Teachers' Tools: Nancy Murphy

Murphy with her partner Ron Gursky

“Once you get started in partner dancing, you only have your weight on one foot at a time,” Nancy Murphy says to her beginner adult ballroom class at Marblehead School of Ballet in Massachusetts. “That way, when you ask yourself the question, ‘What foot do I use next?’ the answer is: ‘The one that’s free.’ That keeps you and your partner in sync.”

Whether she’s teaching waltz, fox-trot, cha-cha or rumba, Murphy encourages her students to change partners several times throughout the class to keep them from getting complacent. “It’s really good to dance with lots of different people,” she says. “Experiencing the subtle differences between how one person moves and another is really good for learning.” When there’s an uneven number of men and women in the room, Murphy fills in wherever she’s needed. “When that’s the case, I push them to change partners a lot more so I can dance with everybody and give them individual feedback.”

Proper technique is critical, but the most important thing to Murphy is that her students are having fun. “Everybody has a job,” she says. “They don’t need dance class to feel like work again.” The relaxed and lighthearted environment she creates draws a diverse group of students. On any given day she might have 20-somethings wanting to try ballroom for the first time, couples preparing for their first dance at their wedding or seniors who just want to stay active. “Being in the momentum with the music and your partner—it really is a lot of fun!” she says. DT

 

 

FOOTWEAR TO TEACH IN: Very Fine Dancesport Shoes. “They have a lower heel, so they’re quite comfortable.”

 

 

 

 

HELPFUL PROP: “In describing the arm position for a ballroom hold, I sometimes grab a Hula-Hoop.”

 

 

 

 

 

TO STAY IN SHAPE: Workout classes at the gym: BODYPUMP (weight lifting) and Vinyasa yoga.

 

 

RECOMMENDED READING: The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing manuals. “They’re a great, very detailed reference for students or teachers.”

 

 

 

 

AFTERNOON ENERGY BOOST: Stonyfield organic protein shake. “Chocolate is my favorite flavor.”

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: by Whittling Fog Photography, courtesy of Murphy; hula-hoop and barbells: Thinkstock; protein shake: courtesy of Stonyfield Organic

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