This past Saturday, the Mobtown Ballroom, run by Nina Gilkenson and Michael Seguin, had its grand opening in Baltimore. Even though I personally didn’t get to be there, it looks like it was quite an event from Facebook’s perspective, and I thought about them all night while at the weekly dance that I run on Saturdays in my own venue. I have a lot of respect for Nina and Michael for opening up their own ballroom, which looked like quite a task. They completely renovated a church from the 1870’s that sounded like it had pretty much been condemned because of the condition it was in.
Here’s Baltimore christening the building, classic Baltimore style.
They’re not the only Lindy hoppers around opening their own studio. Joe and Nelle DeMers just opened Overstreet Dance Gallery in April in Littleton, Colorado. They found a great place where they now have West Coast Swing, Salsa, Blues and Lindy Hop all week-long.
It’s a big deal to take that step forward to sign a lease. I signed a 3 year lease and committed myself to paying over $100,000 when I started out with absolutely nothing. Unlike Overstreet and Mobtown, however, I didn’t have to do any build out on my own as my landlord had bigger plans than most landlords, as we’re a part of an entire neighborhood renovation project (You should’ve seen the place before renovation though; crappy tile, missing walls, strange pipes sticking out everywhere, an incomplete ceiling and a very random vintage gas pump). But both studios have poured their hearts, souls and pocketbooks into these studios to, ultimately, create a home for dancers. It truly shows how much the owners not only care for the dance, but care for the community as well.
I’m actually interested to see if this is a national trend that’s happening, or a small coincidence that 3 Lindy hop studios have opened so far this year (that I know of). Thoughts, anyone?
The great thing about owning your own studio is you get to create a venue that’s exactly what Lindy hoppers want to be dancing in. For Albuquerque, most of the dance venues here are ridiculously small, overpriced, too far away, only have marly on the floor, or have pictures of creepy guys with an eye patch, who I swear follows me wherever I go in there (seriously, it’s scary). And the only vintage ballroom we have in town is a historical building, where carrying insurance for one night of dancing alone is too exorbitant to afford, not to mention dealing with the crazy rules of the city. So when I had the opportunity to open Rhythm, I went for it. A lot of cities, especially those whose historic buildings weren’t constructed of mud, have fabulous vintage ballrooms that they can dance in every week. I don’t know what the dance venue situation is like in Littleton or Baltimore, but if they didn’t have great ballrooms before, they certainly do now.
I just want to give both Nina and Michael and Joe and Nelle a giant high-five for opening up their own businesses, and suggest that they hire someone to clean their studios for them, because even though my studio is much smaller than both of theirs (2000sq ft total for mine as opposed to their 3000sq ft just for the dance floor alone), cleaning is a royal bitch. You’re going to spend the entire rest of your life cleaning. Forever.