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 Ballroom Dance Chicago’s approach to service?

Matthew Sove:
Most people, when they think of service, think of going the extra mile, always saying yes and never no. I have a friend who was a manager at a fine dining restaurant downtown (C-House, a Marcus Samuelsson restaurant). The restaurant had a specialty bread they made in house and that was the only bread they kept in the restaurant. One evening a woman asked for some other kind of bread. “I’m sorry, we don’t have any other types of bread readily available, but let me see what I can do for you,” my friend said. “What kind of bread would you like?” Marble rye is what she requested, if I’m not mistaken. My friend threw on his coat, jogged a couple of blocks to the local Jewel and bought marble rye. The kitchen toasted the bread and they sent it out, all within a matter of 10 minutes. Now that’s pretty amazing in my mind!

But as amazing as that seems, I would actually argue that we at Ballroom Dance Chicago take our service a step further than the “never no” mentality. What we do is strive to anticipate our clients’ needs before they even know they have one. For instance, a lot of our clients come straight from a stressful day at work. We keep a tidy environment as to not add to the clutter of the day and we offer alcoholic beverages to help alleviate stress and snacks to momentarily curb hunger. We stock a large assortment of beverages, just in case someone wants something different from what we usually offer and we’re constantly listening in on cues from our clients about how we might better receive them in the space.

Lydia Feuerhelm:
Have you ever tried to take a test in a room that was too hot or too cold? Or when you were hungry? Or when you just walked through a puddle and your right shoe is soaked? It’s immensely hard to concentrate, or even feel good about the work you are able to accomplish. At Ballroom Dance Chicago, we know that the seemingly minor details of an experience and an environment can have a large impact on the ability to feel comfortable in a space, and thus affect your performance. At our studio, we focus on the details of the entire experience to ensure that our clients feel 100% comfortable. Drinks are always offered, along with a snack, a hot cup of tea, or something entirely different that the client might require. The temperature of the studio is always considered; we burn incense before lessons start each day; we make sure to clean the whole studio on a daily basis. All of these things impact the studio that students experience.

We try to make our space feel like a second home, and in order to do that, we need to anticipate the needs of people walking in. Has it been rainy and cold all day? Prepare to offer people hot tea and extra time to keep their coats on. Are clients that come on Thursdays generally more tired and stressed when they come in? Prepare to offer them wine, beer, or their another drink of choice that puts them at ease.

All of these things are seemingly small, but can add up to create either an entirely outstanding experience, or one that was simply mediocre. By thinking about students’ needs beyond that of dance instruction, we are reinforcing their abilities to learn from us and have an overall positive experience.

Cathy Gilpin:
Yes, we teach dance lessons. We teach pretty damn good dance lessons. But, we know that the people walking through our door everyday have an emotional attachment to their lessons that reaches beyond the information they learn while they are here. For some, dance lessons are an escape from their daily grind. For others, a chance to meet new friendly faces in their community. What we have is an opportunity to cultivate that kind of warm and welcoming environment for our students. A haven, so to speak, where everyone feels safe. And now, more than ever, we know that a space like that is invaluable for our community.

Because we are fully aware of the value that taking dance lessons hold for so many of our clients, we go above and beyond to ensure that every little aspect of their experience here is exceptional. We are committed to not only making people feel like they are at home in the space, but that they can always expect to be taken care of (whatever their needs may be). We provide is a slot in their busy schedule dedicated to warmth, laughter, encouragement, excitement and comfort. Time dedicated to these things is absolutely invaluable so we do everything we can to ensure that we provide that for our clients.

Read more of the BDC Credo.