deepen and expand our understanding of these roles, we’ve taken to individually writing and sharing our responses to some of the principles we’ve devised to guide Ballroom Dance Chicago.

What is the role of inspiration for staff at Ballroom Dance Chicago?

Matthew Sove:

“Inspiration is one of the founding principles of what we do at BDC in that we seek to be inspired on a daily basis in order to inspire our clients to live fuller, more meaningful lives. We understand that if we ourselves are not inspired by life, by dance, by teaching, by service, by each other, we will not have any inspiration to share. So first we start with our own interior relationship with inspiration and then we shine that outward into the space, into the lives of those around us. What we expect is for our clients to come in off the street, from a day/week/month full of the daily grind (of repeating and redoing and remaking the same bed) and to find newness, freshness, a place and people who are bright and full of life. Another way to think about this is that while we are experts at what we do (in every way) we approach our time at the studio with the curiosity of a beginner, not with the sturdy understanding of an expert. Beginners are great because they are inspired easily because they know nothing. They seek knowledge. They seek to learn more, to make connections with other seemingly disparate aspects of their lives/knowledge. Experts know, and experts have systems. And experts are less open to newness, to something shaking the firm foundation upon which they’ve built their practice/knowledge.

To have the mind of a beginner - the bright shining eyes of someone discovering (think children on a seashore collecting seashells and the joy they have simply in discovering) - is a highly valuable asset at BDC.”

Lydia Feuerhelm:

“What does it mean to be inspired? A constant state of re-examining? Of rediscovery? Of finding the ordinary mundane-ness of your life to be full of wonder and curiosity? Think of the first day on a new job: full of possibility, of the unknown. There are endless new opportunities for growth and enchantment. But after months of working this job, suddenly all of those wonderful, positive qualities start to wane, start to slip away, till we find ourselves wrapped in monotony, no longer engaged with the job we once held in such high regard.

Inspiration takes many forms, but to live an inspired life means routine has been chosen to become ritual, and the discovery of newness leads to a change, an invigoration, and an excitement. A fire that resides within you. Some call it passion; some call it inspiration.

For what we do, the necessity of passion and inspiration is tantamount. People easily slide into the mundanity of their lives (everyday, they do x, y, and z without zeal). Coming to us and to our space is a break from their everyday. It’s an opportunity to learn, to be inspired, to surround themselves with warmth and possibility. For many people, coming here allows them to see larger, better versions of themselves, or perhaps allows them a vision of what they hope to be. Our job as people who inspire is to fuel that vision, and make them believe in that possibility. Not only do we ‘teach’ our students, but we lead by example, and convince them to be a more open, engaged person.”

Cathy Gilpin:

“We approach everyday with bright, shining, wide eyes. While dance is a big source of inspiration for us, our curiosity and sense of wonder doesn't end there. We are constantly challenging ourselves and each other to see things through as many different lenses as possible. We strive to approach everything we do (from teaching and learning dance to brushing our teeth) with purpose, confidence and joy.

We believe that too often, people live their daily lives in a state of auto-pilot. Things become routine so they don’t continue to actively discover newness each day. When you aren’t discovering newness daily, it's easy to find yourself simply going through the motions of your everyday life. And before you know it, this can leave you feeling unfulfilled and uninterested in the things that once made you excited and satisfied. The way we look at is that everyday you wake up, you have the choice to make it a great day. Always check in with yourself and your interests to ensure that you are taking care of yourself first and foremost. Only then will you be able to be a source of inspiration for your teammates and clients as well. Set the example of the kind of person you’d want to be inspired by.”

Read more of the BDC Credo.